US President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday.


Key Facts:
Obama Says
1.Reject politics that targets people on race and religion.
2.Can overcome challenges just need to fix politics.
3.Must focus on the education of childrens.
4.Must accelerate the transition away from dirty energy.
“Under President Obama’s leadership,
the United States has done more to
combat climate change than ever
before,” the White House said in a fact
sheet prepared for the address.

Remarks by President
Obama to the United
Nations General
United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York
**Please see below for a correction, marked with
an asterisk.
10:18 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary
General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen:
Seventy years after the founding of the United
Nations, it is worth reflecting on what, together,
the members of this body have helped to achieve.
Out of the ashes of the Second World War, having
witnessed the unthinkable power of the atomic
age, the United States has worked with many
nations in this Assembly to prevent a third world
war — by forging alliances with old adversaries;
by supporting the steady emergence of strong
democracies accountable to their people instead
of any foreign power; and by building an
international system that imposes a cost on those
who choose conflict over cooperation, an order
that recognizes the dignity and equal worth of all
That is the work of seven decades. That is the
ideal that this body, at its best, has pursued. Of
course, there have been too many times when,
collectively, we have fallen short of these ideals.
Over seven decades, terrible conflicts have
claimed untold victims. But we have pressed
forward, slowly, steadily, to make a system of
international rules and norms that are better and
stronger and more consistent.
It is this international order that has underwritten
unparalleled advances in human liberty and
prosperity. It is this collective endeavor that’s
brought about diplomatic cooperation between
the world’s major powers, and buttressed a global
economy that has lifted more than a billion people
from poverty. It is these international principles
that helped constrain bigger countries from
imposing our will on smaller ones, and advanced
the emergence of democracy and development
and individual liberty on every continent.
This progress is real. It can be documented in
lives saved, and agreements forged, and diseases
conquered, and in mouths fed. And yet, we come
together today knowing that the march of human
progress never travels in a straight line, that our
work is far from complete; that dangerous
currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more
disordered world.
Today, we see the collapse of strongmen and
fragile states breeding conflict, and driving
innocent men, women and children across borders
on an *epoch epic scale. Brutal networks of
terror have stepped into the vacuum.
Technologies that empower individuals are now
also exploited by those who spread
disinformation, or suppress dissent, or radicalize
our youth. Global capital flows have powered
growth and investment, but also increased risk of
contagion, weakened the bargaining power of
workers, and accelerated inequality.
How should we respond to these trends? There
are those who argue that the ideals enshrined in
the U.N. charter are unachievable or out of date
— a legacy of a postwar era not suited to our
own. Effectively, they argue for a return to the
rules that applied for most of human history and
that pre-date this institution: the belief that
power is a zero-sum game; that might makes
right; that strong states must impose their will on
weaker ones; that the rights of individuals don’t
matter; and that in a time of rapid change, order
must be imposed by force.
On this basis, we see some major powers assert
themselves in ways that contravene international
law. We see an erosion of the democratic
principles and human rights that are fundamental
to this institution’s mission; information is
strictly controlled, the space for civil society
restricted. We’re told that such retrenchment is
required to beat back disorder; that it’s the only
way to stamp out terrorism, or prevent foreign
meddling. In accordance with this logic, we
should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who
drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent
children, because the alternative is surely worse.
The increasing skepticism of our international
order can also be found in the most advanced
democracies. We see greater polarization, more
frequent gridlock; movements on the far right, and
sometimes the left, that insist on stopping the
trade that binds our fates to other nations, calling
for the building of walls to keep out immigrants.
Most ominously, we see the fears of ordinary
people being exploited through appeals to
sectarianism, or tribalism, or racism, or anti-
Semitism; appeals to a glorious past before the
body politic was infected by those who look
different, or worship God differently; a politics of
us versus them.
The United States is not immune from this. Even
as our economy is growing and our troops have
largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, we
see in our debates about America’s role in the
world a notion of strength that is defined by
opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries,
a rising China, or a resurgent Russia; a
revolutionary Iran, or an Islam that is
incompatible with peace. We see an argument
made that the only strength that matters for the
United States is bellicose words and shows of
military force; that cooperation and diplomacy will
not work.
As President of the United States, I am mindful of
the dangers that we face; they cross my desk
every morning. I lead the strongest military that
the world has ever known, and I will never
hesitate to protect my country or our allies,
unilaterally and by force where necessary.
