White House Recap September 17-24, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Addresses 66th Session United Nations General Assembly — Selling the American Jobs Act and Revising America’s Education System

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: SEPTEMBER 17-24, 2011

West Wing Week

Weekly Wrap Up: Rebuilding America

Source: WH, 9-23-11

We the People: President Obama released the U.S.’s Open Government National Action Plan, and a highlight of that plan is We the People, a new platform that gives all Americans a way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country. In the first days following the launch, numerous Americans have created petitions and are currently collecting signatures.

Promoting World Peace: The President spent two days in New York City for the 66th session of United Nations General Assembly. While there, he held numerous meetings with world leaders and addressed the General Assembly speaking about the remarkable year we have had around the world and also the many challenges that stand in the way of a lasting peace. He also attended the Clinton Global Initiative, where he talked about the positive impact the American Jobs Act will have on the global economy.

Rebuilding America: President Obama visited the Ohio River’s Brent Spence Bridge, a functionally obsolete crossing on one of North America’s busiest trucking routes that connects Cincinnati, Ohio with Kentucky. The President spoke about the pressing need to improve our national infrastructure, and detailed the provisions in the American Jobs Act that will rebuild our country and put ironworkers, construction workers and carpenters back to work.

Creating a Fair Tax System: The President laid out a balanced plan to get our fiscal house in order, based on the values of shared responsibility and shared sacrifice.  The President is calling on Congress to undertake comprehensive tax reform to simplify the system, make it more fair and efficient, and lay a stronger foundation for economic growth.  The plan details how to pay for the American Jobs Act, while also paying down our debt over time.

Improving our Education System: President Obama and representatives from the education community gathered at the White House to announce that it’s time to take action and build a world class education system. In exchange for a real commitment to undertake education reform, the Administration will enable states to request flexibility from specific mandates under No Child Left Behind.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: The country marked an important milestone this week when the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” officially came to an end. The law that was signed in December 2010 by President Obama allows people of the LGBT community to serve openly in the military.

Full Text September 21, 2011: President Obama’s Speeches with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Former President Bill Clinton, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron & France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy & Japan’s PM Yoshihiko Noda

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by President Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in Luncheon Toasts

U.N. Secretary General's Luncheon
September 21, 2011 8:18 PM

U.N. Secretary General’s Luncheon

United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

1:54 P.M. EDT

SECRETARY GENERAL BAN:  President Obama, Excellencies, distinguished heads of state and government, Your Highnesses, Your Majesties, distinguished ministers, ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to the United Nations. Welcome to our common house.

We are off to a flying start today, I must say. Thank you, President Obama, for your inspiring oratory, and more, for its vital importance.

As ever, we thank the United States and its generous people for hosting United Nations during last 66 years. This is the 66th session. Let me offer a special word of thanks to New Yorkers. In the last month, they have faced an earthquake, then a hurricane, now a perfect storm of the world’s leaders, creating a lot of traffic jams. And we are very much grateful for their patience.

Let me say straight off, this is my fifth lunch with the distinguished leaders of the world, and I’m very much grateful for your strong support.  In that regard, I am very glad that it is not my last lunch, and we will have five more lunches in the coming five years. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Taking this opportunity, I would like to really sincerely express my appreciation and thanks to all of the heads of state and government for your strong support. You can count on me. And it’s a great and extraordinary honor to serve this great organization.

Mr. President, 50 years ago this week, your predecessor, President John F. Kennedy, addressed the General Assembly. He came, he said to join with other world leaders — and I quote, “to look across this world of threats to a world of peace.” Looking out upon the world we see no shortages of threats.  And closer to home, wherever we might live, we see the familiar struggles of political life — left versus right, rich versus poor, and up versus down.  Seldom, however, has the debate been more emotional or strident; yet, seldom has the need for unity been greater.

We know the challenges. I won’t reprise my speech except to say that we do, indeed, have a rare and generational opportunity to make a lasting difference in people’s lives. If there is a theme in all that has been said today by the leaders, it would be the imperative of unity, solidarity, in realizing that opportunity. We must act together. There is no opt-out clause for global problem-solving.  Every country has something to give in and to gain.

Excellencies, let me close with a question. By any chance, do you ever feel that you have become a slave, you have become a slave to this machine?  (Laughter.) Somehow, I sense that I’m not alone.  I have seen so many leaders having, and speaking over the phone, even while at the summit meetings. Thanks to device like this, the world has been more connected. But let us not misunderstand that with being united and being connected depends on technology. Being united depends on us — on leaders, on institutions, and on the decisions you make.

We have come a long way since last year. Outside this building, the new flags of Southern Sudan and Libya proudly wave in the September breeze. And today I am very pleased to recognize the President of Southern Sudan — his Excellency Salva Kiir — who came to New York for the first time after their independence; and President of National Transitional Council of Libya, his Excellency Abdul Jalil — who received very strong support yesterday.  And they will continue to receive such support. Let us give them a big applause.  (Applause.)

We can be proud of the firm stand we took for freedom and democracy in Côte d’Ivoire, North Africa, and elsewhere. We can be proud of the many lives we saved, the hungry people we fed, the children we helped to grow up healthy and strong. And we can do more to make the Arab Spring a season of hope for all, to put the sustainable back into development, to prevent the crises before they explode.

And so, distinguished heads of state and government, Excellencies, Your Majesties, let us raise a glass to clarity of vision, to unity of purpose, to a common resolve for action, to the United Nations, and to continued success of each and every heads of state and government present here.

Thank you very much. Cheers. (Applause.) Cheers. Thank you. Cheers. (Applause.)

(A toast is offered.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone. These lunches come right after my remarks to the General Assembly, so I’ve already spoken too long.  (Laughter.)  As the host of the United Nations, I want to welcome all of you. In particular, though, I want to cite Secretary General Ban for his extraordinary leadership. As you begin your second term, I want to take this opportunity to thank you — not just for your leadership, but also for your lessons in life.

As we all know, the Secretary General is a very modest man, but he’s led a remarkable life. Born into World War II, as a young boy in the middle of the Korean War, having to flee the fighting with his family — just as his home country has risen, so he has risen to leadership on the world stage.

A lot of us are envious of him, because, in running for a second term, he ran unopposed — (laughter) — and he won, unanimously. (Laughter.) I’m still trying to learn what his trick is.  (Laughter.)

But, Secretary General, that fact reflects the high esteem with which all of us hold you and your leadership.  And I want to quote something that you said when you began your new term: “We live in a new era where no country can solve all challenges and where every country could be part of the solution.”  I could not agree more. Today, we see the difference you’ve made in Cote d’Ivoire, in Sudan, in Libya, in confronting climate change and nuclear safety, in peacekeeping missions that save lives every single day.

So we want to salute you. We want to salute those who serve in U.N. missions around the world, at times at great risk to themselves.  We give them their mandate, but it is they who risk their lives — and give their lives — so people can live in peace and dignity.

So I want to propose a toast. To the leader who, every day, has to work hard to try to unite nations, and to all the men and women who sustain it, especially those brave humanitarians in blue helmets. In an era of great tumult and great change, let all of us be part of the solution. Cheers. (Applause.)

(A toast is offered.)

END                                                 2:03 P.M. EDT

 

Remarks by President Obama and President Clinton at Clinton Global Initiative

President Obama at Clinton Global Initiative
September 22, 2011 9:02 AM

President Obama at Clinton Global Initiative

Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers

New York, New York

2:43 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT CLINTON:  For three years, now, and every year he has been in the White House, President Obama has come to CGI.  He believes in what we’re trying to do.  In his former life, he was a walking NGO.  (Laughter.)  He also is one of those Americans who believes climate change is real and deserves a real response. (Applause.)

And he recently proposed to Congress a plan that even the Republican analysts who looked at the evidence, as opposed to the rhetoric, say will add between 1.5 and 2 percent to our GDP and help us to get out of this mess we’re in and enable America to help the world again.

So I’m gratified that he found the time to come here.  I appreciate the work that he’s involved with at the United Nations.  I think he has a brilliant Secretary of State.  (Laughter and applause.)  And I am profoundly gratified that he is here with us today.

Ladies and gentlemen, President Obama.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.) It is wonderful to be here today.  It is wonderful to see so many do-gooders all in one room.  (Laughter.)  And our do-gooder-in-chief, Bill Clinton, thank you for not only the gracious introduction, but the extraordinary work that he has been doing each and every day.  You are tireless, and we are proud of what you’ve been doing.  (Applause.)

I want to thank the outstanding team here at CGI:  CEO Bob Harrison, Deputy Director Ed Hughes, all the dedicated staff.  And although she is not part of CGI, she’s certainly part of what makes Bill so successful — someone who he does not get to see enough because of me — (laughter) — but I’m grateful that he’s not bitter about it.  (Laughter.)  She’s one of the best Secretaries of State that we’ve ever had — Hillary Clinton.  (Applause.)

Now, this is the third time that I’ve been here.  Last year, I was the warm-up act for Michelle.  (Laughter.)  I just gave a big speech at the U.N. this morning, and so I will not subject you to another one.  I wanted to stop by for two reasons.

First, I want to express my appreciation for the extraordinary work that has been done by CGI.  It’s been said that “no power on Earth can stop an idea whose time has come.” And as you know, when Bill Clinton sees an idea out there, there’s no stopping him.  CGI was an idea whose time had come.  And thanks to his relentless determination — but also, I think he’d agree, thanks to, most importantly, your commitments — you’ve created new hope and opportunity for hundreds of millions of people in nearly 200 countries.  Think about that — hundreds of millions of people have been touched by what you’ve done.  That doesn’t happen very often.

