I spent a lot of time on my — in my farewell address talking about the state of our democracy. It goes without saying that essential to that is a free press. That is part of how this place, this country, this grand experiment of self-government has to work. It doesn’t work if we don’t have a well-informed citizenry, and you are the conduit through which they receive the information about what’s taking place in the halls of power. So America needs you and our democracy needs you. We need you to establish a baseline of facts and evidence that we can use as a starting point for the kind of reasoned and informed debates that ultimately lead to progress. And so my hope is is that you will continue with the same tenacity that you showed us, to do the hard work of getting to the bottom of stories and getting them right and to push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves and to push this country to be the best version of itself. I have no doubt that you will do so, I’m looking forward to being an active consumer of your work, rather than always the subject of it. I want to thank you all for your extraordinary service to our democracy.
ΓΙΑ ΤΙΣ ΣΧΕΣΕΙΣ ΜΕ ΤΗ ΡΩΣΣΙΑ:
Number one, I think it is in America’s interest and the world’s interest that we have a constructive relationship with Russia. That’s been my approach throughout my presidency. Where our interests have overlapped we’ve worked together.
At the beginning of my term, I did what I could to encourage Russia to be a constructive member of the international community and tried to work with the president and the government of Russia in helping them diversify their economy, improve their economy, use the incredible talents of the Russian people in more constructive ways.
I think it’s fair to say that after President Putin came back into the presidency, that an escalating anti-American rhetoric and an approach to global affairs that seem to be premised on the idea that whatever America’s trying to do must be bad for Russians, so we want to try to counter act whatever they do. That returned to an adversarial spirit that I think existed during the Cold War, has made the relationship more difficult.
And it was hammered home when Russia went into Crimea and portions of Ukraine. The reason we imposed the sanctions, recall, was not because of nuclear weapons issues, it was because the independence and sovereignty of a country, Ukraine, had been encroached upon by force, by Russia. That wasn’t our judgment, that was the judgment of the entire international community.
And, Russia continues to occupy Ukrainian territory and meddle in Ukrainian affairs and support military surrogates who have violated basic international laws and international norms. What I’ve said to the Russians, is as soon as you stop doing that, the sanctions will be removed. And I think it would probably best serve, not only American interests, but also the interests of preserving international norms if we made sure that we don’t confuse why these sanctions have been imposed with a whole set of other issues.
On nuclear issues, in my first term we negotiated the START II Treaty and that has substantially reduced our nuclear stock piles, both Russia and the United States. I was prepared to go further, I told President Putin I was prepared to go further. They have been unwilling to negotiate.
If President-elect Trump is able to restart those talks in a serious way, I think there remains a lot of room for our two countries to reduce their our stock piles. And part of the reason we’ve have been successful on our non-proliferation agenda and on our nuclear security agenda, is because we were leading by example. I hope that continues.
But I think it’s important just to remember that the reason sanctions have been put in place against Russia, has to do with their actions in Ukraine. And it is important for the United States to stand up for the basic principal that big countries don’t go around and invade and bully smaller countries.
I’ve said before, I expect Russia and Ukraine to have a strong relationship. They are historically bound together in all sorts of cultural and social ways, but Ukraine is an independent country and this is a good example of the vital role that America has to continue to play, around the world, in preserving basic norms and values. Whether it’s advocating on behalf of human rights, advocating on behalf of women’s rights, advocating on behalf of freedom of the press.
You know, the United States has not always been perfect in this regard, there are times where we — by necessity are dealing with allies or friends or partners, who themselves are not meeting the standards that we would like to see met when it comes to international rules and norms.
But I can tell you that in every multilateral setting in the United Nations, in the G-20, in the G-7, the United States typically has been on the right side of these issues and it is important for us to continue to be on the right side of these issues because if we, the largest, strongest country and democracy in the world, are not willing to stand up on behalf of these values, then certainly China, Russia and others will not.
