Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General,

  • fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen:

  • I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.

  • Chris was born in a town called Grass Valley, California,

  • the son of a lawyer and a musician.

  • As a young man, Chris joined the Peace Corps, and taught English in Morocco.

  • He came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East,

  • and he would carry that commitment throughout his life.

  • As a diplomat, he worked from Egypt to Syria; from Saudi Arabia to Libya.

  • He was known for walking the streets of the cities where he workedtasting the local food,

  • meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic and listening with a broad smile.

  • Chris went to Benghazi in the early days of the Libyan revolution, arriving on a cargo ship.

  • As America’s representative, he helped the Libyan people as they coped with violent conflict,

  • cared for the wounded, and crafted a vision for the future

  • in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected.

  • After the revolution, he supported the birth of a new democracy

  • as Libyans held elections, built new institutions, and began to move forward after decades of dictatorship.

  • Chris Stevens loved his work. He took pride in the country he served,

  • and he saw dignity in the people that he met. Two weeks ago,

  • he travelled to Benghazi to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital.

  • That’s when America’s compound came under attack.

  • Along with three of his colleagues, Chris was killed in the city he helped to save.

  • He was 52 years old.

  • I tell you this story because Chris Stevens embodied the best of America.

  • 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 he also 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 from the Libyan people.

  • And there should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice.

  • And I also appreciate that in recent days, the leaders of other countries in the region

  • including Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemenhave taken steps to secure our diplomatic facilities,

  • and called for calm. And so have religious authorities around the globe.

  • But understand that 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;

  • 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 these 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 that we hold in common.

  • Today, we must reaffirm 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.

  • It has been less than two years since a vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest the oppressive corruption in his country,

  • and sparked what became known as the Arab Spring. And since then,

  • the world has been captivated by the transformation that has taken place,

  • and the United States has supported the forces of change.

  • We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized

  • our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets.

  • We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy ultimately put us on the side of the people.

  • We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen,

  • because the interests of the people were no longer being served by a corrupt status quo.

  • We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council,

  • because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed

  • that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

  • And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end

  • so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.

  • We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture.

  • These are not simply American values or Western valuesthey are universal values.

  • And even as there will be huge challenges to come with a transition to democracy,

  • I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people and for the people

  • is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.

  • So let us remember that this is a season of progress.

  • For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans

  • voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive, and fair.

  • This democratic spirit has not been restricted to the Arab World.

  • Over the past year, we have seen peaceful transitions of power in Malawi and Senegal,

  • and a new President in Somalia. In Burma, a President has freed political prisoners

  • and opened a closed society; a courageous dissident has been elected to Parliament;

  • and people look forward to further reform. Around the globe,

  • people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity, and the right to determine their future.

  • And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot.

  • Nelson Mandela once said: “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,

  • but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” [Applause]

  • True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe,

  • and that businesses can be opened without paying a bribe.

  • It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear;

  • and on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.

  • In other words, true democracyreal freedomis hard work.

  • Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents.

  • In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies,

  • at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.

  • Moreover, there will always be those that reject human progressdictators who cling to power,

  • corrupt interests that depend on the status quo; and extremists who fan the flames of hate and division.

  • From Northern Ireland to South Asia; from Africa to the Americas;

  • from the Balkans to the Pacific Rim, weve witnessed convulsions

  • that can accompany transitions to a new political order. At times,

  • the conflicts arise along the fault lines of race or tribe;

  • and often they arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world.

  • In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening;

  • in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask themselves how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others.

  • That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video

  • sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that

  • the United States government had nothing to do with this video, 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 faith.

  • We are home to Muslims who worship across our country.

  • We not only respect the freedom of religionwe 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.

  • 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, [Laughs] and I will always defend their right to do so. [Applause]

  • Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people

  • to express their viewseven views that we profoundly disagree with.

  • We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because

  • our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views,

  • and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society,

  • efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics, and oppress minorities.

  • We do so because given the power of faith in our lives,

  • and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech

  • is not repression, it is more speechthe voices of tolerance

  • that rally against bigotry and blasphemy,

  • and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

  • I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech. We recognize that.