That’s the other thing I want to talk about.  Around the world, people are still reeling from the financial crisis that unfolded three years ago and the economic pain that followed.  And this morning at the United Nations, I talked about the concerted action that the world needs to take right now to right our economic ship.

But we have to remember America is still the biggest economy in the world.  So the single most important thing we could do for the global economy is to get our own economy moving again.  When America is growing the world is more likely to grow.  And obviously that’s the number-one issue on the minds of every American that I meet.  If they haven’t been out of work since the recession began, odds are they know somebody who has.  They feel as if the decks have been stacked against them.  They don’t feel as if hard work and responsibility pay off anymore, and they don’t see that hard work and responsibility reflected either in Washington or, all too often, on Wall Street.  They just want to know that their leaders are willing to step up and do something about it.

So, as President Clinton mentioned, that’s why I put forward the American Jobs Act.  Not as a silver bullet that will solve all our problems, but it will put more people back to work.  It will put more money into the pockets of working people.  And that’s what our economy needs right now.

It hires teachers, and puts them back in the classroom.  It hires construction workers, puts them out rebuilding an infrastructure that has deteriorated, and we know that that’s part of our economic success historically.  It puts our veterans back to work — after having served overseas, then coming home and not being able to find a job, when they sacrificed immeasurably on behalf of our security?

That’s what we need right now — we need more good teachers in front of our kids.  I was just having lunch over at the General Assembly with the President of South Korea.  And I still remember the first time I met him, in South Korea, and I asked him, “Well, what are your biggest challenges right now?”  He says, “Education — it’s a big challenge.”  I said, “Well, I understand.  We’ve got a big challenge in the United States, as well.”  He said, “No, you have to understand, my big challenge is, the parents are too demanding.”  (Laughter.)  “They’re coming into my office, they’re saying, our children have to learn English in first grade.  So we’re having to import teachers from other countries and pay them a premium to meet the educational demands that parents are placing on us, because they know that if their children are to succeed in the 21st century economy, they’d better know some foreign languages.”  Well, think about that.  That’s what’s happening in South Korea.  Here, we’re laying off teachers in droves?

Now is the time to upgrade our roads and our bridges and our schools.  We used to have the best airports, the best roads, the best bridges, the best ports.  I’ve been asking people recently  — I’ve taken a poll in New York — how do you find LaGuardia compared to the Beijing airport?  (Laughter.)  We laugh, but that says something.  That’s not inevitable; that’s a choice that we’re making.

We talk about climate change — something that, obviously, people here are deeply concerned about.  Talking to the CEO of Southwest Airlines, they estimate that if we put in the new generation of GPS air traffic control, we would save 15 percent in fuel costs.  “Reduce fuel consumption by 15 percent, Mr. President.”  And think about what that would do, not only to potentially lower the cost of a ticket — maybe they could start giving out peanuts again.  (Laughter .)  But think what it would do in terms of taking those pollutants out of our air.

So we know what to do.  We know that an American should — who puts his life on the line, her life on the line, should never have to fight for a job when they come home.  We know that.  We know what our values are.

So this jobs bill addresses the terrible toll that unemployment inflicts on people.  It helps long-term unemployed keep their skills sharp.  It says to young people who are underprivileged, we’re going to give you a chance at a summer job that helps to establish the kind of work habits that carry on for generations.  Because part of what happens in this kind of recession environment — the disadvantage of this generation coming in and not being able to get fully employed, that lingers for a lifetime.  It affects their lifetime earnings.  That’s contrary to our values.

This jobs bill cuts taxes for every working family and every small business owner in America to boost demand and to boost hiring.  And if you’re a small business owner who hires a new worker or raises workers’ wages, you get an extra tax cut.

So this bill answers the urgent need to create jobs right away.  And I appreciate President Clinton’s strong support of this plan over the weekend.  And the reason that that’s important is because he knows a good jobs plan when he sees it.  He created more jobs in his tenure than just about anybody.  And I’m fighting hard to make sure that we get this bill passed through Congress.

As President Clinton said, every idea in there has been supported in the past by both parties, and everything is paid for.  There’s no reason why we shouldn’t pass it right away.  And for those of you who are concerned about the international economy and development, keep this in mind:  If the economy is not growing, if Americans aren’t getting back to work, it becomes that much harder for us to sustain the critical development assistance and the partnerships that help to undergird development strategies that you care dearly about all across the world.

So this is important, again, not just to the United States; this is important to the world.  It will help determine how well we can support what you are doing in the non-for-profit sector.  I’m going to be doing everything I can, everything in my power, to get this economy moving again that requires congressional support but also those things that don’t require congressional support.

Consider one of the ideas that we’re working on together.  Earlier this year, I announced a Better Buildings Initiative to rehire construction workers to make our buildings more energy-efficient.  And I asked President Clinton and my Jobs Council to challenge private companies to join us.  In June, at CGI America, we announced a commitment to upgrade 300 million square feet of space, from military housing to college campuses.  Some of these projects are breaking ground this month, putting people to work right now.  Later this year, we’ll announce more commitments that will create jobs, while saving billions for businesses on energy bills and cutting down on our pollution.

And it’s a good example of what CGI is all about:  Everybody working together — government, business, the non-for-profit sector — to create opportunities today, while ensuring those opportunities for the future.  We just need that kind of cooperation in Washington.

I have to say that I do envy President Clinton because when you’re out of Washington, it turns out that you’re just dealing with people who are reasonable all the time.  (Laughter and applause.)  Nobody is looking to score points.  Nobody is looking at the polls on any particular issue.  You’re just trying to solve problems.  And that’s the ethic that people are looking for in Washington.

We’ve got enough challenges.  It is technically difficult to figure out how we are going to deal with climate change — not impossible, but difficult.  There are technical challenges to making sure that we’re providing enough safe drinking water around the world, or making sure that preventable diseases are eradicated in countries that don’t yet have a public health infrastructure.  These things are all tough stuff.  But they’re solvable, if everybody’s attitude is that we’re working together, as opposed to trying to work at odds with each other.

And our future depends on fighting this downturn with everything that we’ve got right now.  And it demands that we invest in ourselves, even as we’re making commitments in investments around the world.  It demands we invest in research and technology, so the great ideas of tomorrow are born in our labs and our classrooms.  It demands we invest in faster transportation and communications networks, so that our businesses can compete.  It demands that we give every child the skills and education they need to succeed.

And I thank you for the commitment that you’ve made to recruit and train tens of thousands of new science, technology, engineering and math teachers.  Nothing could be more important.

We can do all this.  We can create jobs now and invest in our future, and still tackle our long-term debt problems.  Don’t tell Bill Clinton it can’t be done.  He did it.  When he was President, he did not cut our way out of prosperity; he grew our way to prosperity.  We didn’t shortchange essential investments, or balance the budget on the backs of the middle class or the poor.  We were able to live within our means, invest in our future, and ask everyone to pay their fair share.

And what happened?  The private sector thrived.  The rich got richer.  The middle class grew.  Millions rose out of poverty.  America ran a surplus that was on track to be debt-free by next year.  We were a nation firing on all cylinders.

That’s the kind of nation that we’ve got to work to build again.  It will take time after the kind of crisis that we’ve endured.  And this is a once-in-a-generation crisis.  But we can get through it.  But our politics right now is not doing us any favors.

Nevertheless, I believe we can and we will get there, by remembering what made us great — by building an economy where innovation is encouraged, education is a national mission, new jobs and businesses choose to take root right here in the United States.  And that’s what CGI reflects.  It reflects the American spirit, which is big and bold and generous, and doesn’t shy away from challenges, and says that we’re all in it together.

And when I think about the contributions that all of you have made, that makes me confident.  Those of us who have been most blessed by this nation, we are ready to give back.  But we’ve got to be asked.  And that’s what I’m hoping members of Congress recognize.  I don’t want a small, cramped vision of what America can be.  We want a big and generous vision of what America can be.  And the world is inspired when we have that vision.

And, by the way, that vision is not a Democratic vision or a Republican idea.  These are not ideas that belong to one political party or another.  They are the things a rising nation does, and the thing that retreating nations don’t do.  And we are not a retreating nation.

So despite the many challenges we face right now, I believe America must continue to be a rising nation, with rising fortunes.  And that makes — that means making sure that everybody is participating and everybody is getting a shot, because when all of our people do well, America does well.  And when America does well, that’s good for the rest of the world.  That’s what President Clinton has always understood.

So, Mr. President, thank you for all the opportunities that you help to create every day.  Thank you to all of you who are participating in CGI.  You are doing the Lord’s work.  And I can assure you that you will continue to have a partner in the Obama administration for what I expect to be years to come.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
2:57 P.M. EDT

 

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom

President Obama's Bilateral Meeting with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom
September 21, 2011 8:45 PM

President Obama’s Bilateral Meeting with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York
3:55 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Let me welcome Prime Minister Cameron to the United States and New York.  Obviously, there is an extraordinary special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, and I am very fortunate that over the last year or two, David and I have been able to, I think, establish an excellent friendship as well.

And that’s part of what makes the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom so important, is that it’s grounded not only in shared values and broad-based agreement on policy, but it’s also based on the individual relationships that we have and the friendships and joint traditions that we have.

