Remarks by the Vice President at the Eizenstat Lecture
8:37 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, very much, Mr. Ambassador. If my father were here, he’d believe it. And my mother would say, who in the heck are you talking about it? (Laughter.)
It’s -- if I were smart, I’d say thank you and just sit down right now. (Laughter.) I won’t take much time -- I could spend the whole lecture talking about my affection, the respect and how much I -- I mean this sincerely -- we're the same age, but how much I’ve looked up to Stu. And --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Can you speak up?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I can. I can. (Laughter.) I’m trying to -- I’m trying to -- (laughter) -- sort of control my emotion right now because I love this guy. And we’ve been through a lot together. And I learned a lot from Stu. He has, as been pointed out, served in multiple capacities, serving his country. But the thing I’ve always admired about Stu was his basketball prowess in high school. (Laughter.) You all think I’m kidding. I’m not. (Laughter.)
I had a couple cranial aneurisms in -- and the first time around, they told my family I might not make it. and they asked me to say good-bye to my children for real. Before we went down to the operating room. And I said to my son -- Beau and Hunter, I said, fellahs, look, it’s not going to happen. But if anything happens -- you're trying to joke -- I said, I don't want anything on my tombstone about senator and all the stuff. I just want you to put: Husband, son, father, athlete. (Laughter.) My brother learned later in the waiting room that's what I said, and he said, delusional to the end. (Laughter.) But the thing I liked about -- my coach used to always say to me, you got to be able to go to your left. Playing basketball -- those of you who are basketball players. (Laughter.) The thing I liked about Stu, he’s gone to his left his whole life. I like him so much. (Applause.)
And, Stu, it is not hyperbole to suggest that all that you've done and accomplished would not have been done as well or been as consequential without Fran. And I know it still leaves a hole in your heart.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great honor to be here. As I look at the others who have spoken at the Eizenstat Lecture Series, it’s a virtual rogues gallery of the leading international figures in American and international relations. And so I’m flattered to be counted among those who have been able to speak here.
With your permission, I’d like to talk to you tonight about the state of the world and where and what I think -- where America sits and what I think our role should be.
As Stu remembers, I’m always quoting Irish poets. And people think I quote Irish poets because I’m Irish. That's not the reason. I quote them because they're simply the best poets in the world. (Laughter.)
“All’s changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.”
Those words were written by William Butler Yeats in a poem called “Easter 1916,” commemorating the First Rising in Ireland in the 20th century. He used them to describe his Ireland at that moment, but I would respectfully suggest those words better describe the world today than they did Yeats’ Ireland in 1915. For all has changed, changed utterly.
In the past 15 years more changes and challenges, and more opportunities than any time since World War have beset us. Back then much of Europe and Asia was in ruins. And there was nothing obvious about the wisdom of rebuilding our former allies, as well as our former enemies. It was one of the great inflection points in human history. And a new international order was needed to keep the peace and bring prosperity back to the world.
So we launched the Marshall Plan, created the United Nations, NATO, the World Bank, the IMF and so much -— because we recognized that democracy never flourishes where economy is dormant.
It took vision and it took political courage. And the nations around the world reaped the benefit, nowhere more than we did here in the United States of America.
Today, I respectfully suggest we stand at another inflection point in our history. China has become the single-most important relationship of the 21st century. New powers like India and Brazil are altering the global balance. Existing powers, like Russia, and regional powers, like Iran, are testing -– and crossing -– the limits of international law and acceptable behavior. And non-state actors like ISIL are upending state systems in the Middle East and present a clear and present danger to so many. The technological revolution that we're undergoing is opening entire new frontiers of innovation and collaboration, but also exposing us to new significant vulnerabilities. The energy revolution is transferring the geopolitical landscape.
We no longer face the world-ending dangers of -- we confronted during the Cold War when thermonuclear exchanges were a possibility -- a real possibility. Today’s threats are more diverse and different in magnitude. But there’s no doubt that terrorism is a threat of which we must remain vigilant, but also keeping in perspective: The risk of the average American dying from a car crash or from cancer is far more likely than being the victim of a terrorist attack.
