President Obama Addresses the British Parliament

Mr. President,
ladies and gentlemen,history is more than the
path left by the past. It influences the present
and can shape the future. We meet today in
Westminster Hall,a building begun 900 years ago
when the Vikings were visitingthe shores of what would
become the United States,even if it was Columbus who
would subsequently demonstratethe politician’s art
of arriving late,but claiming all the credit. This hall has witnessed grim
trials in the sentencing todeath of a king, coronation
banquets, ceremonial addresses,and the coffins of those
receiving the last respects ofour people. Few places reach so far into
the heart of our nation. Yet until today, no American
president has stood on thesesteps to address our
country’s Parliament. It is my honor, Mr. President,
to welcome you as our friend andas a statesman. Statesmanship is the cement
which seals our shared idealismas nations. It makes meaningful the unity of
ambition, passion for freedom,and abhorrence of injustice
that is the call of ourclose alliance. It has fallen to you to tackle
economic turbulence at home,to protect the health
of those without wealth,and to seek that precious
balance between security whichis too often threatened, and
human rights which are toooften denied. History is not the burden of
any one man or woman alone. But some are called to
meet a special share ofit’s challenges. It is a duty that you discharge
with a dignity, determination,and distinction that
are widely admired. Abraham Lincoln once observed
that nearly all men canstand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s
character, give him power. Ladies and gentlemen, the
President of the United Statesof America, Barack Obama. President Obama:
Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. My Lord Chancellor, Mr. Speaker,
Mr. Prime Minister, my lords,and members of the
House of Commons:I have known few greater honors
than the opportunity to addressthe Mother of Parliaments
at Westminster Hall. I am told that the last three
speakers here have been thePope, Her Majesty the
Queen, and Nelson Mandela –which is either a very high
bar or the beginning of a veryfunny joke. I come here today to
reaffirm one of the oldest,one of the strongest alliances
the world has ever known. It’s long been said that the
United States and the UnitedKingdom share a
special relationship. And since we also share an
especially active press corps,that relationship is often
analyzed and overanalyzedfor the slightest hint
of stress or strain. Of course, all relationships
have their ups and downs. Admittedly, ours got off on the
wrong foot with a small scrapeabout tea and taxes. There may also have been
some hurt feelings when theWhite House was set on fire
during the War of 1812. But fortunately, it’s been
smooth sailing ever since. The reason for this close
friendship doesn’t just haveto do with our shared history,
our shared heritage;our ties of language
and culture;or even the strong partnership
between our governments. Our relationship is special
because of the values andbeliefs that have united
our people through the ages. Centuries ago, when
kings, emperors,and warlords reigned
over much of the world,it was the English who first
spelled out the rights andliberties of man
in the Magna Carta. It was here, in this very hall,
where the rule of law firstdeveloped, courts
were established,disputes were settled, and
citizens came to petitiontheir leaders. Over time, the people of
this nation waged a long andsometimes bloody struggle
to expand and secure theirfreedom from the crown. Propelled by the ideals
of the Enlightenment,they would ultimately forge
an English Bill of Rights,and invest the power to govern
in an elected parliament that’sgathered here today. What began on this island would
inspire millions throughout thecontinent of Europe
and across the world. But perhaps no one drew greater
inspiration from these notionsof freedom than your
rabble-rousing colonistson the other side
of the Atlantic. As Winston Churchill
said, the “. . . Magna Carta,the Bill of Rights, Habeas
Corpus, trial by jury,and English common law find
their most famous expression inthe American Declaration
of Independence. “For both of our nations, living
up to the ideals enshrined inthese founding documents has
sometimes been difficult,has always been a
work in progress. The path has never been perfect. But through the struggles
of slaves and immigrants,women and ethnic minorities,
former colonies and persecutedreligions, we have learned
better than most that thelonging for freedom and human
dignity is not English orAmerican or Western
— it is universal,and it beats in every heart. Perhaps that’s why there are
few nations that stand firmer,speak louder, and fight harder
to defend democratic valuesaround the world than the United
States and the United Kingdom. We are the allies who
landed at Omaha and Gold,who sacrificed side by side to
free a continent from the marchof tyranny, and help prosperity
flourish from the ruins of war. And with the founding of
NATO — a British idea –we joined a transatlantic
alliance that has ensured oursecurity for over
half a century. Together with our allies,
we forged a lasting peacefrom a cold war. When the Iron Curtain lifted, we
expanded our alliance to includethe nations of Central
and Eastern Europe,and built new bridges to Russia
and the former states of theSoviet Union. And when there was
strife in the Balkans,we worked together
