September 25th, 2012
10:22 AM ET

Obama: Slain envoy's legacy 'will live on in the lives he touched'

Editor's note: President Barack Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. You can read a live blog of his remarks below or see his remarks in full here.

[Updated at 10:51 a.m. ET] President Obama pointed to all of the Libyans who supported America and showed their love of Ambassador Chris Stevens as further hope for the world. He's bringing the speech full circle by going back to the attacks in Benghazi.

"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,'" Obama said. "They 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.""

[Updated at 10:50 a.m. ET] President Obama is talking about the hope he sees in the communities around the world like Jakarta, Seoul, Prague and others.

"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," he said. "So much 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."

[Updated at 10:48 a.m. ET] President Obama says that while he has seen a lot of troubling things in recent times, he believes he has witnessed a similar amount of progress that leaves him hopeful.

"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," Obama said. "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 citizens."

[Updated at 10:46 a.m. ET] President Obama is now addressing the concerns about a  nuclear Iran and the policies and ideology of leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"In 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 neighbors. 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," Obama said. "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."

Obama said that he would like to solve these issues with diplomacy - and it is still possible.

"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," Obama said. "Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained."

[Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET] Obama is now talking about the conflict 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, it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings," Obama said. "And we must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence. "

Deaths mounting in Syrian towns; children being tortured, U.N. official says 

[Updated at 10:44 a.m. ET] Obama is now addressing the peace process in Israel.

"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," he said. "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."

[Updated at 10:42 a.m. ET] President Obama is referencing a quote by Gandhi: "Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit."

Obama says that we must all not just condemn the recent video and slander 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," he said.

[Updated at 10:40 a.m. ET] President Obama warned that while violence may initially be voiced against the West it will eventually spread if nothing is done.

"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," Obama said. "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."

He called on leaders and those who have protested during the Arab spring to reclaim the future.

"The 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," Obama said. "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."

[Updated at 10:38 a.m. ET] President Obama said that all world leaders have an interest in standing together against extremists.

"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," Obama said. "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."

[Updated at 10:36 a.m. ET] President Obama said the recent tensions means world leaders must have a serious discussion about how nations can move towards 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," Obama said. "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."

But Obama said there is still plenty that he and other leaders can do to move the world forward together.

" do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders, in all countries, to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism,' he said. "It is time to marginalize 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."

[Updated at 10:34 a.m. ET] President Obama said it is important to know that restricting the video that caused anger among Muslims is not the answer.

"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," he said.

Obama acknowledged that the wide free speech the United States enjoys is not well understood everywhere around the world. But he added that right now the response to the video is critical.

"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," he said. "The question, then, is how we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence."

[Updated at 10:32 a.m. ET] President Obama is now talking about the "crude and disgusting" video that sparked protests in many Muslim countries around the 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," Obama said. "That 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 every faith."

[Updated at 10:29 a.m. ET] President Obama said recent successes show "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," he said.

But Obama said that elections alone will not change anything. And he pointed to the attack in Libya and protests around the globe as an example.

"The turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot," he said.

Obama then quoted Nelson Mandela who 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.”

The UNGA applauded after he read the Mandela line.

[Updated at 10:27 a.m. ET] President Barack Obama is not speaking about all of the events that led to and eventually became the Arab spring. He references the vendor in Tunisia who set himself on fire, sparking the revolutions across the Middle East.

" 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," he said.

How a fruit seller caused revolution in Tunisia 

"We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people. We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not 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," Obama said. "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."

[Updated at 10:26 a.m. ET] President Obama told the U.N. General Assembly that platitudes are not enough when it comes to a response to the attack.

"We must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis," Obama said. "Today, 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."

[Updated at 10:24 a.m. ET] Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya, embodied the best of America, President Obama said.

"The attacks on our civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America," Obama said. "We are grateful for the assistance we received from the Libyan government and from the Libyan people. 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 the globe."

Obama said the attack should be something not just those in the U.S. are outraged about.

"The attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America," Obama said. " 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 citizens."

[Updated at 10:23 a.m. ET]  President Obama said that Ambassador Chris Stevens came to Benghazi during the beginning of the revolution in Libya.

"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," Obama said. "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."

[Updated at 10:22 a.m. ET] President Barack Obama began his address to the U.N. General Assembly by speaking about Ambassador Chris Stevens who was killed in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

"He came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East, and he would carry that commitment throughout his life," Obama said. "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, listening with a broad smile."