ΓΙΑ ΕΝΔΕΧΟΜΕΝΗ ΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΗ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΡΕΜΒΑΣΗ ΓΙΑ ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΙΑ, ΑΝΘΡΩΠΙΝΑ ΔΙΚΑΙΩΜΑΤΑ:
I did not mean that I was going to be running for anything anytime soon. So, what I meant is that it’s important for me to take some time to process this amazing experience that we’ve gone through… But as I said before, I’m still a citizen. And I think it is important for Democrats or progressive who feel that they came out on the wrong side of this election to be able to distinguish between the normal back-and-forth, ebb-and-blow of policy. Now, are we going to raise taxes or are we going to lower taxes? Are we going to, you know, expand this program or eliminate this program? You know, how — how concerned are we about air pollution or climate change?
Those are all normal parts of the debate. And as I’ve said before, in a democracy sometimes you’re going to win on those issues and sometimes you’re going to lose. I’m confident about the rightness of my positions on a lot of these points, but we’ve got a new president and a Congress that are going to make their same determinations. And there will be a back-and-forth in Congress around those issues. And you guys will report on all that.
But there’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake. I put in that category if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. I put in that category explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise. I’d put in that category institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press. And for me at least, I would put in that category efforts to roundup kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids, and send them someplace else, when they love this country. They are our kids’ friends and their classmates, and are now entering into community colleges or in some cases serving in our military, that the notion that we would just arbitrarily or because of politics punish those kids, when they didn’t do anything wrong themselves, I think would be something that would merit me speaking out. It doesn’t mean that I would get on the ballot anyway.
ΓΙΑ ΤΗΝ ΚΟΥΒΑ:
We underwent a monumental shift in our policy towards Cuba. My view was after 50 years of a policy not working, it made sense for us to try to reopen diplomatic relations, to engage a Cuban government, to be honest with them about the strong disagreements we have around, you know, political oppression and treatment of dissenters and freedom of press and freedom of religion, but that to make progress for the Cuban people, our best shot was to suddenly have the Cuban people interacting with Americans and seeing the incredible success of the Cuban-American community and engaging in commerce and business and trade, and that it was through that process of opening up these bilateral relations that you would see over time serious and significant improvement.
Given that shift in the relationship, the policy that we had in place with wet foot, dry foot, which treated Cuban immigrants completely different from folks from El Salvador or Guatemala or Nicaragua or any other part of the world, one that made a distinction between whether you got here by land or by foot. You know, that was a carryover of a old way of thinking that didn’t make sense in this day and age, particularly as we’re opening up travel between the two countries.
And so, you know, we had very length think consultations with the Department of Homeland Security, we had some tough negotiations with the Cuban government, but arrived at a policy which we both think is both fair and appropriate to the changing nature of the relationship between the two countries.
ΓΙΑ ΤΟ ΙΣΡΑΗΛ: I continue to be significantly worried about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. And I’m worried about it both because I think the status quo is unsustainable, that it is dangerous for Israel, that it is bad for Palestinians, it is bad for the region and it is bad for America’s national security. And you know, I came into this office wanting to do everything I could to encourage serious peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. And we invested a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of effort first year, second year, all the way until last year. Ultimately, what has always been clear is that we cannot force the parties to arrive at peace. What we can do is facilitate, provide a platform, encourage, but we can’t force them to do it. But in light of shifts in Israeli politics and Palestinian politics, a rightward drift in Israeli politics, weakening of President Abbas’ ability to move and take risks on behalf of peace in the Palestinian territories.
In light of all the dangers that have emerged in the region and the understandable fears that Israelis may have about the chaos and rise of groups like ISIL and the deterioration of Syria, in light of all those things, what we at least wanted to do, understanding that the two parties wouldn’t actually arrive at a final status agreement, is to preserve the possibility of the two-state solution because we do not see an alternative to it.
And I’ve said this directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I’ve said it inside of Israel, I’ve said it to Palestinians as well. I don’t see how this issue gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy. Because if you do not have two states, then in some form or fashion you are extending an occupation, functionally you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second class residents.
You can’t even call them citizens necessarily. And so – so the goal of the resolution was to simply say that the settlements, the growth of the settlements are creating a reality on the ground that increasingly will make a two-state solution impossible. And we’ve believed consistent with the position that has been taken with previous U.S. administrations for decades now that it was important for us to send a signal, a wakeup call that this moment may be passing.
