Wednesday, May 23, 2012

President Obama sent 1,000 Air Force Academy cadets into active duty Wednesday by laying out his vision for a post-war America in which the United States leads beyond the battlefield and defiantly challenging his critics’ notion of waning American influence.

In a commencement address to the graduating service members, Obama hailed a milestone moment as the country winds down its military involvement in the two wars that have defined the generation that has come of age after 9/11.

The Class of 2012 is the first in nearly a decade, Obama told them, that is entering active service with no American troops fighting in Iraq, and the first that can envision an end to the Afghanistan war.

The president used much of his speech to declare that American influence has not waned, as some of his critics have suggested. Instead, he argued, “the United States is leading once more. From Europe to Asia, our alliances are stronger than ever.”

“As we’ve done the work of ending these wars, we’ve laid the foundation for a new era of American leadership,” Obama said. “Let’s start by putting aside the tired notion that says our influence has waned, that America is in decline.”

To those who have questioned whether he subscribes to the notion of American exceptionalism, the president pointedly used those very words.

“Never bet against the United States,” he said, adding that “the United States has been, and will always be, the one indispensable nation in world affairs. This is one of the many examples of why America is exceptional.”

“I see an American Century because of the character of our country — the spirit that has always made us exceptional,” Obama said. “It’s that simple yet revolutionary idea — there at our founding and in our hearts ever since — that we have it in our power to make the world anew; to make the future what we will.”

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