Mr President, Mr Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman: 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 worked -
tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking
Arabic and listening with a broad smile.
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 a 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.
Stevens loved his work. He took pride in the country he served, and saw
dignity in the people he met. Two weeks ago, he travelled to Benghazi
to review plans to establish a new cultural centre and modernise 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 co-operation 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,
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. I also appreciate that in recent
days, the leaders of other countries in the region - including Egypt,
Tunisia, and Yemen - have taken steps to secure our diplomatic
facilities, and called for calm. So have religious authorities around
But 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
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.
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.
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. Since then, the world has been
captivated by the transformation that has taken place, and the United
States has supported the forces of change.
were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because
we recognised 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 put us on the side of the people.
supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of
the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.
intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate
of the UN 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.
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 values - they are universal values. And even as there will be
huge challenges that 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.
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.
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." True democracy
demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they
believe, and businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends
on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without
fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of
In other words, true democracy -
real freedom - is hard work. Those in power have to resist the
temptation to crack down on dissent. 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.
there will always be those that reject human progress - dictators who
cling to power, corrupt interests that depend upon 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, we've witnessed convulsions that can accompany
transitions to a new political order. At times, the conflicts arise
along the fault lines of faith, 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 how much they
are willing to tolerate freedom for others.
is what we saw play out 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 religion. 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
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. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the
right of all people to express their views - even views that we
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 become a tool to
silence critics, or 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 speech - the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry
and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual
I know that not all countries in this
body share this understanding of the protection of free speech. Yet 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
we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies
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.
broadly, the events of the last two weeks speak to the need for all of
us to address honestly the tensions between the West and an Arab World
moving to democracy. 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, and 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, represents the
views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims- any more than the views
of the people who produced this video represent those of Americans.
I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders, in all
countries, to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism. It is
time to marginalise those who - even when not resorting to violence -
use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel as a central principle of
politics. For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes excuses, for
those who resort to violence.
That brand of
politics - one that pits East against West; South against North; Muslim
against Christian, Hindu, and Jew - cannot deliver the promise of
freedom. To the youth, it offers only false hope. Burning an American
flag will do nothing to educate a child. Smashing apart a restaurant
will 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 they deserve; protecting human rights, and extending
Understand that America
will never retreat from the world. We will bring justice to those who
harm our citizens and our friends. We will stand with our allies and are
willing to partner with countries to deepen ties of trade and
investment; science and technology; energy and development - efforts
that can spark economic growth for all of our people, and stabilise
democratic change. But such efforts depend upon 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 anger -one 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.
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.
Extremists understand this. And 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.
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. 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.
future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt -
it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted "Muslims,
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. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a
country's resources - it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs;
workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all
people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is
the vision we will support.
The future must
not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. 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. 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." 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
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, and 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. 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.
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, 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
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 for - with sanctions and
consequences for those who persecute; and assistance and support for
those who work for this common good. Because we believe that the Syrians
who embrace this vision will have the strength and legitimacy to lead.
Iran, we see where the path of a violent and unaccountable ideology
leads. The Iranian people have a remarkable and ancient history, and
many Iranians wish to enjoy peace and prosperity alongside their
neighbours. But just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the
Iranian government props up a dictator in Damascus and supports
terrorist groups abroad. Time and again, it has failed to take the
opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to
meet its obligations to the United Nations.
me be clear: America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and
we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time
is not unlimited. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful
nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see
that we harness that power for peace. Make no mistake: 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 unravelling 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.
We know from
painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie
outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human
rights. That is why this institution was established from the rubble of
conflict; that is why liberty triumphed over tyranny in the Cold War;
and that is the lesson of the last two decades as well. History shows
that peace and progress come to those who make the right choices.
in every part of the world have travelled this hard path. Europe - the
bloodiest battlefield of the 20thcentury - is united, free and at peace.
From Brazil to South Africa; from Turkey to South Korea; from India to
Indonesia; people of different races, religions, and traditions have
lifted millions out of poverty, while respecting the rights of their
citizens and meeting their responsibilities as nations.
it is because of the progress I've witnessed that after nearly four
years as President, I am hopeful about the world we live in. The war in
Iraq is over, and our troops have come home. We have begun a transition
in Afghanistan, and America and our allies will end our war on schedule
in 2014. Al-Qaeda has been weakened and Osama bin Laden is no more.
Nations have come together to lock down nuclear materials, and America
and Russia are reducing our arsenals. I've seen hard choices made - from
Naypyidaw to Cairo to Abidjan - to put more power in the hands of
At a time of economic challenge, the
world has come together to broaden prosperity. Through the G-20, we
have partnered with emerging countries to keep the world on the path of
recovery. America has pursued a development agenda that fuels growth and
breaks dependency, and worked with African leaders to help them feed
their nations. New partnerships have been forged to combat corruption
and promote government that is open and transparent. New commitments
have been made through the Equal Futures Partnership to ensure that
women and girls can fully participate in politics and pursue
opportunity. And later today, I will discuss our efforts to combat the
scourge of human trafficking.
But what gives
me the most hope is not the actions of leaders - it is the people I've
seen. The American troops who have risked their lives and sacrificed
their limbs for strangers half a world away. The students in Jakarta and
Seoul who are eager to use their knowledge to benefit humankind. The
faces in a square in Prague or a parliament in Ghana who see democracy
giving voice to their aspirations. The young people in the favelas of
Rio and the schools of Mumbai whose eyes shine with promise. These men,
women and children of every race and every faith remind me that for
every angry mob that gets shown on television, there are billions around
the globe who share similar hopes and dreams. They tell us that there
is a common heartbeat to humanity.
attention in our world turns to what divides us. That's what we see on
the news, and that consumes our political debates. But when you strip
that all away, people everywhere long for the freedom to determine their
destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes from
faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people -
and not the other way around.
States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our
own people, and all across the world. That was our founding purpose.
That is what our history shows. And that is what Chris Stevens worked
for throughout his life.
And today I promise
you this - 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."
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. Thank you.
Special thanks, Al Jazeera.