And Israeli voters and Palestinians need to understand that this moment may be passing. And – and hopefully, that then creates a debate inside both Israeli and Palestinian communities that won’t result immediately in peace but at least will lead to a more sober assessment of what the alternatives are. So, the president-elect will have his own policy. The ambassador or the candidate for the ambassadorship obviously has very different views than I do.
That is their prerogative, that’s part of what happens after elections, and I think my views are clear. We’ll see how – how their approach plays itself out. I don’t want to – I don’t want to project today what could end up happening but obviously it’s a volatile environment. What we’ve seen in the past is when sudden unilateral moves are made that speak to some of the core issues and sensitivities of either side, that can be explosive.
And what we’ve tried to do in the transition is just provide the context in which the president-elect may want to make some of these decisions.
ΓΙΑ ΤΑ ΔΙΚΑΙΩΜΑΤΑ ΤΩΝ LGBT:
I could not be prouder of the transformation that’s taken place in our society just in the last decade. And, I’ve said before, I think we made some useful contributions to it, but the primary heroes in this stage of our — our growth as a Democracy and a society are all the individual activists and sons and daughters and couples who courageously said, this is who I am and I’m proud of it.
And, that opened people’s minds and opened their hearts. And, eventually, laws caught up. But, I don’t think any of that would have happened without the activism, in some cases loud and noisy, but in some cases just quiet and very personal. And — and I think that what we did as an administration was to help to — the society to move in a better direction, but to do so in a way that didn’t create an enormous backlash and was — was systematic and respectful of the fact, you know, in some cases these issues were controversial.
I think the way we handled, for example, don’t ask, don’t tell, being methodical about it, working with the joint chiefs, making sure we showed this would not have an impact on the effectiveness of the greatest military on Earth. And then to have Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Chairman Mike Mullen and joint chiefs who were open to evidence and ultimately worked with me to do the right thing.
I am proud of that, but again, none of that would have happened without this incredible transformation that was happening in society out there. You know, when I gave Ellen the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I meant what I said. I think somebody that kind and likable, projecting into, you know, living rooms around the country. You know, that changed attitudes. And that wasn’t easy to do for her. And that’s just one small example of what was happening in countless communities all across the country.
So — so I’m proud that in certain places we maybe provided a good block down field to help the movement advance. I don’t think it is something that will be reversible because American society has changed, the attitudes of young people, in particular, have changed. That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be some fights that are important, legal issues, issues surrounding transgender persons. There’s still going to be some battles that need to take place. But, if you talk to young people, Malia, Sasha’s generation, even if their Republicans, even if their Conservative, many of them will tell you, I don’t understand how you would discriminate against somebody because of sexual orientation. That’s just sort of burned into them in — in pretty powerful ways.
ΓΙΑ ΤΙΣ ΙΣΕΣ ΕΥΚΑΙΡΙΕΣ, ΓΙΑ ΤΗΝ ΔΥΝΑΤΟΤΗΤΑ ΤΟΥ ΕΚΛΕΓΕΙΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΚΛΕΓΕΣΘΑΙ
I think we’re going to see people of merit rise up from every race, faith, corner of this country. Because that’s America’s strength. When we have everybody getting a chance and everybody’s on the field, we end up being better.
Michelle and I, we always have our — the Olympic team here. And it’s a lot of fun, first of all, just because, you know, anytime you’re meeting somebody who’s the best at anything, it’s impressive. And these mostly very young people are all just so healthy looking and they just beam and exude fitness and health. And so we have a great time talking to them. But they are of all shapes, sizes, colors. You know, the genetic diversity that is on display is remarkable. And if you look at Simone Biles, and then you look at a Michael Phelps, they’re completely different. And it’s precisely because of those differences that we’ve got people here who can excel at any sport. And by the way, more than half of our medals came from women. And the reason is is because we had the foresight several decades ago with something called Title IX to make sure that women got opportunities in sports, which is why our women compete better, because they have more opportunities than folks in other countries.
