Making his first appearance before the United Nations General Assembly as president, Barack Obama laid out a forceful, well-received case for international cooperation in a globalized world. He laid out "four pillars" that would determine America's relationship to the diplomatic and peacekeeping body going forward: nuclear disarmament, energy security and climate change, democracy promotion and keeping the global peace.
He fought back against the UN's distaste for American unilateralism, cultivated under the tenure of George W. Bush and his UN ambassador John Bolton:
I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust. Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others. This has fed an almost reflexive anti-Americanism, which too often has served as an excuse for our collective inaction.
Having made amends in part for the disastrous prosecution of the Iraq War, the president then moved the conversation forward, critiquing "those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world," saying they "cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone."
Obama also spoke briefly about his own personal journey as a black American head of state:
As an African-American, I will never forget that I would not be here today without the steady pursuit of a more perfect union in my country. That guides my belief that no matter how dark the day may seem, transformative change can be forged by those who choose the side of justice. And I pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights – for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.
— DAYO OLOPADE
Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.