In a historic speech, President Barack Obama addressed the Cuban people — and the world — from Havana, promising a new future for US-Cuba relations. “I am here to extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” said the President, and “…to bury the last remnants of the Cold War in the Americas.”
“Friends, family, neighbors,” the President observed that the US and Cuba were “like two brothers who have been estranged for many years, even though we share the same blood.” President Obama chose to focus his speech on all the things that Cubans and Americans share in common – instead of the ideological differences that have kept the countries divided for half a century.
While President Obama urged Congress to lift the 54-year embargo, he also recognized that even if the embargo were lifted tomorrow, the Cuban people would only benefit if there were also significant changes made by the Cuban government – including people being given the freedom of speech, the right to start and run their own businesses, and access to the Internet, to name just a few.
For most of the speech, President Obama seemed to be speaking directly to the Cuban people, as opposed to the Castro government. This said, he did directly challenge the regime to let the Cuban people decide their own future. He also made sure to address the Cuban American community, and the importance of helping to reconnect Cubans and Cuban Americans.
While recognizing American democracy is certainly not perfect, President Obama staunchly defended democracy, as it has given our nation the space to grow and change over time. A nation with a legacy of slavery, he noted that when he was born, it was illegal for his white mother and black father to marry. Thanks to the process of democratic change, he stands before the world today as President of the United States.
When President Obama declared in Spanish, “we are all Americans,” he was received with great applause from the audience. “It’s time now for us to leave the past behind.”