But I stand before you today believing in my core
that we, the nations of the world, cannot return
to the old ways of conflict and coercion. We
cannot look backwards. We live in an integrated
world — one in which we all have a stake in each
other’s success. We cannot turn those forces of
integration. No nation in this Assembly can
insulate itself from the threat of terrorism, or the
risk of financial contagion; the flow of migrants,
or the danger of a warming planet. The disorder
we see is not driven solely by competition
between nations or any single ideology. And if
we cannot work together more effectively, we will
all suffer the consequences. That is true for the
United States, as well.
No matter how powerful our military, how strong
our economy, we understand the United States
cannot solve the world’s problems alone. In Iraq,
the United States learned the hard lesson that
even hundreds of thousands of brave, effective
troops, trillions of dollars from our Treasury,
cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land.
Unless we work with other nations under the
mantle of international norms and principles and
law that offer legitimacy to our efforts, we will not
succeed. And unless we work together to defeat
the ideas that drive different communities in a
country like Iraq into conflict, any order that our
militaries can impose will be temporary.
Just as force alone cannot impose order
internationally, I believe in my core that
repression cannot forge the social cohesion for
nations to succeed. The history of the last two
decades proves that in today’s world,
dictatorships are unstable. The strongmen of
today become the spark of revolution tomorrow.
You can jail your opponents, but you can’t
imprison ideas. You can try to control access to
information, but you cannot turn a lie into truth.
It is not a conspiracy of U.S.-backed NGOs that
expose corruption and raise the expectations of
people around the globe; it’s technology, social
media, and the irreducible desire of people
everywhere to make their own choices about how
they are governed.
Indeed, I believe that in today’s world, the
measure of strength is no longer defined by the
control of territory. Lasting prosperity does not
come solely from the ability to access and extract
raw materials. The strength of nations depends
on the success of their people — their knowledge,
their innovation, their imagination, their creativity,
their drive, their opportunity — and that, in turn,
depends upon individual rights and good
governance and personal security. Internal
repression and foreign aggression are both
symptoms of the failure to provide this
A politics and solidarity that depend on
demonizing others, that draws on religious
sectarianism or narrow tribalism or jingoism may
at times look like strength in the moment, but
over time its weakness will be exposed. And
history tells us that the dark forces unleashed by
this type of politics surely makes all of us less
secure. Our world has been there before. We
gain nothing from going back.
Instead, I believe that we must go forward in
pursuit of our ideals, not abandon them at this
critical time. We must give expression to our
best hopes, not our deepest fears. This
institution was founded because men and women
who came before us had the foresight to know
that our nations are more secure when we uphold
basic laws and basic norms, and pursue a path of
cooperation over conflict. And strong nations,
above all, have a responsibility to uphold this
international order.
Let me give you a concrete example. After I took
office, I made clear that one of the principal
achievements of this body — the nuclear non-
proliferation regime — was endangered by Iran’s
violation of the NPT. On that basis, the Security
Council tightened sanctions on the Iranian
government, and many nations joined us to
enforce them. Together, we showed that laws
and agreements mean something.
But we also understood that the goal of sanctions
was not simply to punish Iran. Our objective was
to test whether Iran could change course, accept
constraints, and allow the world to verify that its
nuclear program will be peaceful. For two years,
the United States and our partners — including
Russia, including China — stuck together in
complex negotiations. The result is a lasting,
comprehensive deal that prevents Iran from
obtaining a nuclear weapon, while allowing it to
access peaceful energy. And if this deal is fully
implemented, the prohibition on nuclear weapons
is strengthened, a potential war is averted, our
world is safer. That is the strength of the
international system when it works the way it
That same fidelity to international order guides
our responses to other challenges around the
world. Consider Russia’s annexation of Crimea
and further aggression in eastern Ukraine.
America has few economic interests in Ukraine.
We recognize the deep and complex history
between Russia and Ukraine. But we cannot
stand by when the sovereignty and territorial
integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated. If that
happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could
happen to any nation gathered here today.
That’s the basis of the sanctions that the United
States and our partners impose on Russia. It’s
not a desire to return to a Cold War.
Now, within Russia, state-controlled media may
describe these events as an example of a
resurgent Russia — a view shared, by the way, by
a number of U.S. politicians and commentators
who have always been deeply skeptical of Russia,
and seem to be convinced a new Cold War is, in
fact, upon us. And yet, look at the results. The
Ukrainian people are more interested than ever in
aligning with Europe instead of Russia. Sanctions
have led to capital flight, a contracting economy,
a fallen ruble, and the emigration of more
educated Russians.