Even if we face fewer existential threats than previous generations, I understand the world doesn’t always feel like it’s a separate -- a safer place. When we turn on our TV or the phone screens that we carry, they are filled with images of brutality and disorder.
In this complex and seemingly chaotic world, securing our vital interests requires strengthening the key pillars of our global leadership and exercising our influence in the right and wise way.
We can’t just lead only by the example of our power; we also must lead by the power of our example. We have to maintain the finest military in the world. We need a prosperous economy -— both as the foundation for a stronger military but also as the lynchpin for our global influence. And we must stay true to our values –- because the more we enjoy the world’s respect, the more and the easier it is for us to be able to lead the world.
It’s clear we have to confront the challenges of the day -– but we can’t lose sight of the big picture –- the long view.
We without question remain the most powerful nation in the world -– the world’s most indispensable power. And we have demonstrated, and we have the power to demonstrate it that we will not hesitate to act alone in using that power to protect the American people or our vital interests.
But it’s important we understand that not every problem in the world is about us. That’s why in our administration we’ve focused on several key principles: One, defending and expanding the basic rules of international order that provide the framework for global security and prosperity; two, reinvigorating and modernizing our core alliances and partnerships to be able to collectively tackle some of the world’s most pressing and elusive challenges; and thirdly, engaging emerging powers and the world’s most dynamic regions, to expand the community of nations invested in making the international order succeed.
At this new inflection point, this approach positions the United States not just to react, but to seize the enormous opportunities that lie before us to create a safer, more secure, more prosperous world in the decades ahead. Because there’s enormous opportunities if you're smart and a little lucky.
An essential pillar of our global leadership remains
our military might. Our military must and will remain the most capable fighting force in the history of the world. And that is not hyperbole -- in the history of the world.
We must never forget in the process the sacred obligation that we have to our men and women in uniform not just to provide them with what they need in battle, but to fight for them and take care of them and their families when they return home. (Applause.)
Because of who we are, we have never hesitated to use force when necessary, even if it means acting on our own. But in every case, our use of force should be guided by two main principles: one, defending the American people and our vital national interests; and, two, when we deploy forces in the field, doing so in a way that connects to a clear strategy and a sustainable outcome. (Applause.)
Even as over the last seven years, we’ve vastly improved our homeland security, we have nonetheless taken the fight to Al Qaeda and ISIL, and other violent extremists that threaten our citizens by going after the terrorists wherever they hide.
We’ve decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan and the FATA and elsewhere, including Osama Bin Laden and, more recently, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. We’ve carried out over 6,500 airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, taking more than 10,000 of their fighters off the battlefield, including many of their top leaders. In fact, in the past few weeks, our airstrikes have taken out the ISIL’s number two leader and ISIL's top online recruiter.
But whenever we consider deploying force, we have to do so in a way that’s sustainable. Lasting outcomes are best achieved by fighting alongside, and in support of, capable and willing partners.
So we’re working alongside countries like Great Britain, France, Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, and many of our Arab partners, and now Turkey, to take the fight to ISIL and support local forces in Iraq and Syria. Our military strikes have allowed anti-ISIL forces -- many of them Kurds -- to retake all but 60 miles of the Syrian-Turkey border, and I’ve been directly involved in discussions with President Erdogan in Turkey to get them engaged finally in clearing the final 60 miles that allows access of foreign fighters and material to ISIL in Syria.
In Iraq, although you’d never know it from the headlines, ISIL now controls a third less territory than they did a year ago. ISIL is a horrific enemy. Every time we think we’ve seen the limits of their depravity, they reveal a new method of torture, murder, slavery, and the destruction of ancient cultural heritage. They’re even now using a bastardized version of the Koran to justify on religious grounds rape as an appropriate behavior.