So, you know, I use that as a metaphor and if in fact we continue to keep opportunity open to everybody, then yeah, we’re going to have a woman president. We’re going to have a Latino president. And we’ll have a Jewish president, a Hindu president. You know, who knows who we’re going to have.
I suspect we’ll have a whole bunch of mixed up presidents at some point that nobody really knows what to call them. And that’s fine.
Now, what do I worry about? …I worry about inequality because I think that if we are not investing in making sure everybody plays a role in this economy, the economy will not grow as fast and I think it will also lead to further and further separation between us as Americans — not just along racial lines. I mean, there are a whole bunch of folks who voted for the president-elect because they feel forgotten and disenfranchised.
They feel as if they’re being looked down on. They feel as if their kids aren’t going to have the same opportunities as they did.
And you don’t want to — you don’t want to have an America in which a very small sliver of people are doing really well, and everybody else is fighting for scraps, as I said last week. Because that’s oftentimes when racial divisions get magnified, because people think, well, the only way I’m going to get ahead is if I make sure somebody else gets less; somebody who doesn’t look like me or doesn’t worship the same place I do.
That’s not a good recipe for our democracy. I worry about, as I said in response to a previous question, making sure that the basic machinery of our democracy works better. We are the only country in the advanced world that makes it harder to vote rather than easier. And that dates back. There’s an ugly history to that that we should not be shy about talking about(…) The reason that we are the only country among advanced democracies that makes it harder to vote is — it traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery and it became sort of acceptable to restrict the franchise (ph). And that’s not who we are. That shouldn’t be who we are. That’s not when America works best. So I hope that people pay a lot of attention to making sure that everybody has a chance to vote. Make it easier, not harder.
This whole notion of election — voting fraud, this is something that has constantly been disproved, this — this is fake news. The notion that there are a whole bunch of people out there who are going out there and are not eligible to vote and want to vote. We have the opposite problem. We have a whole bunch of people who are eligible to vote who don’t vote. And so the idea that we put in place a whole bunch of barriers to people voting doesn’t make sense. And then the — you know, as I said before, political gerrymandering that makes your vote matter less because politicians have decided you live in a district where everybody votes the same way you do so that these aren’t competitive races and we get 90 percent Democratic districts, 90 percent Republican districts, that’s bad for our democracy too. I worry about that.
I think it is very important for us to make sure that our criminal justice system is fair and just, but I also think it’s also very important to make sure that it is not politicized, that it maintains an integrity that is outside of partisan politics at every level. I think at some point, we’re going to have to spend — and this will require some action by the Supreme Court, we have to re- examine just the flood of endless money that goes into our politics, which I think is very unhealthy.
So there are a whole bunch of things I worry about there. And as I said in my speech on Tuesday, we’ve got more work to do on race. It is not — it is simply not true that things have gotten worse. They haven’t. Things are getting better and I have more confidence on racial issues in the next generation than I do in our generation or the previous generation. I think kids are smarter about it. They’re more tolerant. They are more inclusive by instinct than we are, and hopefully, my presidency maybe helped that along a little bit.
But you know, we — when we feel stress, when we feel pressure, when we’re just fed information that encourages some of our worst instincts, we tend to fall back into some of the old racial fears and racial divisions and racial stereotypes, and it’s very hard for us to break out of those and to listen and to think about people as people and to imagine being in that person’s shoes.
And by the way, it’s no longer a black and white issue alone. You got Hispanic folks and you got Asian folks, this is not just the same old battles that — we’ve got this stew that’s bubbling up from people everywhere and we’re going to have to make sure that we in our own lives and our own families and work places do a better job of treating everybody with basic respect and understanding that not everybody starts off in the same situation and imaging what would it be like if you were born in an inner city and had no job prospects anywhere within a 20 mile radius or how does it feel being born in some rural county where there’s no job opportunities within in a 20 mile radius and seeing those two things as connected as opposed to separate.
So, you know, we got work to do, but overall, I think on this front, the trend lines, ultimately, I think will be good. (…)