to keep the peace. Today, after a difficult decade
that began with war and ended inrecession, our nations have
arrived at a pivotal momentonce more. A global economy that once stood
on the brink of depression isnow stable and recovering. After years of conflict, the
United States has removed100,000 troops from Iraq, the
United Kingdom has removed itsforces, and our combat
mission there has ended. In Afghanistan, we’ve broken the
Taliban’s momentum and will soonbegin a transition
to Afghan lead. And nearly 10 years after 9/11,
we have disrupted terroristnetworks and dealt al Qaeda a
huge blow by killing its leader– Osama bin Laden. Together, we have
met great challenges. But as we enter this new
chapter in our shared history,profound challenges
stretch out before us. In a world where the prosperity
of all nations is nowinextricably linked, a new era
of cooperation is required toensure the growth and stability
of the global economy. As new threats spread
across borders and oceans,we must dismantle terrorist
networks and stop the spreadof nuclear weapons, confront
climate change and combatfamine and disease. And as a revolution races
through the streets of theMiddle East and North Africa,
the entire world has a stakein the aspirations of a
generation that longs todetermine its own destiny. These challenges come at a time
when the international order hasalready been reshaped
for a new century. Countries like China, India,
and Brazil are growing byleaps and bounds. We should welcome
this development,for it has lifted hundreds of
millions from poverty aroundthe globe, and created new
markets and opportunitiesfor our own nations. And yet, as this rapid
change has taken place,it’s become fashionable in some
quarters to question whether therise of these nations will
accompany the decline ofAmerican and European
influence around the world. Perhaps, the argument goes,
these nations represent thefuture, and the time for
our leadership has passed. That argument is wrong. The time for our
leadership is now. It was the United States and
the United Kingdom and ourdemocratic allies that shaped a
world in which new nations couldemerge and individuals
could thrive. And even as more nations take on
the responsibilities of globalleadership, our alliance will
remain indispensable to the goalof a century that
is more peaceful,more prosperous and more just. At a time when threats and
challenges require nationsto work in concert
with one another,we remain the greatest
catalysts for global action. In an era defined by the
rapid flow of commerce andinformation, it is our free
market tradition, our openness,fortified by our commitment to
basic security for our citizens,that offers the best chance
of prosperity that is bothstrong and shared. As millions are still denied
their basic human rights becauseof who they are, or
what they believe,or the kind of government
that they live under,we are the nations most willing
to stand up for the values oftolerance and self-determination
that lead to peace and dignity. Now, this doesn’t mean we
can afford to stand still. The nature of our leadership will
need to change with the times. As I said the first time I
came to London as President,for the G20 summit, the days
are gone when Roosevelt andChurchill could sit in a room
and solve the world’s problemsover a glass of brandy —
although I’m sure that PrimeMinister Cameron would agree
that some days we could bothuse a stiff drink. In this century, our joint
leadership will requirebuilding new partnerships,
adapting to new circumstances,and remaking ourselves to meet
the demands of a new era. That begins with our
economic leadership. Adam Smith’s central insight
remains true today: There is nogreater generator of wealth and
innovation than a system of freeenterprise that unleashes the
full potential of individualmen and women. That’s what led to the
Industrial Revolution that beganin the factories of Manchester. That is what led to the dawn of
the Information Age that arosefrom the office parks
of Silicon Valley. That’s why countries like China,
India and Brazil are growing sorapidly — because
in fits and starts,they are moving toward
market-based principles thatthe United States and the United
Kingdom have always embraced. In other words, we live in a
global economy that is largelyof our own making. And today, the competition for
the best jobs and industriesfavors countries that
are free-thinking andforward-looking; countries with
the most creative and innovativeand entrepreneurial citizens. That gives nations like the
United States and the UnitedKingdom an inherent advantage. For from Newton and Darwin
to Edison and Einstein,from Alan Turing to Steve Jobs,
we have led the world in ourcommitment to science and
cutting-edge research,the discovery of new
medicines and technologies. We educate our citizens and
train our workers in the bestcolleges and
universities on Earth. But to maintain this advantage
in a world that’s morecompetitive than ever, we will
have to redouble our investmentsin science and engineering, and
renew our national commitmentsto educating our workforces. We’ve also been reminded in the
last few years that markets cansometimes fail. In the last century, both our
nations put in place regulatoryframeworks to deal with such
market failures — safeguardsto protect the banking system
after the Great Depression,for example; regulations that
were established to prevent thepollution of our air and
our water during the 1970s. But in today’s economy, such