We’ve got a lot to talk about.  We have worked closely together to help bring about freedom and peace in Libya.  We are coordinating closely in managing a very difficult time for the global economy.  We are keenly interested in finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  On all these issues, I’ve always found Prime Minister Cameron to be an outstanding partner.

And so I’m very grateful for his friendship, his hard work, and his dedication and his leadership on the global stage, and I look forward to a very productive discussion today.

Welcome.

PRIME MINISTER CAMERON:  Thank you.  If I may say thank you, Barack, for that warm welcome.  It’s great to be back — great to be back in New York, and particularly on this, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a reminder of how our countries always work together in defeating terror and trying to make our world a safer place.

As you say, we worked very closely together on Libya, and I think we’re getting to a good conclusion there, with a real chance of freedom and democracy for those people.  We’re working closely together on Afghanistan; also the Middle East peace process, where we’re desperate to get that moving again.  And I’m looking forward to discussions on the world economy, which we will follow up in Cannes at the G20, where we’ve got to get the world economy moving.

So these are very important times.  I think the relationship is as strong as it’s ever been, and it’s been a pleasure working with you these last 16 months.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Excellent.  Thank you very much, everybody.

Q: Can you give us your reaction to the hikers being released?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We are thrilled that the hikers were released, and we are thrilled for the families.  It was the right thing to do.  They shouldn’t have been held in the first place, but we’re glad they’re now home.

END
3:58 P.M. EDT

 

Remarks by President Obama and President Sarkozy of France

 

President Obama's Bilateral Meeting with President Sarkozy of France
September 21, 2011 9:07 PM

President Obama’s Bilateral Meeting with President Sarkozy of France

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

4:53 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  On the anniversary of September 11th, President Sarkozy gave a speech at our embassy in Paris, and he reminded the people of France, but also the world, of the extraordinary friendship that had developed, in part, because of the great sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have made over the decades to preserve freedom and democracy.  And so, not only am I grateful for the expression of deep friendship that President Sarkozy expressed, but I want to affirm the mutuality of feeling that we have towards the French people.

That partnership has been evidenced by the extraordinary work that we’ve done together in Libya.  And I want to thank President Sarkozy for his leadership, as a coalition helped the Libyan people achieve the kind of freedom and opportunity that they’re looking for.  That partnership is evidenced in the work we did together in Côte d’Ivoire to ensure that the rightfully elected leader of that country was put in place.  And our partnership and our mutual leadership will be required to deal with a range of international issues that have been discussed here at the United Nations and are going to be critical in the months and years to come, including trying to find a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also trying to find a coordinated world strategy, global strategy, to deal with a economy that is still far too fragile.

And, of course, we still have the joint project to bring stability and transition to Afghan governance.  And we are extraordinarily grateful for the sacrifices that the men and women in uniform from France have made in that effort.

On a personal note, I consider Nicolas a friend as well as a colleague.  Thank you for your leadership.  Welcome.  And I look forward to a very productive discussion.

PRESIDENT SARKOZY:  (As translated.)  I should like to say just how delighted we are to be here in the United States, in New York, alongside Barack Obama.

Now, for we, the people of France, I must say, it’s actually easy to work with Barack Obama.  Whatever the crises we’ve had to face together, whatever the initiatives we have taken jointly, on every single occasion we have found a listening, open-minded attitude on the part of our friend, Barack Obama.  In particular, when tackling the crisis, which is still upon us today, the leadership that President Obama has shown, and showed at the time, have been of a special value to us all.

There is still much to do, in particular in paving the way to the G20 summit in Cannes.  This is our priority; our number-one priority — let me make this very clear — is to find the path to growth worldwide.

Lastly, I wish to say to what extent I am sensitive to the boldness, the courage, the intelligence, and the sensitivity of President Obama, my friend.  I liked him before his election; I liked him once he was elected; and I especially appreciate him now, when the tough times are upon us.

And there’s one thing I want to say, perhaps on a more personal note, and that I really mean from the bottom of my heart.  When things are as tough as they are right now, when the going gets as tough as it is right now, it is especially precious and important to be able to speak to what is the world’s number-one power — to someone who listens; someone who is sensitive to others; someone who is respectful and aware of other people’s redlines and prepared to take them into account, especially at a time when, as I said, we are facing fresh difficulties, and we really need, together, to go forward.

(Speaking in English.)  She speaks like me.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much.

END
5:02 P.M. EDT

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Noda of Japan before Bilateral Meeting

United Nations
New York, New York

12:20 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I want to welcome Prime Minister Noda and his delegation to New York City and to the United States.  As all of you are aware, we have an extraordinary alliance with Japan.  They are one of our closest friends, our closest allies.  We have worked cooperatively on a range of issues related to security, related to economics, and the bonds of friendship between our peoples is equally strong.

Prime Minister Noda and I have had the opportunity to speak by phone, although this is the first time that we’ve had a meeting face to face.  I know that he, like all of us, has some extraordinary challenges that we have to address.  And I know that at the top of his list is rebuilding Japan in the aftermath of the horrific tsunami that occurred.  I’ve repeatedly stressed that America will do everything that we can to make sure that that rebuilding is a success.

At the same time, obviously, we have other important work to do together.  As the two largest economies in the world, we have to continue to promote growth that can help put our people to work and improve standards of living.  We have to modernize our alliance to meet the needs of the 21st century.  And so I’m looking forward to a very productive discussion, and what I’m sure will be an excellent working relationship with the Prime Minister, as well as his team.

PRIME MINISTER NODA:  (As translated.)  The biggest priority and the immediate challenge for the Japan government is the recovery from the great East Japan earthquake and the situation with the economy.  But, at the same time, even from before the earthquake took place, we had a lot of challenges both domestically and in foreign policy areas.  And those must be dealt with one by one, thereby creating a stable (inaudible.)  That’s the challenge for my government.

Our top priority is the reconstruction from the disaster of the earthquake in Japan, the great East Japan earthquake.  The United States has provided enormous amount of support, including Operation Tomodachi and a lot of efforts made by Ambassador Roos. And on behalf of all Japanese nationals, I thank you.  And thank you for your support.

I have a firm belief that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the key pillar of our foreign policy.  Through the assistance that we received after the earthquake this has become an even more unwavering one.  And the Japanese public also were assured, and we recognize the significance and importance of our alliance.

It was reported that the meeting between our Foreign Minister Gemba and Secretary of State Clinton was a very fruitful one, and we would like to further deepen and enhance the bilateral alliance between our two countries in the three major fields of security, economy, and also the cultural and the people-to–people exchange.

One worry that I’ve have is that there is a emerging concern that once recovering the economy we might be drawn back into another recession, and Japan and the United States must work on the economic growth and the fiscal situation at the same time.  And you have the presence of Secretary Geithner here, and we have to work together at the forums — the G20 and other market forum — to coordinate with each other.  And I’m looking forward to having such discussions with you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, everybody.

END
12:29 P.M. EDT

Full Text September 21, 2011: President Barack Obama Meets with World Leaders on Day Two at the (UN) United Nations General Assembly

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Meets with World Leaders on Day Two at the U.N General Assembly

Source: WH, 9-21-11
UNGA: potus shakes hands with Clinton at Global Initiative

President Barack Obama shakes hands with former President Bill Clinton after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in New York, N.Y., Sept. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton) September 21, 2011.

President Obama marked the 19th anniversary of the International Day of Peace with a series of meetings and events as he participated in the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. The President began his day with an address to the General Assembly, where he spoke about the remarkable changes that have occurred throughout the world since the last gathering of this group:

This year has been a time of extraordinary transformation. More nations have stepped forward to maintain international peace and security. And more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.

Following the address, President Obama met with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and pledged America’s commitment to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. The Prime Minister agreed with President Obama’s assertion that direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine are the only way to achieve that goal:

I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state through the international community, but they’re not prepared yet to give peace to Israel in return.  And my hope is that there will be other leaders in the world, responsible leaders, who will heed your call, Mr. President, and oppose this effort to shortcut peace negotiations — in fact, to avoid them. Because I think that avoiding these negotiations is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians, and bad for peace.

The President had his first face to face meeting with Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda. The two leaders discussed the ongoing recovery from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated that country earlier this year, and the importance of the strong Japan-U.S. relationship. The Prime Minister echoed the President’s desire to maintain this vital partnership:

I have a firm belief that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the key pillar of our foreign policy. Through the assistance that we received after the earthquake this has become an even more unwavering one.  And the Japanese public also were assured, and we recognize the significance and importance of our alliance.

The President also spoke at the annual luncheon hosted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for world leaders, where he saluted the work of those who served in U.N. missions all over the world,  “who risk their lives– and give their lives — so people can live in peace and dignity.”

UNGA: potus toasts with Ban Ki-Moon

President Barack Obama delivers a toast during the luncheon hosted by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the United Nations Building in New York, N.Y., Sept. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton) September 21, 2011.

During a stop at the Clinton Global Initiative, President Obama discussed the the international implications of our onging economic woes. “The single most important thing we could do for the global economy is to get our own economy moving again. When America is growing the world is more likely to grow.”

Late in the day, the President and his senior foreign policy advisors met with some of our closest European allies. In a meeting with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, both men stressed the importance of the U.S.-U.K. relationship. The two countries have  worked closely together on the fight for freedom in Libya, the war in Afghanistan and the ongoing Middle East peace process.

