To Learn From History, Not Be Trapped by It

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
April 19, 2009
President Obama Arrives at Fifth Summit of the Americas

The White House Blog provides information about President Obama's remarks at the opening of the Fifth Summit of the Americas:

At the Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago where leaders from virtually every nation in the hemisphere gathered, President Obama addressed the opening ceremony of the Summit of the Americas on Friday night:

"All of us must now renew the common stake that we have in one another. I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past, and that trust has to be earned over time. While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. (Applause.) There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations; there is simply engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values. So I'm here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration. (Applause.)

To move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements. I am very grateful that President Ortega -- (applause) -- I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old. (Laughter.) Too often, an opportunity to build a fresh partnership of the Americas has been undermined by stale debates. And we've heard all these arguments before, these debates that would have us make a false choice between rigid, state-run economies or unbridled and unregulated capitalism; between blame for right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents; between sticking to inflexible policies with regard to Cuba or denying the full human rights that are owed to the Cuban people.

I didn't come here to debate the past -- I came here to deal with the future. (Applause.) I believe, as some of our previous speakers have stated, that we must learn from history, but we can't be trapped by it.

The President reiterated areas of opportunity for new partnerships, from stimulating the economy throughout the hemisphere, to alleviating poverty, to using the hemisphere’s vast resources to revolutionize energy use as we know it. Once again he addressed the need to stop the flow of drugs and guns across borders, saying that he is "making it a priority to ratify the Illicit Trafficking in Firearms Convention as another tool that we can use to prevent this from happening."

The President closed his remarks on issues that have long dominated relationships between the Americas, and which have already seen broad change in these first few months:

"There's been several remarks directed at the issue of the relationship between the United States and Cuba, so let me address this. The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba. I know that there is a longer -- (applause) -- I know there's a longer journey that must be traveled to overcome decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day. I've already changed a Cuba policy that I believe has failed to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. We will now allow Cuban Americans to visit the islands whenever they choose and provide resources to their families -- the same way that so many people in my country send money back to their families in your countries to pay for everyday needs.

Over the past two years, I've indicated, and I repeat today, that I'm prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues -- from drugs, migration, and economic issues, to human rights, free speech, and democratic reform. Now, let me be clear, I'm not interested in talking just for the sake of talking. But I do believe that we can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction.

As has already been noted, and I think my presence here indicates, the United States has changed over time. (Applause.) It has not always been easy, but it has changed. And so I think it's important to remind my fellow leaders that it's not just the United States that has to change. All of us have responsibilities to look towards the future. (Applause.)

I think it's important to recognize, given historic suspicions, that the United States' policy should not be interference in other countries, but that also means that we can't blame the United States for every problem that arises in the hemisphere. That's part of the bargain. (Applause.) That's part of the change that has to take place. That's the old way, and we need a new way."



California, USA
April 19, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

'A new way, a common stake.' Beautiful.

I feel such collaborative strength and beauty coming on to bloom in our dear hemisphere. A heliotropic time we're in -- growing toward the sun together.

Arizona, USA
April 19, 2009

Lynne in Arizona writes:

I voted for Barack and based on most of his actions to date, I would do so again. Thank you Mr. President for trying to make a difference.

June 25, 2009

Solomon in Madagascar writes:

Mr Obama president of the USA
Mm secretary Clinton of state gov
The all commadeur of the us Army.
The terrorism not stop sabotage and gafe us corespondence of the defence of peace in the world. there is piulfer the plan strategy of the us Air force in the web of the departement defence of usa, Also we need change and cancell the all strategy of atack on us air force because the terrorism already have and iself the us strategy and capable the us system strategy of war of the usa air force,we need wait my transfer the us new paln system strategy of war US009 for we earning the winn of war and against in all country terrorism in the world. I'm on time building us plan system startegy for we can up again the usa on economic and for we can participle on defit Economic in the world.
Mr president and Secreatry I'm need apointment of your direct
Also we need:
Not forget the action terrorism to cut of head the usa Army.
Not forget the atanta terrorism in new Yourk in 11 sept 2001
Not forget the slander your name and usa in Irak.
Not forget the sabotage the all comunication on economic and defence of usa .
Not forget the to kill the many and all usambassy in the world.
Not forget the action terrorism on atanta to kill people usa and in the world not victim.
we need revenge and need protect us honor of country usa on defence and economic .
we need destroy and ravage and to shoot and to bombing he and he country and he race as far as there is not up again and finish total.
we are on time war and on time peace.

