UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Address to US Congress, Washington, DC
March 4, 2009
Madam Speaker, Mr.
Vice-President, distinguished members of Congress, I come to this great
capital of this great nation, an America renewed under a new president
to say that America's faith in the future has been, is and always will
be an inspiration to the whole world.
The very creation
of America was a bold affirmation of faith in the future, a future you
have not just believed in but built with your own hands.
And on 20 January, you the American people
began to write the latest chapter in the American story, with a
transition of dignity, in which both sides of the aisle could take great
pride. President Obama gave the world renewed hope, and on that day
billions of people truly looked to Washington DC as "a shining city
upon a hill".
And I hope that you
will allow me to single out for special mention today one of your most
distinguished senators, known in every continent and a great friend.
Northern Ireland is today at peace, more Americans have healthcare, more
children around the world are going to school, and for all those things
we owe a great debt to the life and courage of Senator Edward Kennedy.
And so today,
having talked to him last night, I want to announce that Her Majesty the
Queen, has awarded an honorary knighthood for Sir Edward Kennedy.
Madam Speaker, Mr
Vice-President, I come in friendship to renew, for new times, our
special relationship founded upon our shared history, our shared values
and, I believe, our shared futures. I grew up in the 1960s as America,
led by President Kennedy, looked to the heavens and saw not the endless
void of the unknown, but a new frontier to dare to discover and explore
People said it couldn't be done — but America did it.
And 20 years later, in the 1980s, America led
by President Reagan refused to accept the fate of millions trapped
behind an iron curtain, and insisted instead that the people of eastern
Europe be allowed to join the ranks of nations which live safe, strong
and free. People said it would never happen in our lifetime but it did,
and the Berlin Wall was torn down brick by brick.
So early in my life
I came to understand that America is not just the indispensible nation,
it is the irrepressible nation. Throughout your history Americans have
led insurrections in the human imagination, have summoned revolutionary
times through your belief that there is no such thing as an impossible
endeavour. It is never possible to come here without having your faith
in the future renewed.
Throughout a whole
century the American people stood liberty's ground not just in one world
war but in two.
And I want you to
know that we will never forget the sacrifice and service of the American
soldiers who gave their lives for people whose names they never knew,
and whose faces they never saw, and yet people who have lived in freedom
thanks to the bravery and valour of the Americans who gave the
"last full measure of devotion".
cemetery across Europe honours the memory of American soldiers, resting
row upon row – often alongside comrades-in-arms from Britain. There is
no battlefield of liberty on which there is not a piece of land that is
marked out as American and there is no day of remembrance in Britain
that is not also a commemoration of American courage and sacrifice far
In the hardest days
of the last century, faith in the future kept America alive and I tell
you that America kept faith in the future alive for all the world.
Almost every family
in Britain has a tie that binds them to America. So I want you to know
that whenever a young American soldier or marine, sailor or airman is
killed in conflict anywhere in the world, we, the people of Britain,
grieve with you. Know that your loss is our loss, your families' sorrow
is our families' sorrow and your nation's determination is our nation's
determination that they shall not have died in vain.
And let me pay
tribute to the soldiers, yours and ours, who again fight side by side in
the plains of Afghanistan and the streets of Iraq, just as their
forefathers fought side by side in the sands of Tunisia, on the beaches
of Normandy and then on the bridges over the Rhine. And after that
terrible September morning when your homeland was attacked, the
Coldstream guards at Buckingham Palace played the Star Spangled Banner.
Our own British tribute as we wept for our friends in the land of the
free and the home of the brave.
And let me promise
you our continued support to ensure there is no hiding place for
terrorists, no safe haven for terrorism. You should be proud that in the
hard years since 2001 you have shown that while terrorists may destroy
buildings and even, tragically, lives, they have not, and will not ever,
destroy the American spirit.
So let it be said
of the friendship between our two countries; that it is in times of
trial – true, in the face of fear – faithful and amidst the storms
And let it be said
of our friendship – formed and forged over two tumultuous centuries, a
friendship tested in war and strengthened in peace – that it has not
just endured but is renewed in each generation to better serve our
shared values and fulfil the hopes and dreams of the day. Not an
alliance of convenience, but a partnership of purpose.
wither or be destroyed, but partnerships of purpose are indestructible.
Friendships can be shaken, but our friendship is unshakeable. Treaties
can be broken but our partnership is unbreakable.
And I know there is
no power on earth than can drive us apart.