Imagine if, instead, Russia had engaged in true
diplomacy, and worked with Ukraine and the
international community to ensure its interests
were protected. That would be better for Ukraine,
but also better for Russia, and better for the
world — which is why we continue to press for
this crisis to be resolved in a way that allows a
sovereign and democratic Ukraine to determine its
future and control its territory. Not because we
want to isolate Russia — we don’t — but
because we want a strong Russia that’s invested
in working with us to strengthen the international
system as a whole.
Similarly, in the South China Sea, the United
States makes no claim on territory there. We
don’t adjudicate claims. But like every nation
gathered here, we have an interest in upholding
the basic principles of freedom of navigation and
the free flow of commerce, and in resolving
disputes through international law, not the law of
force. So we will defend these principles, while
encouraging China and other claimants to resolve
their differences peacefully.
I say this, recognizing that diplomacy is hard;
that the outcomes are sometimes unsatisfying;
that it’s rarely politically popular. But I believe
that leaders of large nations, in particular, have
an obligation to take these risks — precisely
because we are strong enough to protect our
interests if, and when, diplomacy fails.
I also believe that to move forward in this new
era, we have to be strong enough to acknowledge
when what you’re doing is not working. For 50
years, the United States pursued a Cuba policy
that failed to improve the lives of the Cuban
people. We changed that. We continue to have
differences with the Cuban government. We will
continue to stand up for human rights. But we
address these issues through diplomatic relations,
and increased commerce, and people-to-people
ties. As these contacts yield progress, I’m
confident that our Congress will inevitably lift an
embargo that should not be in place anymore.
(Applause.) Change won’t come overnight to
Cuba, but I’m confident that openness, not
coercion, will support the reforms and better the
life the Cuban people deserve, just as I believe
that Cuba will find its success if it pursues
cooperation with other nations.
Now, if it’s in the interest of major powers to
uphold international standards, it is even more
true for the rest of the community of nations.
Look around the world. From Singapore to
Colombia to Senegal, the facts shows that
nations succeed when they pursue an inclusive
peace and prosperity within their borders, and
work cooperatively with countries beyond their
That path is now available to a nation like Iran,
which, as of this moment, continues to deploy
violent proxies to advance its interests. These
efforts may appear to give Iran leverage in
disputes with neighbors, but they fuel sectarian
conflict that endangers the entire region, and
isolates Iran from the promise of trade and
commerce. The Iranian people have a proud
history, and are filled with extraordinary potential.
But chanting “Death to America” does not create
jobs, or make Iran more secure. If Iran chose a
different path, that would be good for the security
of the region, good for the Iranian people, and
good for the world.
Of course, around the globe, we will continue to
be confronted with nations who reject these
lessons of history, places where civil strife, border
disputes, and sectarian wars bring about terrorist
enclaves and humanitarian disasters. Where
order has completely broken down, we must act,
but we will be stronger when we act together.
In such efforts, the United States will always do
our part. We will do so mindful of the lessons of
the past — not just the lessons of Iraq, but also
the example of Libya, where we joined an
international coalition under a U.N. mandate to
prevent a slaughter. Even as we helped the
Libyan people bring an end to the reign of a
tyrant, our coalition could have and should have
done more to fill a vacuum left behind. We’re
grateful to the United Nations for its efforts to
forge a unity government. We will help any
legitimate Libyan government as it works to bring
the country together. But we also have to
recognize that we must work more effectively in
the future, as an international community, to build
capacity for states that are in distress, before
they collapse.
And that’s why we should celebrate the fact that
later today the United States will join with more
than 50 countries to enlist new capabilities —
infantry, intelligence, helicopters, hospitals, and
tens of thousands of troops — to strengthen
United Nations peacekeeping. (Applause.) These
new capabilities can prevent mass killing, and
ensure that peace agreements are more than
words on paper. But we have to do it together.
Together, we must strengthen our collective
capacity to establish security where order has
broken down, and to support those who seek a
just and lasting peace.
Nowhere is our commitment to international order
more tested than in Syria. When a dictator
slaughters tens of thousands of his own people,
that is not just a matter of one nation’s internal
affairs — it breeds human suffering on an order of
magnitude that affects us all. Likewise, when a
terrorist group beheads captives, slaughters the
innocent and enslaves women, that’s not a single
nation’s national security problem — that is an
assault on all humanity.
I’ve said before and I will repeat: There is no
room for accommodating an apocalyptic cult like
ISIL, and the United States makes no apologies
for using our military, as part of a broad coalition,
to go after them. We do so with a determination
to ensure that there will never be a safe haven for
terrorists who carry out these crimes. And we
have demonstrated over more than a decade of
relentless pursuit of al Qaeda, we will not be
outlasted by extremists.