Mr president we need expose in the world USA not already lost a war and economic..
Mr president your need launch law and autorized special on behalf the usa Government and cours justuce war on terrorism international for my name for I can lauch my give order and protect for the defence of Madagascar acompany of us Peace world and the defence of peace in the world can participle and support us on war and peace for shoot direct and Bombing the all responsability and he acompany the sabotage us defence in the world and the strategy of war of usa air force.

Confurme the all point strategy of war and defence of the USA in the all region and country we iself in the world. we need ready for execution us project presidential in Madagascar in date legal. we need prepare us system plan on economic and defence and the us coperation project of Madagascar and USA for rescue and up again the sutuation of the people Malgache acompany of us and Madagascar Nation and renforcement the usa on defence and economic.
confurme the security defence for me and the Madagascar country on Inter-mussil and Anti-mussil and in the satelite armour and surey. we don't fear, because the God already give us the winn.
Thank very much
The God us protege
Your coperation

Dominican Republic
April 20, 2009

Robert in the Dominican Republic writes:

Great speech by the President, short and to the point.

I know that Obama responded to a long "blistering speech" by Daniel Ortega, in which he cited the Bay of Pigs invation among other events, holding the United States responsible for turmoil in the region.

As always, left wing regimes posing as legitimate nations, have a long standing practice of blaming all their shortcomings on the United States.

Once again, President Obama is brief and brilliant in pointing to the future rather than dwelling in the past.

United States
April 20, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

Mr. Obama made a good point -- if Latin American nations want to have better relations with the U.S., its leaders can't go on rehashing ancient history about how America ruined their country, but focus on what needs to be done today.

I suppose Raul Castro could easily spend hours retelling CIA efforts to remove his brother from power, but how would that serve Cuba today? Raul is a smart man who can see an opportunity when one is presented.

Mr. Ortega could have spent his 50 minutes talking about what kind of relationship he envisioned between Nicaragua and the U.S., and that might have been interesting. He could have outlined things that the U.S. might change, policies which would help, and what needs to be done.

It is infrequent that a foreign leader has a chance to talk directly to a U.S. president in person, so it is a mistake to waste that opportunity complaining about things he already knows.

April 20, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Zarkov in U.S.A. -- Did the President say this Z?: "about how America ruined their country". NO! Why are you trying to put words in his mouth?

He indeed made a GREAT point, but this is not what are you attempting to counterfeit.

He said something FANTASTIC, according to my poor analysis of his words: Forget what you think that you think about "yesterday", AND LET'S BUILD A FUTURE.

United States
April 21, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

@ John in Greece, I was obviously talking about what Mr. Ortega said.

What did you think Mr. Ortega was talking about?

Did you think Ortega was praising U.S. foreign policy?

Can't you understand my post?

New Mexico, USA
April 21, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

More to the point, I don't think Cuba will be puting Topol-M's on the island anytime too soon, so maybe folks have learned something from history...

Although...same as it ever's a wee bit hard to discern at times, just what lessons folks that beg us to intervene by their bad behavior really expect us to teach them.

Life is right in any case, vive libertad!

New York, USA
April 21, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

New Definitions....


Turning to a new source of global optimism.

Geo-political projection:

An undiplomatic attempt to place onus of responsibility for your own corruption on another nation.

