Last weekend, President Obama addressed the U.N at the final United Nations General Assembly of his term. Invariably, these events become forums for discourse about democratic ideals as world leaders share their examples of what the world should be like. This assembly was no different. However, the context was.
The entire world was looking for a response from Obama in light of the anti-American violence in the middle east. Many pundits were wondering how Obama would speak about the violence that has consumed the Muslim world. In fact, he has received a great deal of criticism on his stance on foreign policy. Obama gave a firm, melancholy speech that denounced terrorism. He commenced his address in a appropriate way by honoring Chris Stevens; Stevens was an ambassador to Benghazi who was killed in a terrorist attack. His brief remembrance of Stevens put into context that violence should never be an option but interdependence and diplomacy should be employed . This speech was centered around the attack in Benhazi that happened in retaliation to a video that depicted the prophet Muhammad in a distasteful way.
Obama made sure to disassociate himself from the anti-Muslim film that has angered many Islamic fundamentalists. President Obama was right in denouncing the film. As a leader of the free world, I think it was important that he asserted the video was faulty and disrespectful. He referenced the Constitution by explaining that Americans have the right to the freedom of religion. But he did say that the film should not be banned, even though it has been considered to be crude, because we have a right to free speech. The President also said that speech should not be banned no matter what was shown or said. Furthermore, he claimed that the violence in Libya should not be excused and I don’t think it should be either. Obama’s speech indicated there are agitating conflicts between the east and the west.
This speech was unique in the sense that Obama talked diplomacy and peace, but he asserted that America will stand firm and seek out justice against extremism and violence. He promised to capture the killers of the American civilians abroad. I found it interesting that Obama had to walk the fine line of a benevolent diplomat and a firm commander and chief. The speech echoed western ideals such as gender equality and equal education opportunities abroad. Obama’s request for free speech abroad may have some unforeseen ramifications. Much of the world is trying to ban blasphemous language, which would constrain free speech. In his address, the President also critiqued Iran’s nuclear proliferation plans and the ideology of that administration. Plans to end the war in Afghanistan were mentioned as he highlighted the death Osama Bin Laden.
This venue was perfect for President Obama to reveal his international agenda if he were to be elected again in November. It also counters Mitt Romney’s foreign policy plans. I think that Obama’s blunt speaking gave the world a beacon of hope in spite of recent international conflict. The United Nations was founded on the ideals of peace and international cooperation, after a devastating World War. Obama rightfully reminded the other countries that we should all take a moral high ground and embrace peace. In a globalized world such as ours, we may have no choice but to do so. Hopefully this speech begins to curb the violence and religious hatred across the globe.