We will work
tirelessly with you as partners for peace in the Middle East: for a
two-state solution that provides for nothing less than a secure Israel
safe within its borders existing side by side with a viable Palestinian
And our shared
message to Iran is simple – we are ready for you to rejoin the world
community. But first, you must cease your threats and suspend your
nuclear programme. And we will work tirelessly with all those in the
international community who are ready to reduce the threat of nuclear
Past British prime
ministers have travelled to this Capitol building in times of war to
talk of war. I come now to talk of new and different battles we must
fight together; to speak of a global economy in crisis and a planet
These are new
priorities for our new times.
And let us be
honest – tonight too many parents, after they put their children to
bed, will speak of their worries about losing their jobs or the need to
sell the house.
Too many will share
stories of friends or neighbours already packing up their homes, and too
many will talk of a local store or business that has already gone to the
For me, this global
recession is not to be measured just in statistics, or in graphs or in
figures on a balance sheet. Instead I see one individual with their own
aspirations and increasingly their own apprehensions, and then another,
and then another.
Each with their own
stars to reach for, each part of a family, each at the heart of a
community now in need of help and hope. And when banks have failed and
markets have faltered, we the representatives of the people have to be
the people's last line of defence.
And that's why
there is no financial orthodoxy so entrenched, no conventional thinking
so ingrained, no special interest so strong that it should ever stand in
the way of the change that hardworking families need.
We have learned
through this world downturn that markets should be free but never
value-free, that the risks people take should never be separated from
the responsibilities they meet.
And if perhaps some
once thought it beyond our power to shape global markets to meet the
needs of people, we know now that is our duty; we cannot and must not
In our families and
workplaces and places of worship, we celebrate men and women of
integrity who work hard, treat people fairly, take responsibility and
look out for others. If these are the principles we live by in our
families and neighbourhoods, they should also be the principles that
guide and govern our economic life too.
In these days the
world has learned that what makes for the good economy makes for the
My father was a
minister of the church and I have learned again what I was taught by
him: that wealth must help more than the wealthy, good fortune must
serve more than the fortunate and riches must enrich not just some of us
And these enduring
values are the values we need for these new times.
We tend to think of
the sweep of destiny as stretching across many months and years before
culminating in decisive moments we call history. But sometimes the
reality is that defining moments of history come suddenly and without
warning. And the task of leadership then is to define them, shape them
and move forward into the new world they demand.
hurricane has swept the world, creating a crisis of credit and of
confidence. History has brought us now to a point where change is
essential. We are summoned not just to manage our times but to transform
Our task is to
rebuild prosperity and security in a wholly different economic world,
where competition is no longer local but global and banks are no longer
just national but international.
And we need to
understand what went wrong in this crisis, that the very financial
instruments that were designed to diversify risk across the banking
system instead spread contagion across the globe. And today's financial
institutions are so interwoven that a bad bank anywhere is a threat to
good banks everywhere.
So should we
succumb to a race to the bottom and a protectionism that history tells
us that, in the end, protects no one? No, we should have the confidence
that we can seize the opportunities ahead and make the future work for
Because while today
people are anxious and feel insecure, over the next two decades
literally billions of people in other continents will move from being
simply producers of their goods to being consumers of our goods and in
this way our world economy will double in size.
Twice as many
opportunities for business, twice as much prosperity, and the biggest
expansion of middle-class incomes and jobs the world has ever seen.
And America and
Britain will succeed and lead if we tap into the talents of our people,
unleash the genius of our scientists and set free the drive of our
entrepreneurs. We will win the race to the top if we can develop the new
high-value products and services and the new green technologies that the
rising numbers of hardworking families across our globe will want to
So we must educate
our way out of the downturn, invest and invent our way out of the
downturn and retool and reskill our way out of the downturn.
And this is not
blind optimism or synthetic confidence to console people, it is the
practical affirmation for our times of our faith in a better future.
Every time we rebuild a school we demonstrate our faith in the future.
Every time we send
more young people to university, every time we invest more in our new
digital infrastructure, every time we increase support to our
scientists, we demonstrate our faith in the future.
And so I say to
this Congress and this country, something that runs deep in your
character and is woven in your history, we conquer our fear of the
future through our faith in the future.
And it is this
faith in the future that means we must commit to protecting the planet
for generations that will come long after us. As the Greek proverb says,
why does anybody plant the seeds of a tree whose shade they will never
The answer is
because they look to the future.
And I believe that
you, the nation that had the vision to put a man on the moon, are also
the nation with the vision to protect and preserve our planet earth.
And it is only by
investing in environmental technology that we can end the dictatorship
of oil, and it is only by tackling climate change that we create the
millions of new green jobs we need For the lesson of this crisis is that
we cannot just wait for tomorrow today.
We cannot just
think of tomorrow today. We cannot merely plan for tomorrow today. Our
task must be to build tomorrow today.