  • But in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world

  • with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete.

  • The question, then, is how do we respond.

  • And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence. [Applause]

  • There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents.

  • There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy.

  • There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon,

  • or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.

  • In this modern world, with modern technologies, for us to respond it that way to hateful speech

  • empowers any individual who engages in such speech to create chaos around the world.

  • We empower the worst of us, if that's how we respond.

  • More broadly, the events of the last two weeks also speak to the need for all of us

  • to honestly address the tensions between the West and the Arab World that is moving towards democracy.

  • And let me be clear: just as we cannot solve every problem in the world,

  • the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad.

  • We do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue.

  • Nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks, or the hateful speech by some individuals,

  • represent the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims

  • any more than the views of the people who produced this video represent those of Americans.

  • However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders, in all countries,

  • to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism. [Applause]

  • It is time to marginalize those whoeven when not directly resorting to violence

  • use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel as the central organizing principle of politics.

  • For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes an excuse, for those who do resort to violence.

  • That brand of politicsone that pits East against West and South against North;

  • Muslim against Christians, and Hindu and Jewscannot deliver on the promise of freedom.

  • To the youth, it offers only false hope.

  • Burning an American flag does nothing to provide a child with an education.

  • Smashing apart a restaurant does not fill an empty stomach.

  • Attacking an embassy won’t create a single job.

  • That brand of politics only makes it harder to achieve what we must do together:

  • educating our children and creating the opportunities that they deserve;

  • protecting human rights, and extending democracy’s promise.

  • Understand, America will never retreat from the world.

  • We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends,

  • and we will stand with our allies. We are willing to partner with countries around the world to deepen ties of trade and investment;

  • science and technology; energy and developmentall efforts

  • that can spark economic growth for all of our people, and stabilize democratic change.

  • But such efforts depend on a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect.

  • No government or company; no school or NGO will be confident working in a country

  • where its people are endangered. For partnership to be effective,

  • our citizens must be secure, and our efforts must be welcomed.

  • A politics based only on angerone based on dividing the world between us and them

  • not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it.

  • All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces.

  • Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism.

  • On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi,

  • a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding;

  • more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a;

  • and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents

  • just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.

  • The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West,

  • but over time it cannot be contained. The same impulses toward extremism

  • are used to justify war between Sunnis and Shia, between tribes and clans.

  • It leads not to strength and prosperity but to chaos.

  • In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests

  • bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence.

  • And extremists understand this.

  • Because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people,

  • violence is their only way to stay relevant. They do not build, they only destroy.

  • It is time to leave the call of violence and the politics of division behind.

  • On so many issues, we face a choice between the promise of the future, or the prisons of the past.

  • And we cannot afford to get it wrong. We must seize this moment.

  • And America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future.

  • The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt

  • it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chantedMuslims, Christians, we are one.”

  • The future must not belong to those who bully women

  • it must be shaped by girls who go to school,

  • and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. [Applause]

  • The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources

  • it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs;

  • the workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people.

  • Those are the women and men that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

  • The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.

  • But, to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that is desecrated,

  • or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied. [Applause]

  • Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims.

  • It is time to heed the words of Gandhi:

  • Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” [Applause]

  • Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences,

  • and not defined by them. That is what America embodies,

  • and that is the vision we will support.

  • Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on the prospect of peace.

  • Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict,

  • those who reject the right of Israel to exist.

  • The road is hard but the destination is clear – a secure, Jewish state of Israel;

  • and an independent, prosperous Palestine. [Applause]

  • Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties,

  • America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.

  • In Syria, the future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people.

  • If there is a cause that cries out for protest in the world today - peaceful protest -

  • it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings.

  • And we must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights

  • does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence.

  • Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision – a Syria that is united and inclusive;

  • where children don’t need to fear their own government, and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed

  • Sunnis and Alawites; Kurds and Christians. That is what America stands for;

  • that is the outcome that we will work forwith sanctions and consequences for those who persecute;

  • and assistance and support