[Posted at 9:05 a.m. ET] The United States will "do what we must" to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, President Barack Obama is expected to tell the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday in a speech that will also touch heavily on the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Libya.

"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," Obama will tell U.N. delegates, according to excerpts of his planned remarks made available by the White House. "Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained."

Obama's scheduled speech comes on the opening day of the U.N. General Assembly debate session.

During the session, which ends October 1, world leaders will again take up a host of pressing humanitarian issues, including poverty, global warming and the prospect of renewed conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa. But the Middle East and the 18-month civil war in Syria are expected to remain center stage.

In his speech Tuesday morning, Obama is expected to say that while the United States remains committed to a diplomatic solution on Iran's nuclear program, "time is not unlimited."

While Iranian leaders say their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, Western leaders believe Tehran wants to build a nuclear weapon. U.N. inspectors also have expressed doubts about the program's aims.

The consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran are immense, Obama will tell delegates.

"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 unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty," the president will say.

Obama's speech comes on the heels of a series of confrontational statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who declared Monday that Israel has "no roots in the Middle East."

soundoff (391 Responses)
  1. GrampaSez

    I thought it was a REALLY GOOD speech. It was dripping with hipocracy, but that doesn't ACTUALLY detract from the basic message.

    (I hear OBAMA saying we have to stop the "politics of division", and remember it was not long ago that he was telling the LATINOS "Vote for me, and I'll help you PUNISH YOUR ENEMIES...". Or look athe the fact, on any of these CNN blogs, where LIBBY commenters AC TUALLY BELIEVE that you "CAN'T HAVE GOTTEN RICH WIHOUT HAVING TAKEN WHAT YOU HAVE FROM MORE DESERVING PEOPLE".)

    I was aware that OBAMA was ducking BEHIND Ambassador Stevens, and DIDN'T discuss al queida or terrorists, continuing his false screed of claiming that "Arab violence is because of a film".

    DISHONEST, HIPOCRITICAL, but overall, it WAS a good speech, because it WAS THE MESSAGE I WOULD WANT TOLD TO THE WORLD.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  2. Humanity4All

    Well Said President Obama

    September 25, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Errr...

      That's what we said after 9/11 and the wars that followed.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  3. Marley

    RIGHT-WING nuts claim: Obama leaked the film makers name ...

    Umm ... his name in the credits and there are too many people involved with that film to keep it a secret.

    Obama killed Osama and a bunch of other #2, #3, #4, etc ... So of course, Al Qaedi is going to strike back. But they are using the video to incite angry mobs every where against the USA. These angry mobs are mad because of the video. So you first must quell the angry mobs, and behind the scenes you go after the Al Qaedi killers.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • XxMacleodxX

      you realize that other than Osama that all those numbers have been caught and done away with multiple times in the past decade? remember Chemical Ali....former #2???or the deck of cards with the top 52 and how Bush popped around 40 of them ...they are like roaches though and just spawn back again

      September 25, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  4. getalife

    Republicans that actually think country first know mitt is reckless and dangerous because of his outbursts after the embassy attacks.

    I welcome them to vote for President Obama.

    We know it is a horrible time to change leadership to a rookie with failed neocons advising him.

    Read my lips, no more failed occupations or economic collapses.

    Four more years!

    September 25, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • XxMacleodxX

      one must have an economy to collapse it.........

      September 25, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • getalife

      Steady job growth and not going back to a recession with gop austerity. See Europe con.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve- Illinois

      Romney was right........meanwhile, Obama and company are still trying to sell the obscure film as the reason for the attack. Did the film tell them where the safe house was also?

      September 25, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • getalife

      The rookie romney went berserk and called our President a terrorist sympathizer.

      Republicans will vote for President Obama because he acted like a President and not a crazy kook like romney.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary1972

      Mitt is an idiot and a reckless idiot at that and you don;t want him in charge of USA. I don't know what the GOP was thinking of when they nominated him. It is all because of Supreme Court which allowed SuperPACs and now, the rich can buy the presidency or so, they think.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • getalife

      Well said Mary1972.

      I agree , mitt is trying to buy this election but will fail.