In his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, President Obama said he would be relying on France to help deal with numerous pressing international issues, ” including trying to find a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also trying to find a coordinated world strategy, global strategy, to deal with a economy that is still far too fragile.”

President Barack Obama greets President Nicolas Sarkozy of France

President Barack Obama greets President Nicolas Sarkozy of France during a bilateral meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, N.Y., Sept. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Political Buzz September 21, 2011: President Barack Obama Addresses the (UN) United Nations General Assembly About Israel & Opposing Palestinian Statehood — Obama Meets with Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu Deserves ‘Badge of honor’

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

 

Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS

Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 21, 2011.

IN FOCUS: UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN BID FOR STATEHOOD

“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N. – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and Palestinians, not us, who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them, on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.” — President Barack Obama Speaking at the UN

Full Text September 21, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the (UN) United Nations General Assembly About Israel & Opposing Palestinian Statehood (Transcript) WH, 9-21-11

Full Text September 21, 2011: Statements by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as They Began their Meeting at the UN General Assembly (Transcript) WH, 9-21-11

Obama: No short cut to peace in Middle East: President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that there could be no short cut to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as he sought to head off a looming diplomatic crisis for the Middle East and U.S. policy there…. – AP, 9-21-11

    • Obama seeks to save Mideast policy from U.N. debacle: Addressing world leaders at the opening of a U.N. General Assembly session, Obama — whose earlier peace initiatives accomplished little — put the onus on the two sides to break a yearlong impasse and get back to the negotiating table…. – Reuters, 9-21-11

“I want to thank you Mr. President for standing with Israel and supporting peace. We both agree that Palestinians and Israelis should sit down and negotiate. … This is the only way to get a stable and durable peace.” — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“The bonds between the U.S. and Israel are unbreakable. Peace cannot be imposed on the parties. It’s going to have to be negotiated. … The ultimate goal of all of us is two states side-by-side living in peace.” — President Barack Obama

    • Netanyahu to Obama: ‘Badge of honor’ on Palestinians: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Obama today that his opposition to United Nations recognition of Palestinian statehood is “a badge of honor.”
      Obama met with Netanyahu after speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, where he urged members not to recognize a new Palestinian state so that the Palestinians and Israelis could work out difficult issues…. – USA Today, 9-21-11
    • “Standing Your Ground (On Israel) Is A Badge of Honor”: Before meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning at the UN, President Obama said that “the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable.”
      The president, who has publicly clashed with Netanyahu in the past, delivered a message at the UN today that contained little to rankle the conservative Israeli leader, given their mutual opposition to the Palestinian bid for statehood before any peace treaty has been worked out…. – ABC News, 9-21-11
    • Benjamin Netanyahu: President Obama deserves ‘badge of honor’: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised President Barack Obama’s efforts to dissuade Palestinian leaders from pushing for a United Nations vote on statehood, calling Obama’s actions a “badge of honor” for the president. … – Politico, 9-21-11
    • Netanyahu tells Obama Palestinian UN bid doomed: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said that direct negotiation was the only way to achieve a stable Middle East peace and the Palestinian effort to secure UN recognition of statehood “will not succeed.”…. – Ynetnews, 9-21-11
    • Obama, at U.N., Explains Rationale for Opposing Palestinian Statehood Bid: President Obama declared his opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood through the Security Council on Wednesday, throwing the weight of the United States directly in the path of the Arab democracy movement even as he hailed what he called the democratic aspirations that have taken hold throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
      “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N.,” Mr. Obama said, in an address before world leaders at the General Assembly. “If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.”
      Instead, Mr. Obama said, the international community should continue to push Israelis and Palestinians toward talks on the four intractable “final status” issues that have vexed peace negotiations since 1979: the borders of a Palestinian state, security for Israel, the status of Palestinian refugees who left or were forced to leave their homes in Israel, and the fate of Jerusalem, which both sides claim for their capital…. – NYT, 9-21-11
    • Obama urges U.N. to stay out of Israel-Palestinian conflict: President Obama urged world leaders Wednesday morning to stay out of the conflict over Palestinian statehood as American diplomats pushed to delay a vote on the question during this week’s general assembly of the United Nations.
      Speaking to the full assembly, Obama argued that the two sides will never live in peace unless they work it out themselves.
      Obama was scheduled to meet privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately after his morning address, and then to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas late in the afternoon…. – LAT, 9-21-11
    • Obama: No ‘Shortcut’ to Peace Between Israelis, Palestinians: AP President Obama speaks during the 66th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters Sept. 21. President Obama said Wednesday there is no “shortcut” to Middle East peace, as he urged the Palestinians to abandon their push for a state…. – Fox News, 9-21-11
    • Obama U.N. speech: ‘No shortcut’ to Mideast peace: President Barack Obama told a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday that Mideast peace “will not come through statements and resolutions” by the world body, arguing against a proposed resolution calling for U.N. recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state.
      “I am convinced that there is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now,” he told the UN General Assembly. “Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians — not us — who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.”… – Politico, 9-21-11
    • Obama Says ‘No Shortcut’ to Palestinian Statehood: President Barack Obama appealed to a United Nations General Assembly packed with supporters of Palestinian statehood to hold off UN recognition until the Palestinians and Israelis can work out a peace deal…. – WSJ, 9-21-11
    • Obama Confronts Palestinian Bid for Statehood at UN: ‘Peace Is Hard’: In a last-ditch attempt to prevent a showdown with the Palestinian territorities over their bid for statehood at the United Nations later this week, President Obama argued his case for a two-state Middle East solution before the General Assembly today…. – ABC News, 9-21-11

“Once again it’s been proven to all the doubters, President Obama is an ally and friend of Israel. The Obama administration gives backing to Israel’s security in a wide, all-encompassing and unprecedented manner.” — Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a statement

    • Ehud Barak: Obama’s speech again proves that he is a true ally: Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday responded to US President Barack Obama’s speech at the UN General Assembly, saying the address was proof of the strong relationship between the American leader and Israel…. – Jerusalem Post, 9-21-11
    • Barak: Obama Speech Proves His Friendship with Israel: Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Atzmaut) responded to United States President Barack Obama’s United Nations General Assembly address on Wednesday, saying the speech was proof of the strong relationship between the American leader and Israel.
      Barak expressed hope that Obama’s speech and developments at the UN would lead to to the resumption of talks with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority…. – Israel National News, 9-21-11

“I congratulate President Obama, and I am ready to sign on this speech with both hands.” — Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

    • Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman praises Obama’s UN General Assembly speech: FM states that he does not resort to ‘threats’ against the Palestinians in light of their UN statehood bid; Opposition leader Livni says Obama correct to demand negotiations, emphasizing that UN speeches will not ‘change a thing’…. – Ha’aretz, 9-21-11

“Let us cease our endless debates on the parameters. Let us begin negotiations and adopt a precise timetable.” — President Nicolas Sarkozy of France

  • France Breaks With Obama on Palestinian Statehood Issue: President Nicolas Sarkozy of France broke sharply on Wednesday with the effort by the Obama administration and some Europeans to quash the effort by the Palestinians for recognition here, instead calling for enhancing their status in the General Assembly to that of an observer state.
    The French leader, speaking from the famous green marble podium of the General Assembly barely an hour after President Obama, also said it was time to change the formula in trying to negotiate an Arab-Israeli peace, taking an indirect swipe at the United States by saying the efforts so far were a complete failure…. – NYT, 9-21-11
  • Obama stands firm against Palestinian statehood plan: U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday rejected Palestinian plans to seek UN blessing for statehood and urged a return to peace talks with Israel as he tried to head off a looming diplomatic disaster.
    Addressing the UN General Assembly, Obama — whose earlier peace efforts accomplished little — insisted Middle East peace “will not come through statements and resolutions” at the world body and put the onus on the two sides to break a yearlong impasse.
    “There is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work,” Obama told an annual gathering of world leaders.
    Grappling with economic woes and low poll numbers at home and growing doubts about his leadership abroad, Obama is wading into Middle East diplomacy at a critical juncture for his presidency and America’s credibility around the globe…. – National Post, 9-21-11
  • Palestinians rally in West Bank while others clash with Israeli soldiers nearby: Palestinians take part in a rally in the West Bank city of Hebron September 21. Flag-waving Palestinians filled the squares of major West Bank cities on Wednesday to rally behind President Mahmoud Abbas’s bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations…. – MSNBC, 9-21-11
  • Baby girl injured during violent clashes in W. Bank: Demonstrators burn tires, throw stones at security forces; IDF uses new non-lethal sonic crowd dispersal weapon; injured man treated on scene. Clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank…. – Jerusalem Post, 9-21-11

Full Text September 21, 2011: Statements by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as They Began their Meeting at the UN General Assembly (Transcript)

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES:

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel before Bilateral Meeting

United Nations
New York, New York

11:01 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I want to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu both to the United States and to New York.  As I just said in the speech that I gave before the U.N. General Assembly, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable.  And the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security is unbreakable.  I think it’s fair to say that, today, our security cooperation is stronger than it has ever been.

I’m looking forward to a good discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the events not only here in the United Nations, but also developments that have been taking place in the region.

As I just indicated, peace cannot be imposed on the parties. It’s going to have to be negotiated.  One side’s actions in the United Nations will achieve neither statehood nor self-determination for the Palestinians.  But Israelis and Palestinians sitting down together and working through these very difficult issues that have kept the parties apart for decades now, that is what can achieve what is, I know, the ultimate goal of all of us, which is two states, side by side, living in peace and security.

