Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama remembered Ambassador Chris Stevens and delivered a defense of both free speech and the spirit of tolerance.
The President described Stevens — who was slain earlier this month in an attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya — as a man who “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 cooperation that the United Nations represents,” the President said. “He acted with humility, but he also 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, and opportunity.”
And in discussing the recent attacks on American embassies, President Obama called for a renewed commitment to the idea the United Nations represents — what he described as, “the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.”
The President called on the body to reaffirm that our collective futures would be determined by those like Ambassador Stevens, and not, he said, by the forces of violence and intolerance.
President Obama described the video that has sparked protests and outrage throughout the Muslim world as “crude and disgusting.” But he answered those who have asked why America doesn’t ban what we find offensive.
The answer, he said, was our Constitutional protection of free speech.
“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,” he told the General Assembly, “And I will always defend their right to do so.”
Check out his full remarks here.