But while military power is necessary, it is not
sufficient to resolve the situation in Syria.
Lasting stability can only take hold when the
people of Syria forge an agreement to live
together peacefully. The United States is
prepared to work with any nation, including
Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict. But we
must recognize that there cannot be, after so
much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to
the pre-war status quo.
Let’s remember how this started. Assad reacted
to peaceful protests by escalating repression and
killing that, in turn, created the environment for
the current strife. And so Assad and his allies
cannot simply pacify the broad majority of a
population who have been brutalized by chemical
weapons and indiscriminate bombing. Yes,
realism dictates that compromise will be required
to end the fighting and ultimately stamp out ISIL.
But realism also requires a managed transition
away from Assad and to a new leader, and an
inclusive government that recognizes there must
be an end to this chaos so that the Syrian people
can begin to rebuild.
We know that ISIL — which emerged out of the
chaos of Iraq and Syria — depends on perpetual
war to survive. But we also know that they gain
adherents because of a poisonous ideology. So
part of our job, together, is to work to reject such
extremism that infects too many of our young
people. Part of that effort must be a continued
rejection by Muslims of those who distort Islam
to preach intolerance and promote violence, and it
must also a rejection by non-Muslims of the
ignorance that equates Islam with terror.
This work will take time. There are no easy
answers to Syria. And there are no simple
answers to the changes that are taking place in
much of the Middle East and North Africa. But so
many families need help right now; they don’t
have time. And that’s why the United States is
increasing the number of refugees who we
welcome within our borders. That’s why we will
continue to be the largest donor of assistance to
support those refugees. And today we are
launching new efforts to ensure that our people
and our businesses, our universities and our
NGOs can help as well — because in the faces of
suffering families, our nation of immigrants sees
Of course, in the old ways of thinking, the plight
of the powerless, the plight of refugees, the plight
of the marginalized did not matter. They were on
the periphery of the world’s concerns. Today, our
concern for them is driven not just by conscience,
but should also be drive by self-interest. For
helping people who have been pushed to the
margins of our world is not mere charity, it is a
matter of collective security. And the purpose of
this institution is not merely to avoid conflict, it is
to galvanize the collective action that makes life
better on this planet.
The commitments we’ve made to the Sustainable
Development Goals speak to this truth. I believe
that capitalism has been the greatest creator of
wealth and opportunity that the world has ever
known. But from big cities to rural villages
around the world, we also know that prosperity is
still cruelly out of reach for too many. As His
Holiness Pope Francis reminds us, we are
stronger when we value the least among these,
and see them as equal in dignity to ourselves and
our sons and our daughters.
We can roll back preventable disease and end the
scourge of HIV/AIDS. We can stamp out
pandemics that recognize no borders. That work
may not be on television right now, but as we
demonstrated in reversing the spread of Ebola, it
can save more lives than anything else we can
Together, we can eradicate extreme poverty and
erase barriers to opportunity. But this requires a
sustained commitment to our people — so
farmers can feed more people; so entrepreneurs
can start a business without paying a bribe; so
young people have the skills they need to succeed
in this modern, knowledge-based economy.
We can promote growth through trade that meets
a higher standard. And that’s what we’re doing
through the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade
agreement that encompasses nearly 40 percent of
the global economy; an agreement that will open
markets, while protecting the rights of workers
and protecting the environment that enables
development to be sustained.
We can roll back the pollution that we put in our
skies, and help economies lift people out of
poverty without condemning our children to the
ravages of an ever-warming climate. The same
ingenuity that produced the Industrial Age and the
Computer Age allows us to harness the potential
of clean energy. No country can escape the
ravages of climate change. And there is no
stronger sign of leadership than putting future
generations first. The United States will work
with every nation that is willing to do its part so
that we can come together in Paris to decisively
confront this challenge.
And finally, our vision for the future of this
Assembly, my belief in moving forward rather than
backwards, requires us to defend the democratic
principles that allow societies to succeed. Let me
start from a simple premise: Catastrophes, like
what we are seeing in Syria, do not take place in
countries where there is genuine democracy and
respect for the universal values this institution is
supposed to defend. (Applause.)
I recognize that democracy is going to take
different forms in different parts of the world. The
very idea of a people governing themselves
depends upon government giving expression to
their unique culture, their unique history, their
unique experiences. But some universal truths are
self-evident. No person wants to be imprisoned
for peaceful worship. No woman should ever be
abused with impunity, or a girl barred from going
to school. The freedom to peacefully petition
those in power without fear of arbitrary laws —
these are not ideas of one country or one culture.