threats of market failure canno longer be contained within
the borders of any one country. Market failures can go
global, and go viral,and demand international responses. A financial crisis that began
on Wall Street infected nearlyevery continent, which is why we
must keep working through forumslike the G20 to put in place
global rules of the road toprevent future
excesses and abuse. No country can hide from the
dangers of carbon pollution,which is why we must build on
what was achieved at Copenhagenand Cancun to leave our
children a planet thatis safer and cleaner. Moreover, even when the free
market works as it should,both our countries recognize
that no matter how responsiblywe live in our lives,
hard times or bad luck,a crippling illness or a layoff
may strike any one of us. And so part of our common
tradition has expressed itselfin a conviction that every
citizen deserves a basic measureof security — health
care if you get sick,unemployment insurance
if you lose your job,a dignified retirement after
a lifetime of hard work. That commitment to our citizens
has also been the reason for ourleadership in the world. And now, having come through
a terrible recession,our challenge is to meet these
obligations while ensuring thatwe’re not consuming — and hence
consumed — with a level of debtthat could sap the strength
and vitality of our economies. And that will require difficult
choices and it will requiredifferent paths for
both of our countries. But we have faced such
challenges before,and have always been able to
balance the need for fiscalresponsibility with the
responsibilities we haveto one another. And I believe we
can do this again. As we do, the successes and
failures of our own past canserve as an example for emerging
economies — that it’s possibleto grow without polluting; that
lasting prosperity comes notfrom what a nation consumes,
but from what it produces,and from the investments
it makes in its peopleand its infrastructure. And just as we must lead on
behalf of the prosperity ofour citizens, so we must
safeguard their security. Our two nations know what it is
to confront evil in the world. Hitler’s armies would not have
stopped their killing had we notfought them on the beaches
and on the landing grounds,in the fields and
on the streets. We must never forget that there
was nothing inevitable about ourvictory in that terrible war. It was won through the courage
and character of our people. Precisely because we are
willing to bear its burden,we know well the cost of war. And that is why we built an
alliance that was strong enoughto defend this continent
while deterring our enemies. At its core, NATO is rooted in
the simple concept of ArticleFive: that no NATO nation
will have to fend on its own;that allies will stand
by one another, always. And for six decades, NATO
has been the most successfulalliance in human history. Today, we confront
a different enemy. Terrorists have taken the lives
of our citizens in New York andin London. And while al Qaeda seeks a
religious war with the West,we must remember that they have
killed thousands of Muslims –men, women and children
— around the globe. Our nations are not and will
never be at war with Islam. Our fight is focused on
defeating al Qaeda andits extremist allies. In that effort, we
will not relent,as Osama bin Laden and his
followers have learned. And as we fight an enemy
that respects no law of war,we will continue to hold
ourselves to a higher standard– by living up to the values,
the rule of law and due processthat we so ardently defend. For almost a decade, Afghanistan
has been a central front ofthese efforts. Throughout those years,
you, the British people,have been a stalwart ally, along
with so many others who fight byour side. Together, let us pay tribute to
all of our men and women whohave served and sacrificed over
the last several years — forthey are part of an unbroken
line of heroes who have bornethe heaviest burden for the
freedoms that we enjoy. Because of them, we have
broken the Taliban’s momentum. Because of them, we have
built the capacity ofAfghan security forces. And because of them, we are now
preparing to turn a corner inAfghanistan by transitioning
to Afghan lead. And during this transition, we
will pursue a lasting peace withthose who break free of al
Qaeda and respect the Afghanconstitution and lay down arms. And we will ensure that
Afghanistan is never a safehaven for terror, but is instead
a country that is strong,sovereign, and able to
stand on its own two feet. Indeed, our efforts in this
young century have led us toa new concept for NATO that will
give us the capabilities neededto meet new threats — threats
like terrorism and piracy,cyber attacks and
ballistic missiles. But a revitalized NATO will
continue to hew to that originalvision of its founders, allowing
us to rally collective actionfor the defense of our people,
while building upon the broaderbelief of Roosevelt and
Churchill that all nationshave both rights and
responsibilities,and all nations share a common
interest in an internationalarchitecture that
maintains the peace. We also share a common interest
in stopping the spread ofnuclear weapons. Across the globe, nations are
locking down nuclear materialsso they never fall into
the wrong hands — becauseof our leadership. From North Korea to Iran, we’ve
sent a message that those whoflaunt their obligations will
face consequences — which iswhy America and the European
Union just recently strengthenedour sanctions on Iran, in large