Recent events in the region remind us of how fragile peace can be, and why the pursuit of Middle East peace is more urgent than ever.  But as we pursue that peace, I know that the Prime Minister recognizes that America’s commitment to Israel will never waver, and that our pursuit of a just and lasting peace is one that is not only compatible, but we think puts Israel’s security at the forefront.

So it is a great pleasure to have the Prime Minister here.  I want to thank him for his efforts and his cooperation, and I’m looking forward to an excellent discussion.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Well, I want to thank you, Mr. President, for standing with Israel and supporting peace through direct negotiations.  We both agree that this is the only way to achieve peace.  We both agree that Palestinians and Israelis should sit down and negotiate an agreement of mutual recognition and security.  I think this is the only way to get to a stable and durable peace.

But you’ve also made it clear that the Palestinians deserve a state, but it’s a state that has to make that peace with Israel.  And, therefore, their attempt to shortcut this process, not negotiate a peace — that attempt to get membership — state membership in the United Nations will not succeed.

I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state through the international community, but they’re not prepared yet to give peace to Israel in return.  And my hope is that there will be other leaders in the world, responsible leaders, who will heed your call, Mr. President, and oppose this effort to shortcut peace negotiations — in fact, to avoid them.  Because I think that avoiding these negotiations is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians, and bad for peace.

Now, I know that these leaders are under enormous pressure, and I know that they’re also –- and this — from personal experience, I can tell you the automatic majority is against Israel.  But I think that standing your ground, taking this position of principle — which is also I think the right position to achieve peace — I think this is a — this is a badge of honor.  And I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor, and also, I would express my hope that others will follow your example, Mr. President.  So I want to thank you for that.

END
11:06 A.M. EDT

Full Text September 21, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the (UN) United Nations General Assembly About Israel & Opposing Palestinian Statehood (Transcript)

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

IN FOCUS: UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN BID FOR STATEHOOD

  • Obama, at U.N., Explains Rationale for Opposing Palestinian Statehood Bid: President Obama declared his opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood through the Security Council on Wednesday, throwing the weight of the United States directly in the path of the Arab democracy movement even as he hailed what he called the democratic aspirations that have taken hold throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
    “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N.,” Mr. Obama said, in an address before world leaders at the General Assembly. “If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.”
    Instead, Mr. Obama said, the international community should continue to push Israelis and Palestinians toward talks on the four intractable “final status” issues that have vexed peace negotiations since 1979: the borders of a Palestinian state, security for Israel, the status of Palestinian refugees who left or were forced to leave their homes in Israel, and the fate of Jerusalem, which both sides claim for their capital…. – NYT, 9-21-11

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly

United Nations
New York, New York

10:12 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: It is a great honor for me to be here today. I would like to talk to you about a subject that is at the heart of the United Nations — the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world.

War and conflict have been with us since the beginning of civilizations. But in the first part of the 20th century, the advance of modern weaponry led to death on a staggering scale. It was this killing that compelled the founders of this body to build an institution that was focused not just on ending one war, but on averting others; a union of sovereign states that would seek to prevent conflict, while also addressing its causes.

No American did more to pursue this objective than President Franklin Roosevelt. He knew that a victory in war was not enough. As he said at one of the very first meetings on the founding of the United Nations, “We have got to make, not merely peace, but a peace that will last.”

The men and women who built this institution understood that peace is more than just the absence of war. A lasting peace — for nations and for individuals — depends on a sense of justice and opportunity, of dignity and freedom. It depends on struggle and sacrifice, on compromise, and on a sense of common humanity.

One delegate to the San Francisco Conference that led to the creation of the United Nations put it well: “Many people,” she said, “have talked as if all that has to be done to get peace was to say loudly and frequently that we loved peace and we hated war. Now we have learned that no matter how much we love peace and hate war, we cannot avoid having war brought upon us if there are convulsions in other parts of the world.”

The fact is peace is hard. But our people demand it. Over nearly seven decades, even as the United Nations helped avert a third world war, we still live in a world scarred by conflict and plagued by poverty. Even as we proclaim our love for peace and our hatred of war, there are still convulsions in our world that endanger us all.

I took office at a time of two wars for the United States. Moreover, the violent extremists who drew us into war in the first place — Osama bin Laden, and his al Qaeda organization — remained at large. Today, we’ve set a new direction.

At the end of this year, America’s military operation in Iraq will be over. We will have a normal relationship with a sovereign nation that is a member of the community of nations. That equal partnership will be strengthened by our support for Iraq — for its government and for its security forces, for its people and for their aspirations.

As we end the war in Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners have begun a transition in Afghanistan. Between now and 2014, an increasingly capable Afghan government and security forces will step forward to take responsibility for the future of their country. As they do, we are drawing down our own forces, while building an enduring partnership with the Afghan people.

So let there be no doubt: The tide of war is receding. When I took office, roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline. This is critical for the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s also critical to the strength of the United States as we build our nation at home.

Moreover, we are poised to end these wars from a position of strength. Ten years ago, there was an open wound and twisted steel, a broken heart in the center of this city. Today, as a new tower is rising at Ground Zero, it symbolizes New York’s renewal, even as al Qaeda is under more pressure than ever before. Its leadership has been degraded. And Osama bin Laden, a man who murdered thousands of people from dozens of countries, will never endanger the peace of the world again.

So, yes, this has been a difficult decade. But today, we stand at a crossroads of history with the chance to move decisively in the direction of peace. To do so, we must return to the wisdom of those who created this institution. The United Nations’ Founding Charter calls upon us, “to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.” And Article 1 of this General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights.” Those bedrock beliefs — in the responsibility of states, and the rights of men and women — must be our guide.

And in that effort, we have reason to hope. This year has been a time of extraordinary transformation. More nations have stepped forward to maintain international peace and security. And more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.

Think about it: One year ago, when we met here in New York, the prospect of a successful referendum in South Sudan was in doubt. But the international community overcame old divisions to support the agreement that had been negotiated to give South Sudan self-determination. And last summer, as a new flag went up in Juba, former soldiers laid down their arms, men and women wept with joy, and children finally knew the promise of looking to a future that they will shape.

One year ago, the people of Côte D’Ivoire approached a landmark election. And when the incumbent lost, and refused to respect the results, the world refused to look the other way. U.N. peacekeepers were harassed, but they did not leave their posts. The Security Council, led by the United States and Nigeria and France, came together to support the will of the people. And Côte D’Ivoire is now governed by the man who was elected to lead.

One year ago, the hopes of the people of Tunisia were suppressed. But they chose the dignity of peaceful protest over the rule of an iron fist. A vendor lit a spark that took his own life, but he ignited a movement. In a face of a crackdown, students spelled out the word, “freedom.” The balance of fear shifted from the ruler to those that he ruled. And now the people of Tunisia are preparing for elections that will move them one step closer to the democracy that they deserve.

One year ago, Egypt had known one President for nearly 30 years. But for 18 days, the eyes of the world were glued to Tahrir Square, where Egyptians from all walks of life — men and women, young and old, Muslim and Christian — demanded their universal rights. We saw in those protesters the moral force of non-violence that has lit the world from Delhi to Warsaw, from Selma to South Africa — and we knew that change had come to Egypt and to the Arab world.

One year ago, the people of Libya were ruled by the world’s longest-serving dictator. But faced with bullets and bombs and a dictator who threatened to hunt them down like rats, they showed relentless bravery. We will never forget the words of the Libyan who stood up in those early days of the revolution and said, “Our words are free now.” It’s a feeling you can’t explain. Day after day, in the face of bullets and bombs, the Libyan people refused to give back that freedom. And when they were threatened by the kind of mass atrocity that often went unchallenged in the last century, the United Nations lived up to its charter. The Security Council authorized all necessary measures to prevent a massacre. The Arab League called for this effort; Arab nations joined a NATO-led coalition that halted Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks.

In the months that followed, the will of the coalition proved unbreakable, and the will of the Libyan people could not be denied. Forty-two years of tyranny was ended in six months. From Tripoli to Misurata to Benghazi — today, Libya is free. Yesterday, the leaders of a new Libya took their rightful place beside us, and this week, the United States is reopening our embassy in Tripoli.

This is how the international community is supposed to work — nations standing together for the sake of peace and security, and individuals claiming their rights. Now, all of us have a responsibility to support the new Libya — the new Libyan government as they confront the challenge of turning this moment of promise into a just and lasting peace for all Libyans.

So this has been a remarkable year. The Qaddafi regime is over. Gbagbo, Ben Ali, Mubarak are no longer in power. Osama bin Laden is gone, and the idea that change could only come through violence has been buried with him. Something is happening in our world. The way things have been is not the way that they will be. The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open. Dictators are on notice. Technology is putting power into the hands of the people. The youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship, and rejecting the lie that some races, some peoples, some religions, some ethnicities do not desire democracy. The promise written down on paper — “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” — is closer at hand.

But let us remember: Peace is hard. Peace is hard. Progress can be reversed. Prosperity comes slowly. Societies can split apart. The measure of our success must be whether people can live in sustained freedom, dignity, and security. And the United Nations and its member states must do their part to support those basic aspirations. And we have more work to do.