April 21, 2009

John in Greece writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A. -- If you think that your first paragraph says what you are saying now? OK! Although I doubt, I diplomatically have to say: my mistake! I can't understand!

So, I apologize. (What I got from your post, though, is that the President accepted the fact that "America ruined their countr(ies)y".) and the way you wrote it is like saying that THE PRESIDENT said so?

But anyway, I am not a native speaker. My mistake again!

Nevertheless, when you say without quotes, that "CIA efforts to remove his brother from power" I think that you present this as a fact. However, if CIA would like to have removed Castro from power, be sure Z, they would have done it -- and you have no facts that CIA tried, but didn't make it, right?

So, according to the way I understand your post, you "attempt" to present as facts two things among others:

1. The President accepted that America (U.S.A.) ruined LATAM, which is not a fact
2. and second, that CIA attempted to remove Castro from power, which is ridiculous, because they would have done it, if they wanted to do so. Actually, I don't think that CIA operates outside U.S.A. borders. But, you, as a real "patriot" know better than me! The problem is that you never mentioned what KGB and other "companies" still do! I mean, you have a "special" love talking only about CIA's accusations?

I know writing techniques you cannot imagine. You use the "robber technique". However, a good robber is not a robber at all, when she/he can not "hide".

Anyway, I apologize again, but remember that the most important, when you write, is the impression that you give and not what you think that you think you said?

Probably I'm wrong, but your writing impression is a bit "questionable".

This is my last post. Maybe I misunderstand/ood some things due to my poor English, but I would not like to create problems due to this language "distance". However, I will keep on reading you guys! It's more safe!

Tennessee, USA
April 21, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

The underlying platform is simply that: We all had a hand out with the devil for decades in South America, Central America and the Islands as Cuba; but, we now have more mutual interest in development and security for our citizen and will have to find more common ground.

Cuba has always been a political football and has only existed because it was beneficial to exist as it was and now is for many. Face it, if Venezuela really cared, would they not have increased trade more rather than been provisional to Castro? Some people only exist because it serves a greater purpose, even if it simply non involvement as they present no real threat or productive impute to any power.

With narcotics there have already been many changes. Columbia has been funneled to Mexico and that too will soon be more limited in the same manner. You will find the largest increase in the opiate trade is now a European problem, where growth is the largest.

Russia and Israel have always had their hands in the Americas; especially, during the cold war era. These countries represent large natural resources, work forces and strategic viability. While it may not be the cold war era, they do maintain a direct National Security concern to the U.S.

Once economic stability is achieved again, the newly established Banco Del Sur , which is made up of the Seven most productive Latin countries, will emerge with an economic leverage not yet held by any Latin group. One of China's new deals in Latin America, the $10 billion arrangement in all approved financing by the Inter-American Bank in 2008 must also be considered a fiscal lever by a foreign country on our borders.

The truth be known, we need Latin America as much as they need us for the first time in history, thus a change out of necessity perhaps.

United States
April 21, 2009

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

When leaders of nations are lucky enough to be able to speak directly to a U.S. president, they should say something useful.

The U.S. may have ruined the first Sandinista Revolution on purpose, but the fact that Daniel Ortega was elected and re-elected shows that neither the U.S., nor past history, prevented him from trying again in a more democratic way. Nicaragua managed to survive regardless of what the U.S. did or did not do.

The lesson Mr. Ortega could have learned is that he can acquire power with the consent of his people by their voting, not by his revolutionairies shooting at them.

I wonder if Mr. Chavez has fully understood that lesson?

Why threaten the other party leadership when Chavez already won the election? Why hassle the opposition when they might have some good suggestions for improvement?

When the main Venezuelan political opponent no longer feels safe in his own country, then Mr. Chavez's leadership has failed regardless of how the economy is doing. If political opposition is not safe, the people are not safe. If it is not Mr. Chavez at fault, then his agents need instruction perhaps.

The whole point of being a leader is to have willing followers. If one has to point a gun at them for obedience, they are no longer free and no longer following.


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