part because of the leadershipof the United Kingdom
and the United States. And while we hold
others to account,we will meet our own obligations
under the Non-ProliferationTreaty, and strive for a world
without nuclear weapons. We share a common interest in
resolving conflicts that prolonghuman suffering and threaten
to tear whole regions asunder. In Sudan, after years of
war and thousands of deaths,we call on both North and South
to pull back from the brink ofviolence and choose
the path of peace. And in the Middle East, we stand
united in our support for asecure Israel and a
sovereign Palestine. And we share a common interest
in development that advancesdignity and security. To succeed, we must cast
aside the impulse to lookat impoverished parts of the
globe as a place for charity. Instead, we should empower the
same forces that have allowedour own people to thrive: We
should help the hungry to feedthemselves, the doctors
who care for the sick. We should support countries
that confront corruption,and allow their
people to innovate. And we should advance the truth
that nations prosper when theyallow women and girls to
reach their full potential. We do these things because we
believe not simply in the rightsof nations; we believe in
the rights of citizens. That is the beacon that guided
us through our fight againstfascism and our twilight
struggle against communism. And today, that idea is being
put to the test in the MiddleEast and North Africa. In country after country,
people are mobilizing tofree themselves from the
grip of an iron fist. And while these movements for
change are just six months old,we have seen them play out
before — from Eastern Europeto the Americas, from South
Africa to Southeast Asia. History tells us that
democracy is not easy. It will be years before these
revolutions reach theirconclusion, and there will be
difficult days along the way. Power rarely gives up without a
fight — particularly in placeswhere there are divisions of
tribe and divisions of sect. We also know that populism can
take dangerous turns — from theextremism of those who would
use democracy to deny minorityrights, to the nationalism that
left so many scars on thiscontinent in the 20th century. But make no mistake:
What we saw,what we are seeing in Tehran,
in Tunis, in Tahrir Square,is a longing for the same
freedoms that we take forgranted here at home. It was a rejection of the notion
that people in certain parts ofthe world don’t want to be
free, or need to have democracyimposed upon them. It was a rebuke to the
worldview of al Qaeda,which smothers the
rights of individuals,and would thereby subject
them to perpetual povertyand violence. Let there be no doubt: The
United States and United Kingdomstand squarely on the side of
those who long to be free. And now, we must show that
we will back up those wordswith deeds. That means investing in the
future of those nations thattransition to democracy,
starting with Tunisia and Egypt– by deepening ties
of trade and commerce;by helping them demonstrate
that freedom brings prosperity. And that means standing
up for universal rights– by sanctioning those
who pursue repression,strengthening civil
society, supportingthe rights of minorities. We do this knowing that the West
must overcome suspicion andmistrust among many in the
Middle East and North Africa– a mistrust that is
rooted in a difficult past. For years, we’ve faced charges
of hypocrisy from those who donot enjoy the freedoms
that they hear us espouse. And so to them, we must
squarely acknowledge that, yes,we have enduring interests in
the region — to fight terror,sometimes with partners
who may not be perfect;to protect against disruptions
of the world’s energy supply. But we must also insist that
we reject as false the choicebetween our interests
and our ideals;between stability and democracy. For our idealism is rooted in
the realities of history — thatrepression offers only the
false promise of stability,that societies are more
successful when their citizensare free, and that democracies
are the closest allies we have. It is that truth that
guides our action in Libya. It would have been easy at the
outset of the crackdown in Libyato say that none of this was
our business — that a nation’ssovereignty is more important
than the slaughter of civilianswithin its borders. That argument carries
weight with some. But we are different. We embrace a broader responsibility. And while we cannot
stop every injustice,there are circumstances that cut
through our caution — when aleader is threatening
to massacre his people,and the international community
is calling for action. That’s why we stopped
a massacre in Libya. And we will not relent until the
people of Libya are protectedand the shadow of
tyranny is lifted. We will proceed with humility,
and the knowledge that we cannotdictate every outcome abroad. Ultimately, freedom must be
won by the people themselves,not imposed from without. But we can and must stand
with those who so struggle. Because we have always believed
that the future of our childrenand grandchildren will be better
if other people’s children andgrandchildren are more
prosperous and more free– from the beaches of Normandy
to the Balkans to Benghazi. That is our interests
and our ideals. And if we fail to meet
that responsibility,who would take our place,
and what kind of world wouldwe pass on?Our action — our leadership
— is essential to the causeof human dignity. And so we must
