On September 23, 2009, President Obama gave his first speech as president to the United Nations General Assembly. The President emphasized the importance of nations and peoples coming together to solve difficult problems and highlighted some of his administration’s early accomplishments, including prohibiting torture, joining the Human Rights Council, and setting timelines for a wind-down in Afghanistan and Iraq. The President encouraged the world community to join the United States in responding to global challenges, and laid out four pillars for such action. These include: 1) controlling nuclear proliferation; 2) pursuing peace; 3) preserving the planet; and 4) promoting a global economy that advances opportunity for all people. The President emphasized that democracy and human rights are essential to all of these pillars. He advocated for a world in which governments are accountable to their citizens and people are free to speak their minds, free to worship, and free from discrimination. Finally, the President promised that the United States “will never waver in our efforts to stand up for the right of people everywhere to determine their own destiny.” Read his full remarks here.
On December 10, 2009, International Human Rights Day, President Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. In his acceptance speech, President Obama acknowledged existing threats to global peace and the work that must be done to strengthen diplomacy and advance the human condition. The President directly addressed United States involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and maintained that engaging in war does not indicate a lack of dedication to peace. However, the President noted, the use of force is not an invitation to lawlessness. President Obama emphasized the importance of the laws that govern the use of force and insisted that those who violate these international standards be held accountable. Finally, the President argued that while sometimes necessary, war alone is never enough to bring peace. He urged the international community to strengthen diplomacy, nation building, and development, and to respect the fundamental dignity of every person. Read his full remarks here.