On Tuesday, President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly for the last time as President of the United States. In his speech, the president recapped his international legacy, calling the United States a “force for good” and discussing his role in spreading democracy, fighting extremism, protecting human rights, and working toward global security.
For the most part, Obama kept his statements vague, choosing to talk about broad concepts and trends rather than call countries and leaders out by name. Even when discussing the Syrian civil war, which has been hanging over the U.N. General Assembly meeting like a dark cloud, Obama chose his words carefully, stating that extremist and sectarian violence in the region “will not be quickly reversed.”
“If we are honest, we know that no external power is going to be able to force different religious communities or ethnic communities to co-exist for long,” Obama said. “Until basic questions are answered about how communities co-exist, the embers of extremism will continue to burn. Countless human beings will suffer.”
However, Obama couldn’t help but throw an elbow or two at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. “A nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself,” the president said. “So the answer cannot be a simple rejection of global integration. Instead we must work together to make sure the benefits of such integration are broadly shared.” He continued:
“In my own life in this country, and as president, I have learned that our identities do not have to be defined by putting someone else down, but can be enhanced by lifting somebody else up. They don’t have to be defined in opposition to others but rather by a belief in liberty and equality and justice and fairness. Embracing these principles as universal doesn’t weaken my particular pride, my particular love for America. It strengthens it.”
Obama also didn’t mince words when it came to critiquing Vladimir Putin’s Russian government. “In a world that left the age of empire behind, we see Russia attempting to recover lost glory through force,” Obama said.
Last year, Obama used his U.N. General Assembly address to declare that Syrian President Bashar Assad must step down, while Putin gave a speech cautioning the assembly against abandoning Assad. Last week, U.S. and Russian diplomats negotiated a ceasefire in the region in hopes that the two global powers might join forces against ISIS and Nusra front fighters. Unfortunately, the peace agreement was declared over only a week after it began, after a U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed 62 Syrian soldiers. U.S. officials say that the airstrike was a mistake. On Monday, the U.N. suspended all aid to Syria after the government carried out a deadly airstrike on aid trucks in Aleppo.
You can watch Obama’s full U.N. address below.
(Via The Washington Post)