And America knows
from its history that its reach goes far beyond its geography. For a
century you have carried upon your shoulders the greatest of
responsibilities: to work with and for the rest of the world. And let me
tell you that now more than ever the rest of the world wants to work
And if these times
have shown us anything, it is that the major challenges we all face are
global. No matter where it starts, an economic crisis does not stop at
the water's edge. It ripples across the world. Climate change does not
honour passport control. Terrorism has no respect for borders.
communications instantly span every continent. The new frontier is that
there is no frontier, the new shared truth is that global problems need
And let me say that
you now have the most pro-American European leadership in living memory.
A leadership that wants to cooperate more closely together, in order to
cooperate more closely with you. There is no old Europe, no new Europe,
there is only your friend Europe.
So once again I say
we should seize the moment — because never before have I seen a world
so willing to come together. Never before has that been more needed. And
never before have the benefits of cooperation been so far-reaching.
So when people here
and in other countries ask what more can we do now to bring an end to
this downturn, let me say this - we can achieve more working together.
And just think of what we can do if we combine not just in a partnership
for security but in a new partnership for prosperity too.
On jobs, you the
American people through your stimulus proposals could create or save at
least 3 million jobs. We in Britain are acting with similar
determination. How much nearer an end to this downturn would we be if
the whole of the world resolved to do the same? And you are also
restructuring your banks. So are we. But how much safer would
everybody's savings be if the whole world finally came together to
outlaw shadow banking systems and offshore tax havens?
Just think how each
of our actions, if combined, could mean a whole, much greater than the
sum of the parts - all and not just some banks stabilised - on fiscal
stimulus: the impact multiplied because everybody does it - rising
demand in all our countries creating jobs in each of our countries - and
trade once again the engine of prosperity, the wealth of nations
No one should
forget that it was American visionaries who over half a century ago,
coming out of the deepest of depressions and the worst of wars, produced
the boldest of plans for global economic cooperation because they
recognised prosperity was indivisible and concluded that to be sustained
it had to be shared. And I believe that ours too is a time for renewal,
for a plan for tackling recession and building for the future. Every
continent playing their part in a global new deal, a plan for prosperity
that can benefit us all. First, so that the whole of the worldwide
banking system serves our prosperity rather than risks it, let us agree
rules and standards for accountability, transparency, and reward that
will mean an end to the excesses and will apply to every bank,
everywhere, and all the time.
Second, America and
a few countries cannot be expected to bear the burden of the fiscal and
interest rate stimulus alone. We must share it globally. So let us work
together for the worldwide reduction of interest rates and a scale of
stimulus round the world equal to the depth of the recession and the
dimensions of the recovery we must make Third, let us together renew our
international economic cooperation, helping the emerging markets rebuild
their banks And let us work together for a low carbon recovery worldwide
And I am confident that this president, this Congress and the peoples of
the world can come together in Copenhagen this December to reach a
historic agreement on climate change.
And let us not
forget the poorest. As we strive to spread the values of peace,
political liberty, and the hope for better lives across the world,
perhaps the greatest gift our generation could give to the future, the
gift of America and Britain to the world could be, for every child in
every country of the world, the chance millions do not have today; the
chance to go to school.
For let us remember
there is a common bond that unites us as human beings across different
beliefs, cultures and nationalities. It is at the core of my
convictions, the essence of America's spirit and the heart of all faiths
And it must be at the centre of our response to the crisis of today. At
their best, our values tell us that we cannot be wholly content while
others go without, cannot be fully comfortable while millions go without
comfort, cannot be truly happy while others grieve alone.
And this too is
true. All of us know that in a recession the wealthiest, the 10 most
powerful and the most privileged can find a way through for themselves.
So we do not value the wealthy less when we say that our first duty is
to help the not so wealthy. We do not value the powerful less when we
say that our first responsibility is to help the powerless. And we do
not value those who are secure less when we say that our first priority
must be to help the insecure. These recent events have forced us all to
think anew. And while I have learnt many things, I keep returning to
something I first learned in my father's church as a child. In this most
modern of crises I am drawn to the most ancient of truths; wherever
there is hardship, wherever there is suffering, we cannot, we will not,
pass by on the other side.
together, there is no challenge to which we are not equal, no obstacle
that we cannot overcome, no aspiration so high that it cannot be
In the depths of
the Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt did battle with fear itself, it
was not simply by the power of his words, his personality and his
example that he triumphed.
Yes, all these
things mattered. But what mattered more was this enduring truth - that
you, the American people, at your core, were, as you remain, every bit
as optimistic as your Roosevelts, your Reagans and your Obamas. This is
the faith in the future that has always been the story and promise of
America. So at this defining moment in history let us renew our special
relationship for our generation and our times. Let us restore prosperity
and protect this planet and, with faith in the future, let us together
build tomorrow today.