President Barack Obama sounded a unifying tone at the 2012 Christmas reception for foreign diplomats, telling them the international reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting shows “that whatever differences on the surface, deep down we’re bound by a certain set of basic aspirations.”
People worldwide “want people to live in dignity and prosperity. Deep down … we [all] want people to be free to think for themselves, and speak their minds and pray as they choose,” he told the D.C. diplomatic corps, which includes diplomats from both Egypt’s new Islamist government and Saudi Arabia, whose laws bar every religion except Islam.
“That’s why we’re here — to serve them to do everything in our power to leave our children, and the next generation a better, safer world,” Obama told the assembled diplomats from many countries, including China, which has enforced a one-child policy since 1979.
The diplomatic corps excludes some clear enemies of the United States, such as Iran and North Korea, which do not have embassies in the United States. Syria’s diplomats were recently struck off the invite list when U.S. officials designated a rebel group as the legitimate government of Syria.
But the D.C diplomatic corps also includes many nations whose basic beliefs clash with core American principles of democracy, free speech, freedom of religion, equality before the law, property rights, the right to bear arms and the right to participate in a free market.
Those nations include Sudan, Belarus, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, Yemen, Bahrain and Qatar, whose crown prince is the chief backer of the al-Jazeera TV station.
Obama told his audience that routine “images of tension and conflict and division and differences … sometimes seems to validate those who believe that civilizations are destined to clash.”
“There still are wars to end. … Violent extremism remains out there and has to be confronted and deadly weapons still have to be contained,” he acknowledged.
There are “democratic transitions to sustain,” he added, likely citing trends in Egypt, where a much-touted “Arab Spring” has yielded majority support for a constitution that places Islam’s god, Allah, at the center of government.
But, Obama insisted, “I’m here to say tonight that this spirit of partnership with your nations that defined my first term will remain a core principle of my second term.”
“That’s my commitment. That is America’s commitment. And that, I think, is one of the ways we can honor all these beautiful children and incredible teachers who were lost this past Friday — by building a future that is equal to their dreams, and delivers on the dreams of children all around the world just like them.”
“Let’s understand that we need to live together — as nations and as peoples and as brothers and sisters, as children of a loving God.”