They are fundamental to human progress. They
are a cornerstone of this institution.
I realize that in many parts of the world there is a
different view — a belief that strong leadership
must tolerate no dissent. I hear it not only from
America’s adversaries, but privately at least I also
hear it from some of our friends. I disagree. I
believe a government that suppresses peaceful
dissent is not showing strength; it is showing
weakness and it is showing fear. (Applause.)
History shows that regimes who fear their own
people will eventually crumble, but strong
institutions built on the consent of the governed
endure long after any one individual is gone.
That’s why our strongest leaders — from George
Washington to Nelson Mandela — have elevated
the importance of building strong, democratic
institutions over a thirst for perpetual power.
Leaders who amend constitutions to stay in
office only acknowledge that they failed to build a
successful country for their people — because
none of us last forever. It tells us that power is
something they cling to for its own sake, rather
than for the betterment of those they purport to
I understand democracy is frustrating.
Democracy in the United States is certainly
imperfect. At times, it can even be dysfunctional.
But democracy — the constant struggle to extend
rights to more of our people, to give more people
a voice — is what allowed us to become the
most powerful nation in the world. (Applause.)
It’s not simply a matter of principle; it’s not an
abstraction. Democracy — inclusive democracy
— makes countries stronger. When opposition
parties can seek power peacefully through the
ballot, a country draws upon new ideas. When a
free media can inform the public, corruption and
abuse are exposed and can be rooted out. When
civil society thrives, communities can solve
problems that governments cannot necessarily
solve alone. When immigrants are welcomed,
countries are more productive and more vibrant.
When girls can go to school, and get a job, and
pursue unlimited opportunity, that’s when a
country realizes its full potential. (Applause.)
That is what I believe is America’s greatest
strength. Not everybody in America agrees with
me. That’s part of democracy. I believe that the
fact that you can walk the streets of this city
right now and pass churches and synagogues and
temples and mosques, where people worship
freely; the fact that our nation of immigrants
mirrors the diversity of the world — you can find
everybody from everywhere here in New York City
— (applause) — the fact that, in this country,
everybody can contribute, everybody can
participate no matter who they are, or what they
look like, or who they love — that’s what makes
us strong.
And I believe that what is true for America is true
for virtually all mature democracies. And that is
no accident. We can be proud of our nations
without defining ourselves in opposition to some
other group. We can be patriotic without
demonizing someone else. We can cherish our
own identities — our religion, our ethnicity, our
traditions — without putting others down. Our
systems are premised on the notion that absolute
power will corrupt, but that people — ordinary
people — are fundamentally good; that they
value family and friendship, faith and the dignity
of hard work; and that with appropriate checks
and balances, governments can reflect this
I believe that’s the future we must seek together.
To believe in the dignity of every individual, to
believe we can bridge our differences, and choose
cooperation over conflict — that is not weakness,
that is strength. (Applause.) It is a practical
necessity in this interconnected world.
And our people understand this. Think of the
Liberian doctor who went door-to-door to search
for Ebola cases, and to tell families what to do if
they show symptoms. Think of the Iranian
shopkeeper who said, after the nuclear deal, “God
willing, now we’ll be able to offer many more
goods at better prices.” Think of the Americans
who lowered the flag over our embassy in Havana
in 1961 — the year I was born — and returned
this summer to raise that flag back up.
(Applause.) One of these men said of the Cuban
people, “We could do things for them, and they
could do things for us. We loved them.” For 50
years, we ignored that fact.
Think of the families leaving everything they’ve
known behind, risking barren deserts and stormy
waters just to find shelter; just to save their
children. One Syrian refugee who was greeted in
Hamburg with warm greetings and shelter, said,
“We feel there are still some people who love
other people.”
The people of our United Nations are not as
different as they are told. They can be made to
fear; they can be taught to hate — but they can
also respond to hope. History is littered with the
failure of false prophets and fallen empires who
believed that might always makes right, and that
will continue to be the case. You can count on
that. But we are called upon to offer a different
type of leadership — leadership strong enough to
recognize that nations share common interests
and people share a common humanity, and, yes,
there are certain ideas and principles that are
That’s what those who shaped the United
Nations 70 years ago understood. Let us carry
forward that faith into the future — for it is the
only way we can assure that future will be
brighter for my children, and for yours.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
11:00 A.M. EDT


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