Make no mistake about it. We will destroy this scourge, but it will take time. As we have said from the beginning this is going to be a multi-year campaign, and we’re only a year into it. The extent of ISIL’s 25,000 foreign fighters coming from 100 different countries is something the world has never seen before.
We will continue to degrade and ultimately destroy them, but we have to be honest and sober about how long it will take and how difficult it will be. This requires a degree of diligence and patience. And sending thousands of ground troops –- as many of our friends seem eager to do -– isn’t a solution.
To be sustainable, it must be the people and the local governments who stand up. We can and will help them -– but we cannot do it for them. (Applause.)
A strong military is only possible with a strong economy -– a second pillar of our global leadership. We have gone from crisis to recovery, and we’re on the cusp of a genuine resurgence if we seize the moment.
American corporations are coming home. These beautiful children sitting in front of me will not hear the word outsourcing in their generation; the word is insourcing. (Applause.)
And that's not because of Barak Obama and Joe Biden, although I think we’ve helped. (Applause.) No, I didn't say that for applause. I’m being completely straightforward with you. As Stu points out, no one ever doubts I mean what I say, but the problem is sometimes I say all that I mean. (Laughter.)
Corporations are staying and coming home to America because we have the best research universities in the world. We have the most adaptive venture capitalist system in the world. We have a rule of law that protects intellectual property; courts that fairly adjudicate contractual differences. We have the most productive workers in the world -- three times as productive as workers in China, for example. And we are and will be for the remainder of three-quarters of this century, the epicenter of energy is North America. It is not the Arabian Peninsula. It is not Africa. It is not Venezuela. It is, in fact, without exaggeration North America. (Applause.)
And if we were smart and we can begin to deal with the dysfunction in Washington, we maintain this momentum. But we need to do two things. One, there used to be a bipartisan consensus that America should have the most modern infrastructure in the world. We do not have the most modern infrastructure in the world. But we must in order to sustain the economic growth that we're on the verge of seeing take off. And secondly, we have to have the most skilled workforce in the world. If we do those two things, we will not only remain competitive -- we will -- I guarantee you be the most dominant economic force in the 21st century.
And the final pillar of our leadership rests on remaining what John Winthrop called and Ronald Reagan spoke of that “shining city on the hill,” a leader worthy of the rest of the world to follow. Success in international relations, like any relationship, comes down to respect. It comes down to matching our words and our deeds.
That’s why it’s so critical that we banned torture. How can we talk about our system of justice and equality and sustain and justify torture? (Applause.)
How can we continue to hold up our Constitution and our Bill of Rights as a shining example to which the rest of the world attempts to repair without closing Guantanamo? (Applause.)
How can we lead without reforming the conduct intelligence operations; and why it’s so critical that we put in place a comprehensive immigration policy that recognizes the dignity of all people? (Applause.)
The President asked me to manage relations in this hemisphere. And I promise you nothing is more consequential to even the most sophisticated, well-educated leaders in the hemisphere other than recognizing that we treat people of like culture with respect.
My Grandfather Finnegan was a very well-educated man. But he never -- and he wasn’t a typical Irishman who celebrated and wore funny hats on St. Patrick’s Day. He was a sober soul. But he could never reconcile his attitude toward Great Britain. And the reason for that is, even though he was in America, he said, Joey, how can I believe I’m respected when they don't respect the heritage I come from?
The same thing pertains throughout this hemisphere, folks. It’s the right thing for our country and for our standing in the world to stand by our values.
And I’m confident that if we sustain the world’s strongest military, the most robust economy, and remain true to our values, we will remain for the foreseeable future the world’s indispensable nation.
But as I said, the world is changing. There are multiplying actors, and deepening interconnections. And we have to work in concert with others whenever possible to head off the common threats and pursue common interests.
In today's world –- with all its changes, we need to continue to defend the basic rules of the international order, adapting and expanding those rules for the 21st century.