      Another thumpin is coming because the gop deserve to lose.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. weasel

    Yes and if and when we (Military, CIA, etc) get them you will take credit for it.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  6. norman

    At least Obama doesn't have an imaginary sky-friend telling him to start a war.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. inathens

    We are now witnessing the slow-motion implosion of the Obama-administration narrative about what happened in Benghazi. Not only did the Obama administration insist, from the beginning and before ascertaining the facts, that the attack on our ambassador and three other Americans was a case of a protest gone wild over an Internet movie, they maintained this obvious deception for nearly two weeks.

    Obama sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to the Sunday-morning political shows to insist that the attack on Americans was basically a negative movie review. Some news organizations are reporting that there was no protest over the Internet film in Benghazi at all, just a coordinated terror attack featuring a former Guantanamo detainee. Do not expect days or weeks of coverage about what a scandal this represents, about the administration’s failure to provide adequate security to American diplomats, about the administration’s persistence in a lie long after it was obvious that the attack in Libya was a terrorist strike.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      Oh sure, it must all be a conspiracy. Because Fox News said it it must be so....

      September 25, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. ted in pdx

    It's disgusting that Mr. Obama presumes to speak for the American people. It is absolutely unconscionable that the US embassy was left un-protected in Benghazi, and consequently we lost one of our best diplomats. Obama has been shown up for the failure he has been both in domestic policy and now on foreign policy (as the US position in the Middle East crashes and burns).

    While Obama was bragging about his "take down" of Bin Laden, and divulging national security secrets directly tied to the war on terrorists, Al Qaeda has been proliferating to every major Arab country, and managed to kill four Americans on 9/11. How much worse do things have to get before liberals in this country realize what a disaster this man has been?

    I'm a Republican, and I consider Mitt Romney one of the most uninspiring candidates ever put forward in 40 years as a voter. That said, given a choice between the continued destruction of our economy and the possible outbreak of nuclear war in the Middle East, would it not be better to retire Mr. Obama in favor of someone who's priorities include reigning in our budget deficits to a survivable level, and re-establishing our country's necessary role maintaining order in the community of nations?

    September 25, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • C M

      Keep trying to throw mud that won't stick buddy!

      Obama 2012!!!!!

      Get ready for four more years biatch!

      September 25, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. Steve- Illinois

    They are really going to hunt them down, as reporters walk through the rubble picking up evidence. Place isn't safe for the F.B.I., but well protected reporters from major news networks wander freely through the buildings.
    This is a joke!

    September 25, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. ton

    Considering what he said, Obama seems more concerned with helping muslim nations than his own.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. WhoDat

    Obama will get push back from the military-industrial complex. They have enormous resources and power. Peace around the world is not in their interests. War is the greatest wealth builder there is. A big chunk of our debt is due to the wars as everyone should know.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • William


      September 25, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  12. Cryos

    Imagine the media outrage if Romney was lax on security, missed security briefings to campaign and called the resulting ambassador's death "a bump in the road."

    The MSM better hope Obama wins because you have completely sold out any remaining credibility and when your viewership drops to 0 conservatives could care less when you go bankrupt. You better pray for a bailout.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      That's because conservatives don't want the truth. That's why they all buzz around the Fox News lamp like a bunch of mosquitos. They don't want the truth, they want to be told what they want to hear.

      September 25, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve- Illinois

      And Walkers election was too close to call, LOL!

      September 25, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary1972

      He will win in spite of the "Do Nothing Congress of the Great Old Party of No" made sure none of his bills pass through the house. What are they going to do in the second term? It will be interesting to see the faces Cantor, Bohner and McConnel when Obama wins.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Louis

    i thought this was a parody...

    September 25, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  14. William

    "When asked by CBS’s Charlie Rose how he would characterize U.S.-Egypt relations, Morsi was evasive. He said that the two countries are not enemies, but he would not necessarily consider the U.S. an ally." How much do we give them each year?
    I just heard Obama at the UN thank Morsi. This after the groveling video put out by our state department apologizing for the internet video and ignored warnings by Egypt and Libyan officials about attacks on 9-11.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  15. hbum

    I like how ofailure referred to the attack as anything but terrorism. I guess he doesn't want to offend his muslim brothers and sisters. It must be a sin in the koran to offend fellow muslims. Its not a sin to offend Americans though so ofailure doesn't worry about that stuff. he knows there are enough useless bums who rely on govt handouts they wont dare vote him out of office as long as he keeps providing them with welfare and section 8, free cell phones, god knows what else.....

    September 25, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
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