Obama on the Record: Strasbourg Town Hall - Black Enterprise

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Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

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PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Good afternoon. Bon après-midi. (Applause.) And guten tag. It is a great honor for me to be here in Europe, to be here in Strasbourg. I want to make just a few acknowledgements. I want to thank the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, for being such a terrific friend. I want to thank his wife, Madam Sarkozy. They just hosted us at the palace and could not have been more gracious.

I want to thank the Charge d’Affaires, Mark Pekala, and his wife, Maria, who were helping to organize us; Vincent Carver, who’s the Counsel General in Strasbourg. And I want to thank the Mayor of Strasbourg, Roland Ries, for his hospitality. (Applause.)

It is wonderful to be here with all of you and to have an opportunity not only to speak to you but also to take some questions. You know, oftentimes during these foreign trips you see everything from behind a window, and what we thought was important was for me to have an opportunity to not only speak with you but also to hear from you, because that’s ultimately how we can learn about each other. But before I take some questions, I hope you don’t mind me making a few remarks about my country and yours; the relationship between the United States and the relationship between Europe.

Strasbourg has been known throughout history as a city at the crossroads. Over thousands of years, you straddled many kingdoms and many cultures. Two rivers are joined here. Two religions have flourished in your churches. Three languages comprise an ancient oath that bears the city’s name. You served as a center of industry and commerce, a seat of government and education, where Goethe studied and Pasteur taught and Gutenberg imagined his printing press.

So it’s fitting because we find ourselves at a crossroads as well — all of us — for we’ve arrived at a moment where each nation and every citizen must choose at last how we respond to a world that has grown smaller and more connected than at any time in its existence.

We’ve known for a long time that the revolutions in communications and technology that took place in the 20th century would hold out enormous promise for the 21st century — the promise of broader prosperity and mobility; of new breakthroughs and discoveries that could help us lead richer and fuller lives. But the same forces that have brought us closer together have also given rise to new dangers that threaten to tear our world apart — dangers that cannot be contained by the nearest border or the furthest ocean.

Even with the Cold War now over, the spread of nuclear weapons or the theft of nuclear material could lead to the extermination of any city on the planet. And this weekend in Prague, I will lay out an agenda to seek the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

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