The founding principle of the modern international system was out of the Treaty of Westphalia, it’s about territorial integrity, the inviolability of borders. No principle matters more to our common security. Without it, there is chaos.
Nations have not always respected this principle, but there is no question that adherence to it has dramatically improved over the last 50 years. At the end of the Cold War, NATO and Russia signed what most people forget a thing called the “Founding Act,” a document that stated that both Russia and the member states of NATO would abide by the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity and would refrain from the threat or use of force in contravention of the U.N. Charter and the Helsinki Final Act.
Setting the stage for the first time in modern history of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. But yet last year, in an effort to support Ukraine's ability to choose its own destiny, Russia illegally annexed the Crimea and sent troops and weapons to eastern Ukraine.
In the face of that aggression, we acted –- imposing hard-hitting sanctions against the Russian economy; using all our power and influence to bring along our European members who were more reluctant to engage in this activity; convincing the international community to oppose Russia's actions, including suspending their participation in the G8. Were we not leading that effort, it would have been another example in this generation of a transgression that is impermissible without the international community responding, leading to more transgressions. And if this aggression continues, the costs for Russia will continue to climb.
In the domain of international trade, the rules governing free trade among nations have been essential to the unprecedented increase in global prosperity since World War II. This was reflected in America’s post-World War II commitment to protect the conduits through which commerce flows. This commitment is even more essential today.
But we need to update the rules to reflect a modern economy and the progress in human rights and progression. We need trade agreements that the rights of labor and workers, protect the environment. And in a globalized economy, we have to reinforce our commitment to the free flow of commerce -– in the air, on the seas, and in cyberspace.
That's why we’re finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership to boost trade and ensure a level playing field across the Asia Pacific. Twelve economies representing nearly 40 percent of the world’s GDP –- uniting behind a new standard to protect workers, to protect the environment, to level the playing field, to allow real competition supporting jobs, both in that region and here at home. We need to reinforce the principle of freedom of navigation around the globe, because unlike any other time in history, 90 percent of all the commerce in the world is on the back of a ship out on open waters, as I speak. That's why we're championing and establishing international norms, as well in the realm of international cyberspace –- the backbone of today’s information economy being breached repeatedly.
And to state the obvious: our security and economy are closely intertwined with the global environment, the issue of global warming.
That’s why we’re leading the world to design a new global agreement to address the enormous threat posed by climate change going into the U.N. climate summit here in December, making some very difficult decisions so those beautiful children in front of me will be in a position to enjoy this country and the environment as much as we have.
Another cornerstone of the international order is the common commitment to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. This is embodied in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty -– the most widely adhered to arms control, disarmament agreement in history –- 190 countries signed on.
That’s why -– from day one, and I say this in a synagogue -– we have devoted so much time and energy to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. There was a lot of talk about that before. But until we came along, there was no weapons system developed to be able to do anything about it. And the number of centrifuges and stockpiles of uranium that were acquired mushroomed before we took office.
But through the concerted efforts and the leadership of President Obama, we’ve united the word in imposing crippling sanctions on Iran, resulting in an agreement that prevents Iran from ever acquiring such a weapon.
I know there is a great deal of controversy surrounding this deal. (Applause.) This morning before I went back to Washington I spent time with I believe it was 40 of the leading Jewish activists and leaders in Miami discussing in detail for almost two and a half hours this agreement. And I’m going to say -- and presumptuous of me -- what Stu implied. I take a back seat to no one who holds any office anywhere in any party at any level in the United States -- It take a back seat to no one in my support and commitment to Israel. (Applause.)
And I have no doubt this deal will make us safer, Israel safer, and the region safer, and the world safer. Because it allows us to retain every single, solitary option we have today with increasing capacity for as far as the eye can see.
