Obama on the Record: Turkey Town Hall

And so, as I said, four years from now or eight years from now, you can look back and you can see maybe what he did wasn’t that different, and hopefully you’ll come to the conclusion that what I did made progress.

Yes, this young lady right here.

Q First of all, welcome to our country, Turkey. I would like to continue in Turkish if it’s possible.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes, let me — wait, wait, wait. See, I’ve got my –

Q Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hold on.

Q (As translated.) My first question is that in the event that Turkey becomes an EU member, what — how will that — how is that –

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay, try again.

Q In the event that Turkey becomes a member of the EU, how will that affect U.S. foreign policy and the alliance of civilizations? And my second question is a little more personal. We watched your election with my American friends. Before you were elected, my friends who said that they were ashamed of being Americans, after you were elected said that they were proud to be Americans. This is a very sudden and big change. What do you think the reason is for this change?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, the United States friendship with Turkey doesn’t depend on their EU membership. So even if Turkey continued not to be a member of the EU, the United States in our bilateral relations and in our relations as a NATO ally can really strengthen progress. And I had long discussions with the President and the Prime Minister about a range of areas where we can improve relations, including business and commerce and trade.

We probably can increase trade between our two countries significantly, but we haven’t really focused on it. Traditionally the focus in Turkish-American relations has been around the military and I think for us to broaden that relationship and those exchanges could be very important.

You know, in terms of my election, I think that what people felt good about was it affirmed the sense that America is still a land of opportunity. I was not born into wealth. I wasn’t born into fame. I come from a racial minority. My name is very unusual for the United States. And so I think people saw my election as proof, as testimony, that although we are imperfect, our society has continued to improve; that racial discrimination has been reduced; that educational opportunity for all people is something that is still available. And I also think that people were encouraged that somebody like me who has a background of living overseas, who has Muslims in his family — you know, that I might be able to help to build bridges with other parts of the world.

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