Obama on the Record: Summit of the Americas - Page 10 of 10

Obama on the Record: Summit of the Americas

Now, in that same spirit, I would love to be involved in a useful conference that addressed continuing issues of racism and discrimination around the globe — which, by the way, are not a particular province of any one country. Obviously we’ve had our own experiences with racial discrimination, but if you come down to Central and South America and the Caribbean, they have all kinds of stories to tell about racial discrimination.

Somebody mentioned earlier President Morales. Whatever I think about his politics, the fact that he is the first indigenous — person of indigenous background to be elected in a country that has a enormous indigenous population indicates how much work remains to be done around the world.

So we would love to engage constructively in a discussion like that. Here’s the problem: You had a previous conference — I believe it was in 2001, maybe it was 2002 — I think it was 2001 — in which it became a session through which folks expressed antagonism towards Israel in ways that were oftentimes completely hypocritical and counterproductive. And we expressed in the run-up to this conference our concerns that if you incorporated — if you adopted all the language from 2001, that’s just not something we could sign up for.

So if we have a clean start, a fresh start, we’re happy to go. If you’re incorporating a previous conference that we weren’t involved with that raised a whole set of objectionable provisions, then we couldn’t participate or it wouldn’t be worth it for us to participate because we couldn’t get past that particular issue.

And unfortunately, even though I think other countries made great efforts to accommodate some of our concerns and assured us that this conference would be more constructive, our participation would have involved putting our imprimatur on something that we just don’t believe.

So what we’ve said — and I said this to Secretary General Moon who was here addressing the summit — we’re happy to work with them to see if we can move forward on some of these issues. Hopefully some concrete steps come out of the conference that we can partner with other countries on to actually reduce discrimination around the globe. But this wasn’t an opportunity to do it.

So — okay? I think the — it’s warm and I’ve got to get home. But I appreciate you guys. Thank you.

By the way, whose wallet is this? Is this one of my staff’s here? Did you guys put this on — is that yours, Marvin? That was to prop up my remarks? Okay, I don’t want you to forget it. Thank you, guys.

Q Mr. President, you haven’t addressed the Iranian journalist. I think people would like to hear about that.

THE PRESIDENT: I will. Obviously I am gravely concerned with her safety and well-being. We are working to make sure that she is properly treated and to get more information about the disposition of her case.

She is an American citizen, and I have complete confidence that she was not engaging in any sort of espionage. She is an Iranian American who was interested in the country which her family came from. And it is appropriate for her to be treated as such and to be released.

We are going to be in contact with — through our Swiss intermediaries — with the Iranian government and want to ensure that we end up seeing a proper disposition of this case.

Okay? Thanks. Thank you, guys.

(Source: White House)