I say this as someone who has spent decades looking closely at arms control agreements. Revealing my age, I go all the way back to being engaged as a young senator in the SALT agreement. I said that to a large audience the other day of people young than me and they thought I was talking about salt and pepper. (Laughter.) They didn't know what the devil I was talking about. But I’ve been involved -- and Stu will remember in every single major arms control agreement because as a young man when I entered the Senate, if you wanted to be involved in international relations, you had to master strategic doctrine because that was the only game in town in terms of international relations and interchange with the Soviet Union.
And I have been a skeptic, as the press has pointed out. I’ve been, as they say in Southern Delaware, the skunk at the family picnic. (Laughter.) I’ve been a skeptic about the administration’s ability to negotiate this agreement. But I am convinced -- and this deal is not about trust. This deal is only about one thing -- the ability to verify without anyone able to interfere with our ability to verify and re-impose sanctions.
This deal provides a long-term solution, closing off every pathway Iran has to a bomb. It contains Iran’s enrichment capacity for more than a decade –- reducing their centrifuges by two-thirds; their stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent –- preventing them from using uranium to produce a bomb. And the Arak reactor -- it prevents the Arak reactor from becoming a plutonium factory. It imposes the most intrusive inspections regime ever negotiated in any arms control agreement in history -- (applause) -- offering the best defense against a covert program.
And if Iran violates the deal, we can impose sanctions and no one can stop us at the U.N. And we can re-impose our own sanctions. And no collection of states, including Russia, China, can block us from doing that the way the agreement is written.
And if Iran ever moves to acquire a nuclear weapon, all options are at our disposal, including the military option. And our capabilities and intelligence grow -- as they grow, many of the options that we now have will improve significantly. If I want to rob your house, before I do that, I’m allowed to have inspectors in every room in your home, know which drawer you have the condiments in, know where the towels are, et cetera, and then you violate an agreement -- my ability to go back into your house is overwhelmingly more -- I’m more capable of doing it had I never been in that house. That's what this inspection regime allows. And no one argues, including our friends in Israel, that for the next minimum 10 years, that we have absolute transparency. And by the way for the record, we can challenge an inspection anywhere in Iran, including military bases, including military sites. I could go on and take the whole evening to speak to this, but this is a good deal.
And if we walk away from this deal, as some of our critics propose, we gain none of those benefits: sanctions at a minimum would begin to collapse. I predict they’d collapse completely. American leadership in the world would be questioned; our visibility into Iran’s program would evaporate; and Iran would be left with only a few short months away from getting the material needed for a nuclear weapon. And no one can test that here or abroad.
The last point. Our diplomacy with Iran makes clear, the challenges we face today require collective responses, both in enhancing our success and building international consensus for the actions we may have to take on our own, which is why another key element of our strategy entails strengthening our core alliances and our partnerships.
In Europe, we’ve strengthened NATO, improved our collective capabilities in response to the common threats. In the face of Russian transgressions on Europe’s frontier, we have not only rallied our European allies to support Ukraine and penalize Russia, we’ve also increased NATO deployments on land, sea, and the air over Central and Eastern Europe. Simultaneously, we are encouraging and assisting countries across Europe to diversify their energy policies in order to limit the ability of Moscow to use energy as a political weapon.
In Asia, we’re building on six decades of commitments underwriting the region’s security and stability by modernizing our alliance and expanding cooperation.
America today has more peacetime military training and partnerships in the Asia Pacific than ever before. And by 2020, 60 percent of our naval assets and 60 percent of our air power will be stationed in the Pacific.
Beyond mutual defense, we’re working with our allies in Europe and Asia on everything from Ebola to counterterrorism to climate change. In the Middle East, our alliances with Israel and our strategic relationships with our Arab partners also remain critical to the security and stability of the global economy.
Our commitment to Israel’s security remains –- and will always remain -– absolutely unshakable. (Applause.) Absolutely unshakeable. We’re in the midst of a policy disagreement with the Israeli government, just as previous administrations have. But let me make something absolutely clear: Israel has no greater friend than the United States, and no President -- I know I get credit; I’m automatically, and it’s very kind of everybody to give me credit for my credibility and support for Israel -- but there’s always the question, but I don't know about Barack in some quarters. This President has done more to advance Israel’s security than any President in history. (Applause.)
