Each and every year, the world’s leaders gather in New York for a session of the United Nations General Assembly. Earlier today, President Obama spoke to them directly in an address that warrants the attention not only of those leaders, but of all Americans. It was clear, candid, and compelling. The President talked about the world as it is, and the world as we all hope it can be.
The President said that, for all the hard-won progress we see in the world, there is also what he today called a « pervasive unease. »
A deadly Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa, Russian aggression in Ukraine, and the group of medieval murdering terrorists known as ISIL, which, left unchecked, could pose a growing threat beyond the region — including our homeland.
So when President Obama addressed the leaders of more than 140 nations this morning, he posed two fundamental questions that will help define both the world’s future and our own: Can the major powers set aside their differences and meet their responsibilities as leaders? And can the world reject the cancer of violent extremism?
The President knows the answer is yes — if we make it so. The way he answers these questions is an important illustration of the principles we stand for as Americans, and a window into the future we look to help build. See what he had to say.
He described the compelling need for a global response to global issues. For fighting violent extremism requires a broad coalition of nations willing to stand up for their citizens, and unite against those who seek to « divide us among fault lines of tribe or sect, race or religion. »
Defeating this extremism means defeating its false promise, instead embracing the real promise we see in the Middle East: investing in civil society and in the groups and people who are rejecting hate and division in favor of peace and tolerance.
In the past 20 months, I’ve traveled more than 550,000 miles through 55 countries. I have touched down in Iraq and Jeddah to focus on defeating the threat that ISIL poses. I’ve flown to Kiev and stood in the Maidan to reaffirm our commitment to supporting Ukraine’s efforts to shape their own future and make their democracy a success. I’ve worked with the leaders of Afghanistan to help secure the gains for which so many Americans have sacrificed so much over the past 13 years.
From Kabul to Cairo and Beijing to Juba, here’s what I can tell you: The world’s nations have more in common than sometimes we realize — particularly at a time when every turn seems to present a new danger. Everywhere I’ve gone, no matter how precarious the society or volatile the situation, I have seen the « longing for positive change » that our President spoke of today.
The United States, he said, « will never shy away from the promise of this institution, and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights — the notion that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of a better life. »
Nearly six years into his presidency, President Barack Obama is as committed as ever to the potential of that promise to light the world. And he’s right. And that is precisely why we are taking action against immediate threats wherever they threaten our security at the same time we work towards a world in which those threats will one day be replaced by opportunity.
This is a speech you need to hear from the President himself. Watch the whole thing below, and please make sure you pass it along to someone else who needs to see it.
Secretary John Kerry
Department of State