In Iran, we’ve seen a government that refuses to recognize the rights of its own people. As we meet here today, men and women and children are being tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime. Thousands have been killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan. Thousands more have poured across Syria’s borders. The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice — protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets, dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for. And the question for us is clear: Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?

Already, the United States has imposed strong sanctions on Syria’s leaders. We supported a transfer of power that is responsive to the Syrian people. And many of our allies have joined in this effort. But for the sake of Syria — and the peace and security of the world — we must speak with one voice. There’s no excuse for inaction. Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime, and to stand with the Syrian people.

Throughout the region, we will have to respond to the calls for change. In Yemen, men, women and children gather by the thousands in towns and city squares every day with the hope that their determination and spilled blood will prevail over a corrupt system. America supports those aspirations. We must work with Yemen’s neighbors and our partners around the world to seek a path that allows for a peaceful transition of power from President Saleh, and a movement to free and fair elections as soon as possible.

In Bahrain, steps have been taken toward reform and accountability. We’re pleased with that, but more is required. America is a close friend of Bahrain, and we will continue to call on the government and the main opposition bloc — the Wifaq — to pursue a meaningful dialogue that brings peaceful change that is responsive to the people. We believe the patriotism that binds Bahrainis together must be more powerful than the sectarian forces that would tear them apart. It will be hard, but it is possible.

We believe that each nation must chart its own course to fulfill the aspirations of its people, and America does not expect to agree with every party or person who expresses themselves politically. But we will always stand up for the universal rights that were embraced by this Assembly. Those rights depend on elections that are free and fair; on governance that is transparent and accountable; respect for the rights of women and minorities; justice that is equal and fair. That is what our people deserve. Those are the elements of peace that can last.

Moreover, the United States will continue to support those nations that transition to democracy — with greater trade and investment — so that freedom is followed by opportunity. We will pursue a deeper engagement with governments, but also with civil society — students and entrepreneurs, political parties and the press. We have banned those who abuse human rights from traveling to our country. And we’ve sanctioned those who trample on human rights abroad. And we will always serve as a voice for those who’ve been silenced.

Now, I know, particularly this week, that for many in this hall, there’s one issue that stands as a test for these principles and a test for American foreign policy, and that is the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

One year ago, I stood at this podium and I called for an independent Palestine. I believed then, and I believe now, that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that a genuine peace can only be realized between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May of this year. That basis is clear. It’s well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.

Now, I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. I assure you, so am I. But the question isn’t the goal that we seek — the question is how do we reach that goal. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians — not us –- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.

Ultimately, peace depends upon compromise among people who must live together long after our speeches are over, long after our votes have been tallied. That’s the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences. That’s the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state. And that is and will be the path to a Palestinian state — negotiations between the parties.

We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There’s no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. It is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and so much effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state.

But understand this as well: America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.

Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied.

The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

That is the truth — each side has legitimate aspirations — and that’s part of what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in the other’s shoes; each side can see the world through the other’s eyes. That’s what we should be encouraging. That’s what we should be promoting.

This body — founded, as it was, out of the ashes of war and genocide, dedicated, as it is, to the dignity of every single person — must recognize the reality that is lived by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The measure of our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and Palestinian children to live lives of peace and security and dignity and opportunity. And we will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and each other’s fears. That is the project to which America is committed. There are no shortcuts. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.

Now, even as we confront these challenges of conflict and revolution, we must also recognize — we must also remind ourselves — that peace is not just the absence of war. True peace depends on creating the opportunity that makes life worth living. And to do that, we must confront the common enemies of humanity: nuclear weapons and poverty, ignorance and disease. These forces corrode the possibility of lasting peace and together we’re called upon to confront them.

To lift the specter of mass destruction, we must come together to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Over the last two years, we’ve begun to walk down that path. Since our Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, nearly 50 nations have taken steps to secure nuclear materials from terrorists and smugglers. Next March, a summit in Seoul will advance our efforts to lock down all of them. The New START Treaty between the United States and Russia will cut our deployed arsenals to the lowest level in half a century, and our nations are pursuing talks on how to achieve even deeper reductions. America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons and the production of fissile material needed to make them.

And so we have begun to move in the right direction. And the United States is committed to meeting our obligations. But even as we meet our obligations, we’ve strengthened the treaties and institutions that help stop the spread of these weapons. And to do so, we must continue to hold accountable those nations that flout them.

The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful. It has not met its obligations and it rejects offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power. North Korea has yet to take concrete steps towards abandoning its weapons and continues belligerent action against the South. There’s a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their international obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation. That is what our commitment to peace and security demands.

To bring prosperity to our people, we must promote the growth that creates opportunity. In this effort, let us not forget that we’ve made enormous progress over the last several decades. Closed societies gave way to open markets. Innovation and entrepreneurship has transformed the way we live and the things that we do. Emerging economies from Asia to the Americas have lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty. It’s an extraordinary achievement. And yet, three years ago, we were confronted with the worst financial crisis in eight decades. And that crisis proved a fact that has become clearer with each passing year — our fates are interconnected. In a global economy, nations will rise, or fall, together.

And today, we confront the challenges that have followed on the heels of that crisis. Around the world recovery is still fragile. Markets remain volatile. Too many people are out of work. Too many others are struggling just to get by. We acted together to avert a depression in 2009. We must take urgent and coordinated action once more. Here in the United States, I’ve announced a plan to put Americans back to work and jumpstart our economy, at the same time as I’m committed to substantially reducing our deficits over time.

We stand with our European allies as they reshape their institutions and address their own fiscal challenges. For other countries, leaders face a different challenge as they shift their economy towards more self-reliance, boosting domestic demand while slowing inflation. So we will work with emerging economies that have rebounded strongly, so that rising standards of living create new markets that promote global growth. That’s what our commitment to prosperity demands.

To combat the poverty that punishes our children, we must act on the belief that freedom from want is a basic human right. The United States has made it a focus of our engagement abroad to help people to feed themselves. And today, as drought and conflict have brought famine to the Horn of Africa, our conscience calls on us to act. Together, we must continue to provide assistance, and support organizations that can reach those in need. And together, we must insist on unrestricted humanitarian access so that we can save the lives of thousands of men and women and children. Our common humanity is at stake. Let us show that the life of a child in Somalia is as precious as any other. That is what our commitment to our fellow human beings demand.

To stop disease that spreads across borders, we must strengthen our system of public health. We will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. We will focus on the health of mothers and of children. And we must come together to prevent, and detect, and fight every kind of biological danger — whether it’s a pandemic like H1N1, or a terrorist threat, or a treatable disease.

This week, America signed an agreement with the World Health Organization to affirm our commitment to meet this challenge. And today, I urge all nations to join us in meeting the HWO’s [sic] goal of making sure all nations have core capacities to address public health emergencies in place by 2012. That is what our commitment to the health of our people demands.

To preserve our planet, we must not put off action that climate change demands. We have to tap the power of science to save those resources that are scarce. And together, we must continue our work to build on the progress made in Copenhagen and Cancun, so that all the major economies here today follow through on the commitments that were made. Together, we must work to transform the energy that powers our economies, and support others as they move down that path. That is what our commitment to the next generation demands.

And to make sure our societies reach their potential, we must allow our citizens to reach theirs. No country can afford the corruption that plagues the world like a cancer. Together, we must harness the power of open societies and open economies. That’s why we’ve partnered with countries from across the globe to launch a new partnership on open government that helps ensure accountability and helps to empower citizens. No country should deny people their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.

And no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs. This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down the economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. This is what our commitment to human progress demands.

I know there’s no straight line to that progress, no single path to success. We come from different cultures, and carry with us different histories. But let us never forget that even as we gather here as heads of different governments, we represent citizens who share the same basic aspirations — to live with dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our families, and love and worship our God; to live in the kind of peace that makes life worth living.

It is the nature of our imperfect world that we are forced to learn these lessons over and over again. Conflict and repression will endure so long as some people refuse to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Yet that is precisely why we have built institutions like this — to bind our fates together, to help us recognize ourselves in each other — because those who came before us believed that peace is preferable to war, and freedom is preferable to suppression, and prosperity is preferable to poverty. That’s the message that comes not from capitals, but from citizens, from our people.

And when the cornerstone of this very building was put in place, President Truman came here to New York and said, “The United Nations is essentially an expression of the moral nature of man’s aspirations.” The moral nature of man’s aspirations. As we live in a world that is changing at a breathtaking pace, that’s a lesson that we must never forget.

Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible. So, together, let us be resolved to see that it is defined by our hopes and not by our fears. Together, let us make peace, but a peace, most importantly, that will last.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END
10:47 A.M. EDT

Full Text September 20, 2011: President Barack Obama Speech at High-Level Meeting on Libya at the (UN) United Nations General Assembly — “We will Stand with You”

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama and the Open Government Partnership

White House Photo, Pete Souza, 9/20/11

President Obama at the U.N. on Libya: “We will Stand with You”

Source: WH, 9-20-11

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (118MB) | mp3 (12MB)

Today, at the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama addressed a meeting of international partners to show support for the new Libya and plan for a post-Qaddafi future:

The Libyan people are writing a new chapter in the life of their nation.  After four decades of darkness, they can walk the streets, free from a tyrant.  They are making their voices heard — in new newspapers, and on radio and television, in public squares and on personal blogs.  They’re launching political parties and civil groups to shape their own destiny and secure their universal rights.  And here at the United Nations, the new flag of a free Libya now flies among the community of nations.