We are providing -- as the Israeli Council may have to reluctantly acknowledge -- 20 percent of Israel’s entire defense budget is paid for by the United States of America. It has never been there before. And we make no apologies for that. More than $3 billion every year in security assistance; a willingness to talk about a 10-year guarantee, a memorandum of understanding that it will not be lessened; another $3 billion in addition to that; extensive support for Israel’s missile defense systems, including Arrow-3 and David’s Sling, and $1 billion in supplemental support for Iron Dome since 2010, saving countless Israeli lives. (Applause.)
We’ve taken unprecedented steps to ensure Israel maintains its qualitative edge against any potential foe, including the provision of penetrating munitions, the F-35 stealth fighter, which only Israel will possess in the region.
This commitment to Israel on my part and the President is personal. Consequently, we will continue to remain a steadfast supporter of Israel. And when this is finished, I predict to you Israel will -- and Bibi who is an old friend, a personal friend -- will be willing to sit down and talk about what additional security assistance we can provide along the lines that we’ve offered.
There’s also a state of apprehension among some of our Arab friends about the wider implications of the Iran deal. I get these concerns. But let me be crystal clear: This nuclear deal is not a grand bargain with Iran any more than a START agreement was a grand bargain with the dictatorship of the communist regime in the Soviet Union while they were about seeing to it that American lives were in jeopardy, while they were invading other countries, while they were destabilizing Africa, while they were destabilizing other parts of the world. This is not a permission slip for Tehran to destabilize the region and threaten our friends.
And let me make something else clear. Every sanction in place against any entity or individual in Iran for the support and encouragement of terrorism stays in place. Nothing changes. And we will continue to sanction any entity and take physical action where we can against Iran for supplying weapons from anyone to the Houthis to Hezbollah.
That’s why the President convened our Gulf partners at Camp David in May, and why I’m going back tomorrow to meet with the King of Saudi Arabia and the Defense Minister, initiating a plan to expand our security cooperation.
That's why, as we speak, there are still 35,000 forces -- American troops, like my son who spent a year in Iraq -- deployed in the region to protect our interests and defend our friends. Just as we did during the Cold War -– when we struck arms control agreements with the Soviets, while continuing to counter all the threats they posed to us and our allies around the world, we will continue to push back against the destabilizing activities of Iran; defending our interests and our allies against Iranian aggression; speaking out against anti-Semitism, Iran’s human rights abuses and demand the release of people illegally held; and continue to sanction and maintain sanctions on any entities, including the IRGC and Soleimani and others -- who support and engage in destabilization.
Over the next decade, it’s possible the Iranian people will demand moderation of the government behavior. There will be a new regime in place. But I’m not counting on that, and no one should. This nuclear deal is not premised on that.
Even as we confront today’s threats, in that region, we have opportunity to seize transformational opportunities –- expanding the community of responsible stakeholders invested in common security and stability. And to do this, we have to deepen our engagement with emerging powers and the world’s most dynamic regions, expanding the community of responsible stakeholders invested in common security and prosperity.
Countries like India, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria –- actors that increasingly play a critical role in addressing global challenges.
But managing our relationship with China is maybe the single-most important relationship that will shape the course of the 21st century. In 1979, as a young Senator, I was along with five other senators the first Americans to visit China after “normalization.” What I saw then, I still believe, is that a rising and peaceful China can be a positive partner on the world stage. But I have spent over 25 hours alone with President Xi. I know him well. We understand one another. And what we have made clear -- the President and I -- is cooperation with China is vital to address climate change, non-proliferation, stability on the Korean Peninsula, global health, and development. But even as we talk about cooperation, there will be areas of competition.
And I want to make it clear. We have told President Xi individually and collectively that we want China to succeed and we welcome the competition. Competition is stamped into the DNA of all Americans. But as the President and I have made clear, it’s important for China to be, not only a responsible stakeholder in the international community, but a responsible competitor, as well. And if they are not, we will respond.
