President Obama Addresses the 71st United Nations General Assembly

This morning, President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for his last time as president. If you don’t know what “UNGA” is, you’re not the only one.

But President Obama has come to UNGA every year in his Administration to outline his approach to American foreign policy and what global challenges he hoped to address together with the world leaders gathered there.

When the President first stood at the podium in the UN hall seven years ago, he reflected on what the world expected of American leadership on the global stage:

"I come before you humbled by the responsibility that the American people have placed upon me, mindful of the enormous challenges of our moment in history, and determined to act boldly and collectively on behalf of justice and prosperity at home and abroad. I have been in office for just nine months  -- though some days it seems a lot longer. I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world."

"These expectations are not about me. Rather, they are rooted, I believe, in a discontent with a status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences, and outpaced by our problems. But they are also rooted in hope  -- the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change."

Since that day in September 2009, we’ve seen what that belief in the role the United States can play in delivering progress can bring about. The end of two wars in the Middle East. A historic nuclear agreement that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. A global agreement to combat climate change. A normalization of relations with CubaBurma, and Laos. An advance of relations with Vietnam. A global coalition to degrade and defeat ISIL. The death of Osama bin Laden. The largest investment by any nation to put an AIDS-free generation well within reach  --  and much more.

Read the Record: American Leadership in the World

The President has refocused and reaffirmed American leadership in the world, recognizing that American strength derives not only from our military power but also our economic vitality, the depth and breadth of our global partnerships, and our values. In doing so, the President has remained relentless in taking action against terrorist networks, while also focusing on key emerging regions and policies that will shape the 21st century.

Take a look back at some key moments from the President’s addresses to UNGA over the years, and watch his last address online.

2009

“The danger posed by climate change cannot be denied. Our responsibility to meet it must not be deferred. If we continue down our current course, every member of this Assembly will see irreversible changes within their borders. Our efforts to end conflicts will be eclipsed by wars over refugees and resources. Development will be devastated by drought and famine. Land that human beings have lived on for millennia will disappear.

Future generations will look back and wonder why we refused to act; why we failed to pass on  -- why we failed to pass on an environment that was worthy of our inheritance. And that is why the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over.”

2010

“As we pursue the world’s most dangerous extremists, we’re also denying them the world’s most dangerous weapons, and pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, 47 nations embraced a work-plan to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.

We have joined with Russia to sign the most comprehensive arms control treaty in decades. We have reduced the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy. And here, at the United Nations, we came together to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

2011

“No country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs. This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down the economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. This is what our commitment to human progress demands.”

2012

“Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do not do so 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 speech -- the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.”

 “For decades, the United Nations has in fact made a difference -- from helping to eradicate disease, to educating children, to brokering peace. But like every generation of leaders, we face new and profound challenges, and this body continues to be tested. The question is whether we possess the wisdom and the courage, as nation-states and members of an international community, to squarely meet those challenges; whether the United Nations can meet the tests of our time.”

"This is what America is prepared to do: Taking action against immediate threats, while pursuing a world in which the need for such action is diminished. The United States will never shy away from defending our interests, but we will also not shy away from the promise of this institution and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- the notion that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of a better life.”

2015

"The people of our United Nations are not as different as they are told. They can be made to fear, they can be taught to hate, but they also respond to hope. History is littered with the failure of false prophets and fallen empires who insisted that might makes right, and that will continue to be the case. You can count on that. But we are called upon to offer a different leadership -- leadership strong enough to recognize that nations share common interests and people share a common humanity.”

Editor's Note: This blog originally appears on the White House blog and Medium.com.

President Obama Deliver Remarks at the 69th UN General Assembly
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