Jacob Heilbrunn

In Praise of Julia Gillard

 Australian prime minister Julia Gillard gave a corker of a speech to a joint session of Congress yesterday. You probably missed it. But it's more than worth reading. Sometimes it may take a foreign leader to push America to live up to its promise. Gillard gave it a real try yesterday. As Andrew Malcolm perceptively observed in the Los Angeles Times: 


Speaking with a heartfelt tone and, near the end some voice-wavering emotion, Gillard's 30-minute speech won 16 outbursts of applause, six of them standing. According to those in the House chamber, there were too some moist eyes at the end.

Gillard's point was that America has achieved greatness in the past and can be great again. And she noted that, again and again, the Aussies have been at America's side, something, incidentally, that can't always be said about its other allies. Her peroration was this:


The eyes of the world are still upon you. Your city on a hill cannot be hidden. Your brave and free people have made you the masters of recovery and reinvention.As I stand in this cradle of democracy I see a nation that has changed the world and known remarkable days. I firmly believe you are the same people who amazed me when I was a small girl by landing on the moon. On that great day I believed Americans could do anything.

I believe that still.

You can do anything today.

Sentimental and mushy? You bet. But at a moment when America faces a true crisis--the mounting national debt (within ten years, if the debt mountain is not stopped, 10 percent of the federal budget will be devoted to paying interest on the federal debt)--it's good to hear a foreign leader expressing a measure of confidence in America's ability to master its problems. And Senators Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mark Warner of Virginia appear to be offering a serious plan to tackle it. They're two politicians to keep an eye on.

So is Prime Minister Gillard.

Image by MystifyMe Concert Photography