And in some areas, they have not been a responsible competitor; cyber threat is a glaring example. And we will not hesitate to speak out and demand respect for civil society and basic human rights. We’ve also been clear that China and the neighboring states must respect the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and in their air defense zones.
I made it clear when I was last in China immediately after the Chinese announced unilaterally the establishment of a air-defense zone. I made it clear we will not respect it, and then we flew our bombers directly through it to make it clear we will not. We will not abide by any unilateral rule that impacts commerce or freedom of flight.
We also told President XI that we have always been and we will remain a Pacific power. Over 7,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean laps up on our shores. We are a Pacific power. And we will remain a Pacific power.
In my personal conversation with the President, I made clear the reason for China’s stability has been primarily the presence of America in the region for the past 70 years maintaining the stability. And no nation has benefitted more from that stability than China.
On the other side of the Pacific equation, in the Western Hemisphere, we also have another transformational opportunity. For the first time in history, we can truly envision a hemisphere that’s secure, democratic, and middle class from Canada to Chile and everywhere in between.
But the keys to this transformative moment is establish for the first time in our history a genuine trust and respect in the hemisphere. Toward that end, we have expanded our outreach to every country in the region. And we‘ve put behind the ideological battles of the past that were the source of so much division in the hemisphere. That’s one reason why we made the historic change in our relationship with Cuba. (Applause.)
The key to transformation ultimately though -- the key to transformation ultimately in this hemisphere is gaining the respect and trust of the region –- establish a relationship based on mutual respect. I made a speech in Colombia that I’ve now heard repeated by almost every President in South America. I said, it’s no longer what we can for you, it’s what we can do with you. It’s amazing the impact that one phrase has had in the hemisphere.
And toward that objective, it is absolutely necessary we have a rational and humane immigration policy. (Applause.)
The President asked me to lead our work in the Americas, to strengthen our relationships, and to take advantage of the region’s enormous potential for the benefit of all the citizens of this hemisphere.
And that’s why over the last three years, I’ve personally worked with the leaders throughout the region to tackle challenges from energy security in the Caribbean, to violence and poverty in Central America, to accelerating economic cooperation with Mexico, and testing the limits of our relationship with Brazil.
But there are a lot of tough choices that still have to be made. In some places, that means demanding elites pay their fair share in order to put police on their own streets, provide basic services, end corruption, respond to the poor. It means tackling corruption head on.
The President and I understand how difficult this is going to be, but we also see the limitless potential of this hemisphere –- if we work together and get this done. When President Harry S. Truman announced his doctrine in 1947, establishing the current world order, he said, “Great responsibilities have been placed upon us by the swift movement of events.”
At this inflection point in 2015, another set of swift movements places upon us great responsibility to update the international order and usher in the next era of peace and prosperity.
Not every problem is about us and not every problem has a neat solution. But if we are wise, if we have the resolve and the belief in the core values that set us apart, if we lead the way that defines our vital interests while bringing the international community along with us, we can make the world a more just and secure place.
That is the generational responsibility in 2015. It will be hard. But if you're ever going to be engaged in this enterprise, the time to be engaged is when the world is changing. That's the only opportunity.
I’ll conclude by saying I had a professor -- a teacher in high school, physics, who defined an inflection point as you're driving down the highway 60 miles an hour, both hands were on the wheel, and you abruptly turn it 10 degrees to the right or the left, meaning you’re never able to get back on the course you were on. There are certain times in history where that's exactly what happens. But we have our hand on the wheel. And with some wisdom and adherence to our principles, we have an opportunity to bend history just a little bit -- bend it just a little bit.
And if we do, the benefits we’ll reap for America, and in turn, the world will be as profound as the benefits our grandparents reaped for us at the end of World War II.
May God bless you all and may God protect our troops. Thank you. (Applause.)