What Should Obama Be Speaking About and to Whom? Click To TweetBarack Obama will be giving a speech on healthcare to Wall Street investment banking firm Cantor Fitzgerald, and the internet is up in arms about it. Apparently, he will be pocketing a hefty $400,000 speaker fee, which is the source of much of the internet’s consternation. While this fee pales in comparison to the $153 million the Clintons made on speaking fees after Bill’s presidency, it does bring up some thorny ethical questions. Not the least being, what should ex-president’s be speaking about, and to whom?
A comparison might be made to Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech delivered at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri in 1946, in the midst of the Cold War. Churchill had recently lost a re-election bid for Prime Minister, and was on the speaker circuit, much as Obama is. Churchill used the occasion to send out a warning regarding Stalin’s expansionistic tendencies in Europe, and to try to strengthen the bond between America and Britain. Churchill spoke to students and addressed his comments to the American public. His speech foreshadowed decades of American foreign policy.
Nowadays, world leaders view speaking opportunities as a means to fast cash, and forget the tremendous power they wield to forge policy, and change hearts and minds. Would Churchill have spoken to titans of industry at a crucial moment in world history? And are we not in a similar moment (rising healthcare costs, immigration reform, a resurgent and dangerous Russia, etc, etc)?
Obama has a right to make some money post-presidency, but the world will lack for his ideas when it desperately needs them if he chooses to address his comments in private. At this defining moment of history, we need politicians to address the concerns of our time to future leaders, and to the American public, much the way Churchill did over seventy years ago.