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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

President Obama’s Final Intervention at the end of the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit

Mr. President.

This will be very brief. I just want to, again, congratulate you for the outstanding work that you and your team have done in setting up this Summit.

When we first set up the summit in Washington, I think there was still some uncertainty as to how productive, how collaborative, these efforts would be. And the test obviously was whether we would see concrete deliverables and whether the participants in that first Summit would appear here in Korea, with not just words but deeds.

I just want to say how extraordinarily proud I am of all the leaders who participated, but also their teams who have engaged in a great deal of work over the last two years, in all sorts of ways, to create a safer world.

And to the leaders, in particular, I just want to mention the fact that I know it is very difficult for us to travel to these Summits. All of us have too many Summits to attend as it is in addition to the work that we do back home. But I would just point out that this relatively modest investment of our time is the forcing mechanism that allows our teams to do all the work leading up to these Summits. So I look forward to being in the Netherlands but I want to just encourage everybody to continue to take this with the utmost seriousness because I believe that we will meet the goal that we set two years ago that in four years’ time we will have made a significant leap with respect to the issue of nuclear security.

And I was talking to Prime Minister Monti of Italy about the fact that some of these changes, some of the initiatives that we have all taken, each of them seem like a small step but they add up to a significant shift. And the risks that we are addressing are relatively remote compared to some of the other challenges that we face day to day.

But in economics, there is the term ‘black swans’, the event that happens that may not happen very often, but when it happens it is a big, big problem. And as John Key mentioned, this is one of those issues that IF, heaven forbid, we ever saw one of our cities anywhere in the world, impacted by nuclear terrorism, it would fundamentally change, I think, our lives in ways that we cannot even imagine.

So, I just want to encourage everybody to stay with this, because two years from now, I think we will be able to look back and have reduced the risks that much more in a way that will benefit all of us over the long term and the investment is relatively small at least for us. I can say the same for all the excellent teams who have done so much work.

Thank you again, Mr. President, for your outstanding leadership in this conference.