Transcript: Obama’s Middle East Speech

"We cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights."

President Barack Obama (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Read the remarks of President Barack Obama on the Middle East and North Africa, delivered today at the State Department:

Remarks of President Barack Obama — as Prepared for Delivery

“A Moment of Opportunity”

U.S. Department of State

May 19, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery —

I want to thank Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark: 1 million frequent flyer miles. I count on Hillary every day, and I believe that she will go down as of the finest secretaries of state in our nation’s history.

The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, history and faith.

Today I would like to talk about this change — the forces that are driving it, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security. Already we have done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we have removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan we have broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al-Qaida and its affiliates, we have dealt al-Qaida a huge blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden.