Obama: Those Like Slain U.S. Ambassador Must Determine World's Future
Using the example set by the life of slain U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, President Obama this morning told delegates to the United Nations that the diplomat's killers will not determine the world's future. Instead, Obama said, it will be people such as Stevens who build "bridges across oceans and cultures" and set the world's agenda.
We updated as the president spoke. Scroll down to read through the highlights.
Earlier today, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke to the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City. See our post about that: "Romney Touts 'Prosperity Pacts' To Help Middle East, Developing Nations." Obama will address former President Clinton's forum later today.
Update at 10:52 a.m. ET. In Conclusion, He Returns To Stevens' Example:
"I promise you this," Obama says as he concludes. "Long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens' legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, 'Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.'
"They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it justice will be done; that history is on our side; and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed."
Update at 10:47 a.m. ET. U.S. Will "Do What We Must" To Keep Iran From Developing Nuclear Weapons:
"Make no mistake," Obama says, "a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
Update at 10:43 a.m. ET. All Hate Speech Must Be Condemned:
"The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam," Obama says. "Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied."
Update at 10:36 a.m. ET. On The "Crude And Disgusting Video":
The president moves to the issue of the Innocence of Muslims video that has incited outrage and violence in some Muslim nations.
"I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video," he says, "and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well — for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and every faity. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion — we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.
"I know there are some who ask why we don't just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. Moreover, as President of our country, and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so."
Nations will disagree about whether limits should be put on free speech, Obmaa adds, but "on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence."
Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. Why Ambassador Stevens And Those Like Him Must Determine The World's Future:
As he begins his address, the president speaks of Chris Stevens, the slain U.S. ambassador to Libya.
"Chris Stevens embodied the best of America," Obama says. "Like his fellow Foreign Service officers, he built bridges across oceans and cultures, and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents. He acted with humility, but stood up for a set of principles – a belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.
"The attacks on our civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America. We are grateful for the assistance we received from the Libyan government and the Libyan people. And there should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice. ...
"But understand, the attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded — the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; and that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.
"If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an Embassy; or to put out statements of regret, and wait for the outrage to pass. If we are serious about those ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis. Because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common.
"Today, we must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations."