Thank you so much, Capricia. (Applause.) Oh no, please, please, thank you. Well, thank you all. Oh my goodness, we are delighted to have you here once again in the Ben Franklin Room and it’s exciting for us to have this series where we expect to have our high-level State Department people here to speak with you. I am, as Capricia just said, having to cut my time short to get to a meeting at the White House, unfortunately. But I’m looking around this room and I see many of our ambassadors and other members of the Diplomatic Corps who have made such a contribution to our relationships, and I’m very grateful to each and every one of you.
I want to begin by thanking Ambassador Olhaye, the dean of our Diplomatic Corps, for all of his many years of service and friendship. And thanks, of course, to Ambassador Marshall for creating this “State of the Administration” speakers series. And I know she was about to go into detail about the exciting trip upcoming to Chicago, which I’m especially happy about, that that’s the first out-of-Washington visit. It’s not only the home of President Obama, but it’s where I was born, so you see we’re a little biased about where you go first.
I know that there has been a lot on our plate in the last 15 months, and I’ve had the opportunity to visit many of your countries. I look forward to visiting the others that I have not yet gotten to, and I know even more how important it is that we have partnerships. That is a key word in the Obama Administration. We want to strengthen our relationships. We want to make sure that we are not only talking, but we’re also listening, and we are learning from you as well.
Now, as you know, we released the Nuclear Posture Review today. We’ll go to Prague for the signing of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia on Thursday. On Monday and Tuesday, we will host the Nuclear Security Summit. The START treaty reduces the number of strategic nuclear warheads in our arsenals to levels not seen for decades and underscores the United States’ commitment to working toward nuclear disarmament.
Many people say, “Well, that is just so far off.” Well, as you know, the old saying, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.” We are committed to this goal and we are working toward it.
The Nuclear Posture Review, which we announced today, I think you will find demonstrates a very clear commitment as well to the United States moving in a different direction when it comes to nuclear weapons. And then the Nuclear Security Summit is especially important because, as we will be discussing with heads of government and state who will be attending, as well as the entire international community, the threat of nuclear terrorism is, unfortunately and sadly, very real. We see it all the time as there are attempts by terrorist networks to obtain access to nuclear or radiological materials for the purpose of killing, maiming, intimidating, pressuring individuals and countries literally around the world.
Nonproliferation is one of our highest priorities and it will be something we continue to talk with each of you about, and we welcome your ideas and advice. This is an area where whatever differences may exist between and among countries, any authority in any country must stand against the threat of nuclear terrorism fomented by extremist networks who have no conscience and no concern for life and for the kind of future that we all hope for our children and generations to come. Nonproliferation is not the only item on our agenda, but we believe it is one of the most important, and it is clearly among the highest of President Obama’s concerns.
We are also working very hard on the difficult challenge posed by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. We have said repeatedly Iran is entitled to civil nuclear energy. It is a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty regime, and as such, it has three obligations it has assumed: nuclear energy that is used in a civil, peaceful way; disarmament; and nonproliferation. We have all signed on to that bargain, those of us who are signatories. But the evidence that Iran has something else in mind is convincing.
I know there are many countries that wish that it were not so. The United States is among those. President Obama worked very hard these last 15 months to change our relationship with Iran, to reach out, to have a normal engagement, to look for areas of common concern, recognizing we obviously had differences. That outreach has not been reciprocated. So it is clearly a very high national and international priority for the international community to come together to make it clear that Iran is not entitled to nuclear weapons.
I want to thank most of the countries here for the generous support you have extended to Haiti. And I look forward to working with you in a number of other initiatives such as the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, the Global Health Initiative, and of course, I can’t speak to any distinguished group without saying that the more we do to empower women, the more successful societies become. That is a given.
So I thank you for your very good efforts to work through this diplomatic partnership initiative, and I think I will ask Capricia to come back to explain the trip to Chicago. And I hope you have as wonderful a time there as both President Obama could wish for you. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
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