On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his annual message to the United Nations in New York City.
Among other things, he addressed growing fears of Russian corruption and aggression, the dramatic rise of ISIS, and the importance of Muslim leaders publicly and forcefully rejecting extremism.
“I often tell young people in the United States that despite the headlines this is the best time in human history to be born,” he began. “Today you are more likely than ever to be literate, healthy and free to pursue your dreams."
“And yet,” he added, “there is a pervasive unease in this world.”
“There’s much that must be done to meet the test of this moment,” he continued. “But today I’d like to ask two questions: Whether the nations here will be able to renew the purpose of the UN’s founding; and [whether the nations here will] reject the cancer of violent extremism.”
Mincing no words, the president first issued a blistering critique of Russian imperialism and aggression in Crimea. He condemned Moscow-backed separatists for annexing a sovereign country, facilitating unrest, and covering up a crime scene after a civilian airliner was shot out of the sky last summer.
“Bigger nations shouldn’t be able to bully little ones,” he said. “These are simple truths but they must be defended. America and our allies will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their economy and democracy.”
“We will impose a cost on Russia and counter falsehoods with the truth,” he added.
Meanwhile, he implored the Iranians to come to the bargaining table and finally give up their dogged pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“My message to Iran’s leaders and people has been simple and consistent: Do not let this opportunity come to pass,” he continued. “We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful.”
Moreover, before speaking about the threat and danger of ISIL, he reminded his global audience that the teachings of Islam and ISIL cannot and should not be conflated.
“Of course terrorism is not new,” he cautioned. “But the United States will never be at war with Islam. Islam preaches peace. Muslims the world over seek only to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no ‘us and them,’ there is only us because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country.”
“The terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded and ultimately destroyed,” he continued. “Mothers, sisters, daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. Bodies have been dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities have been starved to death.”
“There can be no reasoning, no negotiation with this brand of evil,” he added. “The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.”
At the same time, he implored Muslim leaders to commit themselves to eradicating this evil.
“It is time for the world, especially Muslim communities, to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of organizations like al Qaeda and ISIL.” he said. “No children are born hating, and no children anywhere should be educated to hate other people.”
He then addressed young Muslims directly.
“Here I’d like to speak to young people across the Muslim world,” he intoned. “You come from a great tradition that stands for education, not ignorance; innovation not destruction; the dignity of life not murder. Those who call you away from this path betray this tradition.”
“No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds,” he added. “But America will be a respectful and constructive partner.”
“America will not give up on the pursuit of peace,” he said.