Make no mistake — credit for the liberation of Libya belongs to the people of Libya.  It was Libyan men and women — and children — who took to the streets in peaceful protest, who faced down the tanks and endured the snipers’ bullets.  It was Libyan fighters, often outgunned and outnumbered, who fought pitched battles, town-by-town, block-by-block.  It was Libyan activists — in the underground, in chat rooms, in mosques — who kept a revolution alive, even after some of the world had given up hope.

It was Libyan women and girls who hung flags and smuggled weapons to the front.  It was Libyans from countries around the world, including my own, who rushed home to help, even though they, too, risked brutality and death.  It was Libyan blood that was spilled and Libya’s sons and daughters who gave their lives.  And on that August day — after all that sacrifice, after 42 long years — it was Libyans who pushed their dictator from power.

At the same time, Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one.  I said at the beginning of this process, we cannot and should not intervene every time there is an injustice in the world.  Yet it’s also true that there are times where the world could have and should have summoned the will to prevent the killing of innocents on a horrific scale.  And we are forever haunted by the atrocities that we did not prevent, and the lives that we did not save.  But this time was different.  This time, we, through the United Nations, found the courage and the collective will to act.

During his remarks, the President also spoke directly to the Libyan people:

Your task may be new, the journey ahead may be fraught with difficulty, but everything you need to build your future already beats in the heart of your nation.  It’s the same courage you summoned on that first February day; the same resilience that brought you back out the next day and the next, even as you lost family and friends; and the same unshakeable determination with which you liberated Benghazi, broke the siege of Misurata, and have fought through the coastal plain and the western mountains.

It’s the same unwavering conviction that said, there’s no turning back; our sons and daughters deserve to be free.

In the days after Tripoli fell, people rejoiced in the streets and pondered the role ahead, and one of those Libyans said, “We have this chance now to do something good for our country, a chance we have dreamed of for so long.”  So, to the Libyan people, this is your chance.  And today the world is saying, with one unmistakable voice, we will stand with you as you seize this moment of promise, as you reach for the freedom, the dignity, and the opportunity that you deserve.

UNGA: POTUS listens in

President Barack Obama listens to remarks during a high level meeting on Libya at the United Nations North Lawn Building in New York, N.Y., Sept. 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by President Obama at High-Level Meeting on Libya

United Nations
New York, New York

11:12 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning. Mr. Secretary General, on behalf of us all, thank you for convening this meeting to address a task that must be the work of all of us — supporting the people of Libya as they build a future that is free and democratic and prosperous. And I want to thank President Jalil for his remarks and for all that he and Prime Minister Jibril have done to help Libya reach this moment.

To all the heads of state, to all the countries represented here who have done so much over the past several months to ensure this day could come, I want to say thank you, as well.

Today, the Libyan people are writing a new chapter in the life of their nation. After four decades of darkness, they can walk the streets, free from a tyrant. They are making their voices heard — in new newspapers, and on radio and television, in public squares and on personal blogs. They’re launching political parties and civil groups to shape their own destiny and secure their universal rights. And here at the United Nations, the new flag of a free Libya now flies among the community of nations.

Make no mistake — credit for the liberation of Libya belongs to the people of Libya. It was Libyan men and women — and children — who took to the streets in peaceful protest, who faced down the tanks and endured the snipers’ bullets. It was Libyan fighters, often outgunned and outnumbered, who fought pitched battles, town-by-town, block-by-block. It was Libyan activists — in the underground, in chat rooms, in mosques — who kept a revolution alive, even after some of the world had given up hope.

It was Libyan women and girls who hung flags and smuggled weapons to the front. It was Libyans from countries around the world, including my own, who rushed home to help, even though they, too, risked brutality and death. It was Libyan blood that was spilled and Libya’s sons and daughters who gave their lives. And on that August day — after all that sacrifice, after 42 long years — it was Libyans who pushed their dictator from power.

At the same time, Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one. I said at the beginning of this process, we cannot and should not intervene every time there is an injustice in the world. Yet it’s also true that there are times where the world could have and should have summoned the will to prevent the killing of innocents on a horrific scale. And we are forever haunted by the atrocities that we did not prevent, and the lives that we did not save. But this time was different. This time, we, through the United Nations, found the courage and the collective will to act.

When the old regime unleashed a campaign of terror, threatening to roll back the democratic tide sweeping the region, we acted as united nations, and we acted swiftly — broadening sanctions, imposing an arms embargo. The United States led the effort to pass a historic resolution at the Security Council authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people. And when the civilians of Benghazi were threatened with a massacre, we exercised that authority. Our international coalition stopped the regime in its tracks, and saved countless lives, and gave the Libyan people the time and the space to prevail.

Important, too, is how this effort succeeded — thanks to the leadership and contributions of many countries. The United States was proud to play a decisive role, especially in the early days, and then in a supporting capacity. But let’s remember that it was the Arab League that appealed for action. It was the world’s most effective alliance, NATO, that’s led a military coalition of nearly 20 nations. It’s our European allies — especially the United Kingdom and France and Denmark and Norway — that conducted the vast majority of air strikes protecting rebels on the ground. It was Arab states who joined the coalition, as equal partners. And it’s been the United Nations and neighboring countries — including Tunisia and Egypt — that have cared for the Libyans in the urgent humanitarian effort that continues today.

This is how the international community should work in the 21st century — more nations bearing the responsibility and the costs of meeting global challenges. In fact, this is the very purpose of this United Nations. So every nation represented here today can take pride in the innocent lives we saved and in helping Libyans reclaim their country. It was the right thing to do.

Now, even as we speak, remnants of the old regime continue to fight. Difficult days are still ahead. But one thing is clear — the future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people. For just as it was Libyans who tore down the old order, it will be Libyans who build their new nation. And we’ve come here today to say to the people of Libya — just as the world stood by you in your struggle to be free, we will now stand with you in your struggle to realize the peace and prosperity that freedom can bring.

In this effort, you will have a friend and partner in the United States of America. Today, I can announce that our ambassador is on his way back to Tripoli. And this week, the American flag that was lowered before our embassy was attacked will be raised again, over a re-opened American embassy. We will work closely with the new U.N. Support Mission in Libya and with the nations here today to assist the Libyan people in the hard work ahead.

First, and most immediately: security. So long as the Libyan people are being threatened, the NATO-led mission to protect them will continue. And those still holding out must understand — the old regime is over, and it is time to lay down your arms and join the new Libya. As this happens, the world must also support efforts to secure dangerous weapons — conventional and otherwise — and bring fighters under central, civilian control. For without security, democracy and trade and investment cannot flourish.

Second: the humanitarian effort. The Transitional National Council has been working quickly to restore water and electricity and food supplies to Tripoli. But for many Libyans, each day is still a struggle — to recover from their wounds, reunite with their families, and return to their homes. And even after the guns of war fall silent, the ravages of war will continue. So our efforts to assist its victims must continue. In this, the United States — the United Nations will play a key role. And along with our partners, the United States will do our part to help the hungry and the wounded.

Third: a democratic transition that is peaceful, inclusive and just. President Jalil has just reaffirmed the Transitional National Council’s commitment to these principles, and the United Nations will play a central role in coordinating international support for this effort. We all know what is needed — a transition that is timely, new laws and a constitution that uphold the rule of law, political parties and a strong civil society, and, for the first time in Libyan history, free and fair elections.

True democracy, however, must flow from its citizens. So as Libyans rightly seek justice for past crimes, let it be done in a spirit of reconciliation, and not reprisals and violence. As Libyans draw strength from their faith — a religion rooted in peace and tolerance — let there be a rejection of violent extremism, which offers nothing but death and destruction. As Libyans rebuild, let those efforts tap the experience of all those with the skills to contribute, including the many Africans in Libya. And as Libyans forge a society that is truly just, let it enshrine the rights and role of women at all levels of society. For we know that the nations that uphold the human rights of all people, especially their women, are ultimately more successful and more prosperous.

Which brings me to the final area where the world must stand with Libya, and that is restoring prosperity. For too long, Libya’s vast riches were stolen and squandered. Now that wealth must serve its rightful owners — the Libyan people. As sanctions are lifted, as the United States and the international community unfreeze more Libyan assets, and as the country’s oil production is restored, the Libyan people deserve a government that is transparent and accountable. And bound by the Libyan students and entrepreneurs who have forged friendships in the United States, we intend to build new partnerships to help unleash Libya’s extraordinary potential.

Now, none of this will be easy. After decades of iron rule by one man, it will take time to build the institutions needed for a democratic Libya. I’m sure there will be days of frustration; there will be days when progress is slow; there will be days when some begin to wish for the old order and its illusion of stability. And some in the world may ask, can Libya succeed? But if we have learned anything these many months, it is this: Don’t underestimate the aspirations and the will of the Libyan people.

So I want to conclude by speaking directly to the people of Libya. Your task may be new, the journey ahead may be fraught with difficulty, but everything you need to build your future already beats in the heart of your nation. It’s the same courage you summoned on that first February day; the same resilience that brought you back out the next day and the next, even as you lost family and friends; and the same unshakeable determination with which you liberated Benghazi, broke the siege of Misurata, and have fought through the coastal plain and the western mountains.
It’s the same unwavering conviction that said, there’s no turning back; our sons and daughters deserve to be free.

