The commander in chief also addressed tomorrow’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Before responding to a question about his strategy in the Middle East, Obama noted, “I just want to remind people why we’re there, the day before Sept. 11: We’re there because that was the place where al-Qaida launched an attack that killed 3,000 Americans, and we want to make sure that we dismantle al-Qaida and that Afghanistan is never again used as a base for attacks against Americans and the American homeland.”
The final question of the morning asked for the president’s opinion on the controversy swirling around the proposed Park51 Islamic center near Ground Zero. Obama’s answer was his strongest of the day, and perhaps his strongest bit of oration in weeks:
We’re not at war with Islam; we’re at war with terrorist organizations. It’s important for us to remember that, because we’ve got millions of Muslim Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They’re going to school with our kids. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends, they’re our co-workers. And you know, when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?
I’ve got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan, in the uniform of the United States armed services. They’re out there putting their lives on the line for us. And we’ve got to make sure that we are crystal clear, for our sakes and their sakes: They are Americans and we honor their service. And part of honoring their service is making sure that they understand that we don’t differentiate between them and us. It’s just us.
After nearly an hour and a half of talk, it was the closing of a true leader finally finding his footing, if only for a few moments.
Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.