act — and lead –with confidence in our ideals,
and an abiding faith in thecharacter of our people,
who sent us all here today. For there is one final quality
that I believe makes the UnitedStates and the United
Kingdom indispensableto this moment in history. And that is how we define
ourselves as nations. Unlike most countries
in the world,we do not define citizenship
based on race or ethnicity. Being American or British is not
about belonging to a certaingroup; it’s about believing
in a certain set of ideals –the rights of individuals,
the rule of law. That is why we hold incredible
diversity within our borders. That’s why there are people
around the world right nowwho believe that if
they come to America,if they come to New York,
if they come to London,if they work hard, they can
pledge allegiance to our flagand call themselves Americans;
if they come to England,they can make a new life for
themselves and can sing GodSave The Queen just
like any other citizen. Yes, our diversity
can lead to tension. And throughout our history there
have been heated debates aboutimmigration and assimilation
in both of our countries. But even as these
debates can be difficult,we fundamentally recognize that
our patchwork heritage is anenormous strength — that in
a world which will only growsmaller and more interconnected,
the example of our two nationssays it is possible for people
to be united by their ideals,instead of divided
by their differences;that it’s possible for hearts to
change and old hatreds to pass;that it’s possible for the sons
and daughters of former coloniesto sit here as members
of this great Parliament,and for the grandson of a Kenyan
who served as a cook in theBritish Army to stand
before you as Presidentof the United States. That is what defines us. That is why the young men and
women in the streets of Damascusand Cairo still reach for the
rights our citizens enjoy,even if they sometimes
differ with our policies. As two of the most powerful
nations in the history of theworld, we must always remember
that the true source of ourinfluence hasn’t just been
the size of our economies,or the reach of our militaries,
or the land that we’ve claimed. It has been the values that we
must never waver in defendingaround the world — the idea
that all beings are endowedby our Creator with certain
rights that cannot be denied. That is what forged our bond
in the fire of war — a bondmade manifest by the
friendship between twoof our greatest leaders. Churchill and Roosevelt
had their differences. They were keen observers of
each other’s blind spots andshortcomings, if not
always their own,and they were hard-headed
about their ability toremake the world. But what joined the fates of
these two men at that particularmoment in history was not simply
a shared interest in victory onthe battlefield. It was a shared belief in the
ultimate triumph of humanfreedom and human dignity — a
conviction that we have a sayin how this story ends. This conviction lives on
in their people today. The challenges we
face are great. The work before us is hard. But we have come through
a difficult decade,and whenever the tests and
trials ahead may seem too bigor too many, let us
turn to their example,and the words that Churchill
spoke on the day that Europe wasfreed: “In the
long years to come,not only will the people of this
island but. . . the world, whereverthe bird of freedom
chirps in the human heart,look back to what we’ve done,
and they will say ‘do notdespair, do not yield. . .
march straightforward. ‘”With courage and purpose,
with humility and with hope,with faith in the
promise of tomorrow,let us march
straightforward together,enduring allies in the cause of
a world that is more peaceful,more prosperous, and more just. Thank you very much. Speaker:
Mr. President, I think that
response describes far moreeloquently than any words of
mine could do how much that verymemorable and inspiring address
was appreciated by everybody whoheard it here today. You spoke — You spoke with great warmth
and great generosity about theBritish Parliament and the
British people and about thelinks that bind us, the
values and the traditionsthat we share. The history that we have
experienced together. But more than that, you
spoke too not just of therelationships of the past, but
the relationships of the future. And I think that was what made
what you said so inspirational. It was a distinguished American
governor of New York whoremarked on the propensity of
politicians to campaign inpoetry, but to govern in prose. The world you described to us
today was not just one that isprosaic; it was one where the
challenges are difficult andsometimes dangerous. One that is fast
moving, that is complex,sometimes contradictory. And that offers at least as
many threats as opportunities. But in the eloquence
of your address,you reminded us of the
importance of maintaining thepoetry in government. Because to lead, that
poetry is necessary. Necessary not only to
articulate the challenges,as you did so masterfully. But also to bring others
together to face thosechallenges with common
principles and withshared purpose. Mr. President, it has been a
privilege for all of us to hearyou speak today. It is a privilege for me to have
the responsibility of thankingyou on behalf of both
Houses of Parliament,for coming to Westminster, and
to wish you and Mrs. Obama avery happy and pleasant
rest of your stay in theUnited Kingdom. Thank you so much.

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