In the days after Tripoli fell, people rejoiced in the streets and pondered the role ahead, and one of those Libyans said, “We have this chance now to do something good for our country, a chance we have dreamed of for so long.” So, to the Libyan people, this is your chance. And today the world is saying, with one unmistakable voice, we will stand with you as you seize this moment of promise, as you reach for the freedom, the dignity, and the opportunity that you deserve.

So, congratulations. And thank you very much. (Applause.)

END
11:24 A.M. EDT

Full Text September 20, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on the Open Government Partnership

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Open Government Partnership

Today the U.S. and seven of our global partners released the action plans detailing how we are working to make our governments more transparent, effective and accountable

President Obama Calls for Open Government at the U.N. General Assembly, Septembe

President Obama calls for Open Government at the U.N. General Assembly,, White House Photo, Samantha Appleton

The United States Releases its Open Government National Action Plan

Source: WH, 9-20-11

“In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.”

–President Barack Obama, September 23, 2010

On September 23, 2010, President Obama challenged the members of the United Nations General Assembly to work together to make all governments more open and accountable to their people.  To meet that challenge, in July 2011, the United States and Brazil announced the creation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) – a global initiative that supports efforts to promote more transparent, effective, and accountable institutions globally.  The OGP effort builds directly on steps President Obama has taken since the first full day of his Administration to strengthen democracy and promote a more efficient and effective government through greater openness.

And today, as part the OGP effort, the U.S. and other members of the OGP Steering Committee are coming together in New York to welcome new members to the partnership and to unveil Open Government National Action Plans. As we developed a U.S. National Action Plan (“National Plan”), the Federal Government engaged in extensive consultations with external stakeholders, including a broad range of civil society groups and members of the private sector. We solicited input from the Administration’s own Open Government Working Group, comprised of senior-level representatives from executive branch departments and agencies. White House policymakers also engaged the public via a series of blog posts, requesting ideas about how to focus Open Government efforts on increasing public integrity, more effectively managing public resources, and improving public services.

Among the highlights of the Plan:

  • “We the People.”  The White House announced the launch of the “We the People” petition platform to give Americans a direct line to voice their concerns to the Administration via online petitions.  In addition, the Administration plans to publish the source code of the new “We the People” petition platform so that it is available to any government around the world that seeks to solicit and respond to the concerns of the public.
  • Whistleblower Protection.  Recently, Congress nearly enacted whistleblower legislation that would eliminate loopholes in existing protections, provide protections for employees in the intelligence community, and create pilot programs to explore potential structural reforms in the remedial process.  The Administration will continue to work with Congress to enact this legislation.  But if Congress remains deadlocked, the Administration will explore options for utilizing executive branch authority to strengthen and expand whistleblower protections.
  • Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.  The U.S. is committing to implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).  EITI requires governments to publicly disclose their revenues from oil, gas, and mining assets, and for companies to make parallel disclosures regarding payments.  By signing onto the global standard that EITI sets, the U.S. Government can help ensure that American taxpayers are receiving every dollar due for the extraction of these valuable public resources.

Other initiatives include: expanding the use of technology to achieve greater efficiencies in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) administration; overhaul the public participation interface on regulations.gov to help the public find, follow, and participate in Federal rulemakings; and launching ExpertNet, a platform to communicate with citizens who have expertise on a pertinent topic. There are a lot of exciting initiatives in our Plan – too many to recount in this post – but you can view the full plan here .

At the President’s State of the Union Address in January 2011, he said that the American people deserve a government that is “open and competent.”  Building on the efforts inaugurated by the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, and the President’s continued leadership, we look forward to the work ahead.

You can watch the Heads of State launch of the National Action plans today at 2:15 pm on www.whitehouse.gov/live

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Opening Remarks by President Obama on Open Government Partnership

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

2:35 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon, everyone. And welcome to this inaugural event of a partnership that’s already transforming how governments serve their citizens in the 21st century.

One year ago, at the U.N. General Assembly, I stated a simple truth — that the strongest foundation for human progress lies in open economies, open societies, and in open governments. And I challenged our countries to come back this year with specific commitments to promote transparency, to fight corruption, to energize civic engagement, and to leverage new technologies so we can strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries.

Today, we’re joined by nations and organizations from around the world that are answering this challenge. In this Open Government Partnership, I’m pleased to be joined by leaders from the seven other founding nations of this initiative. I especially want to commend my friend, President Rousseff of Brazil, for her leadership in open government and for joining the United States as the first co-chairs of this effort.

We’re joined by nearly 40 other nations who’ve also embraced this challenge, with the goal of joining this partnership next year. And we’re joined by civil society organizations from around the world — groups that not only help hold governments accountable, but who partnered with us and who offer new ideas and help us to make better decisions. Put simply, our countries are stronger when we engage citizens beyond the halls of government. So I welcome our civil society representatives — not as spectators, but as equal partners in this initiative.

This, I believe, is how progress will be achieved in the 21st century — meeting global challenges through global cooperation, across all levels of society. And this is exactly the kind of partnership that we need now, as emerging democracies from Latin America to Africa to Asia are all showing how innovations in open government can help make countries more prosperous and more just; as new generations across the Middle East and North Africa assert the old truth that government exists for the benefit of their people; and as young people everywhere, from teeming cities to remote villages, are logging on, and texting, and tweeting and demanding government that is just as fast, just as smart, just as accountable.

This is the moment that we must meet. These are the expectations that we must fulfill. And now we see governments around the world meeting this challenge, including many represented here today. Countries from Mexico to Turkey to Liberia have passed laws guaranteeing citizens the right to information. From Chile to Kenya to the Philippines, civil society groups are giving citizens new tools to report corruption. From Tanzania to Indonesia — and as I saw firsthand during my visit to India — rural villages are organizing and making their voices heard, and getting the public services that they need. Governments from Brazil to South Africa are putting more information online, helping people hold public officials accountable for how they spend taxpayer dollars.

Here in the United States, we’ve worked to make government more open and responsive than ever before. We’ve been promoting greater disclosure of government information, empowering citizens with new ways to participate in their democracy. We are releasing more data in usable forms on health and safety and the environment, because information is power, and helping people make informed decisions and entrepreneurs turn data into new products, they create new jobs. We’re also soliciting the best ideas from our people in how to make government work better. And around the world, we’re standing up for freedom to access information, including a free and open Internet.

Today, the eight founding nations of our partnership are going even further — agreeing to an Open Government Declaration rooted in several core principles. We pledge to be more transparent at every level — because more information on government activity should be open, timely, and freely available to the people. We pledge to engage more of our citizens in decision-making — because it makes government more effective and responsive. We pledge to implement the highest standards of integrity — because those in power must serve the people, not themselves. And we pledge to increase access to technology — because in this digital century, access to information is a right that is universal.

Next, to put these principles into practice, every country that seeks to join this partnership will work with civil society groups to develop an action plan of specific commitments. Today, the United States is releasing our plan, which we are posting on the White House website and at OpenGovPartnership.org.

Among our commitments, we’re launching a new online tool — called “We the People” — to allow Americans to directly petition the White House, and we’ll share that technology so any government in the world can enable its citizens to do the same. We’ve develop new tools — called “smart disclosures” — so that the data we make public can help people make health care choices, help small businesses innovate, and help scientists achieve new breakthroughs.

We’ll work to reform and expand protections for whistleblowers who expose government waste, fraud and abuse. And we’re continuing our leadership of the global effort against corruption, by building on legislation that now requires oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose the payments that foreign governments demand of them.

Today, I can announce that the United States will join the global initiative in which these industries, governments and civil society, all work together for greater transparency so that taxpayers receive every dollar they’re due from the extraction of natural resources.

So these are just some of the steps that we’re taking. And today is just the beginning of a partnership that will only grow — as Secretary Clinton leads our effort on behalf of the United States, as these nearly 40 nations develop their own commitments, as we share and learn from each other and build the next generation of tools to empower our citizens and serve them better.

So that’s the purpose of open government. And I believe that’s the essence of democracy. That’s the commitment to which we’re committing ourselves here today. And I thank all of you for joining us as we meet this challenge together.

I want to thank you very much for your participation. And with that, I would like to turn over the chair to my co-chair, President Rousseff.

END
2:42 P.M. EDT

Closing Remarks by President Obama on Open Government Partnership

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

3:30 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, thank you, Rakesh, for that wonderful testimony. Thank you all, to the leaders who shared their action plans and the steps that they’re taking, and your willingness to participate in this initiative. We are extraordinarily grateful.

As I said earlier today, it’s just the beginning of this partnership. Those who are the founding members have to go back home and work to meet the commitments that we’ve made, and to be held accountable. The 38 nations joining us today will be working on their own action plans. And we look forward to our next meeting in Brazil next year, when our partnership welcomes more countries who share our commitment to open government.

I want to thank all the participants. I particularly want to thank the civil society organizations that are doing extraordinary work.

I very much appreciated the statement by the representative from the United Kingdom that this is not always comfortable, if done right, because governments are human institutions, which means that even with the best of intentions we are flawed and we make mistakes, and it’s a natural human impulse to try to cover up mistakes, and to resist the kind of openness that’s been discussed here today.

But as Rakesh I think said so well, the more open we are, the more willing we are to hear constructive criticism, the more effective we can be. And ultimately, governments are here to serve the people, not to serve those in power.

And so I’m very grateful for all of you for participating. Thank you for embracing this challenge to make sure our governments are as open and accountable and as effective as they can be, so that we can meet the aspirations of all our citizens.

Thank you very much.

END
3:33 P.M. EDT

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