Weekly Address: President Obama – A New Chapter with Cuba

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, President Obama discussed his upcoming trip to Cuba, a visit that will further advance the progress we’ve made since he announced the new chapter of U.S. – Cuba relations more than a year ago. This will be the first visit of a U.S. President to Cuba in nearly 90 years. President Obama believes the best way to promote American interests and values, and help improve the lives of the Cuban people, is through engagement. During his trip, the President will meet with President Raul Castro to discuss the progress we’ve made in the ongoing process of normalizing relations, and reaffirm our support of universal values like freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. The President will also meet with members of civil society and Cuban entrepreneurs, and speak directly to the Cuban people about our shared beliefs and continued support as they build the future they want. The President acknowledges the serious differences we have with the Cuban government, and although the transformation of this new relationship will take time, the President noted that his visit to Cuba will advance the goals that guide us – promoting American interests and values, and assisting efforts to build a future of more freedom and more opportunity for the Cuban people.

Transcript: WEEKLY ADDRESS: A New Chapter with Cuba

Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address, The White House, February 20, 2016

Hi, everybody. This week, we made it official—I’m going to Cuba.

When Michelle and I go to Havana next month, it will be the first visit of a U.S. president to Cuba in nearly 90 years. And it builds on the decision I made more than a year ago to begin a new chapter in our relationship with the people of Cuba.

You see, I believe that the best way to advance American interests and values, and the best way to help the Cuban people improve their lives, is through engagement—by normalizing relations between our governments and increasing the contacts between our peoples. I’ve always said that change won’t come to Cuba overnight. But as Cuba opens up, it will mean more opportunity and resources for ordinary Cubans. And we’re starting to see some progress.

Today, the American flag flies over our embassy in Havana, and our diplomats are interacting more broadly with the Cuban people. More Americans are visiting Cuba than at any time in the last 50 years—Cuban-American families; American students, teachers, humanitarian volunteers, faith communities—all forging new ties and friendships that are bringing our countries closer. And when direct flights and ferries resume, even more of our citizens will have the chance to travel and work together and know each other.

American companies are starting to do business in Cuba, helping to nurture private enterprise and giving Cuban entrepreneurs new opportunities. With new Wi-Fi hotspots, more Cubans are starting to go online and get information from the outside world. In both our countries, there’s overwhelming support for this new relationship. And in Cuba today, for the first time in a half century, there is hope for a different future, especially among Cuba’s young people who have such extraordinary talent and potential just waiting to be unleashed.

My visit will be an opportunity to keep moving forward. I’ll meet with President Castro to discuss how we can continue normalizing relations, including making it easier to trade and easier for Cubans to access the Internet and start their own businesses. As I did when I met President Castro last year, I’ll speak candidly about our serious differences with the Cuban government, including on democracy and human rights. I’ll reaffirm that the United States will continue to stand up for universal values like freedom of speech and assembly and religion.

I’ll meet with members of Cuba’s civil society—courageous men and women who give voice to the aspirations of the Cuban people. I’ll meet with Cuban entrepreneurs to learn how we can help them start new ventures. And I’ll speak directly to the Cuban people about the values we share and how I believe we can be partners as they work for the future they want.

We’re still in the early days of our new relationship with the Cuban people. This transformation will take time. But I’m focused on the future, and I’m confident that my visit will advance the goals that guide us—promoting American interests and values and a better future for the Cuban people, a future of more freedom and more opportunity.

Thanks everybody. And to the people of Cuba—nos vemos en La Habana.

Bolding added.



  1. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a reception this past week at the White House to honor Black History Month.

    Transcript: Remarks by the President at Black History Month Reception

    … we gather to celebrate Black History Month, and from our earliest days, black history has been American history. (Applause.) We’re the slaves who quarried the stone to build this White House; the soldiers who fought for our nation’s independence, who fought to hold this union together, who fought for freedom of others around the world. We’re the scientists and inventors who helped unleash American innovation. We stand on the shoulders not only of the giants in this room, but also countless, nameless heroes who marched for equality and justice for all of us. […]

    But Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history — (applause) — or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington, or from some of our sports heroes. There are well-meaning attempts to do that all around us, from classrooms to corporate ad campaigns. But we know that this should be more than just a commemoration of particular events.

    It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America. It’s about taking an unvarnished look at the past so we can create a better future. It’s a reminder of where we as a country have been so that we know where we need to go. […]

    America is a nation that is a constant work in progress. That’s why we are exceptional. We don’t stop. There’s a gap — there always will be — between who we are and the “perfect union,” that ideal that we see. But what makes us exceptional, what makes us Americans is that we fight wars and pass laws, and we march, and we organize unions, and we stage protests, and that gap gets smaller over time. And it’s that effort to form a “more perfect union” that marks us as a people.

    As long as we keep at it, as long as we don’t get discouraged, as long as we are out there fighting the good fight not just on one day, or one month, but every single day, and every single month, I have no doubt that we’re going to live up to the promise of our founding ideals — and that all these young children who are standing in front, no matter who they are or where they come from, they’re going to have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.

    • Tweeted out from the White House yesterday:

      The White House @WhiteHouse
      Every child, no matter who they are, should have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. #BlackHistoryMonth

  2. In the News: Planned Parenthood (and poor women) still under attack

    Despite a complete lack of evidence that Planned Parenthood is breaking any laws, Republican lawmakers are pressing ahead with their relentless crusade against the national women’s health organization.

    A series of heavily edited videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling aborted baby parts continues to influence the national debate, even though it’s become clear those claims aren’t based in fact. Last month, a Houston grand jury concluded that Planned Parenthood hasn’t done anything wrong. Every state-level investigation into the group has come up empty.

    But that’s made no difference to the GOP politicians who are insistent on using this discredited information to attack Planned Parenthood. It’s working. In several states this week, Republican leaders successfully advanced their efforts to undermine the organization’s work.

    That would be Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Texas. In Wisconsin, 60,000 women will lose access to family planning and cancer screening services.

  3. Maybe there is hope for humanity: The Muslims of Appalachia: Kentucky coal country embracing the faithful

    PRESTONSBURG, Kentucky — With its coal-caked hills, isolation and deep poverty, Southeastern Kentucky is probably not the first place that springs to mind when one considers the Muslim experience in America.

    But nonetheless a small Muslim community has settled in the Appalachians, making a home forged in the ash-black-smudged margins. Friendships are made and communities are established, even as a wider debate rages around the prejudice of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims immigrating to the U.S.[…]

    While mosques in other southern states have experienced increasing turbulence and threats, the Prestonsburg mosque has generally been met with nonchalance.

    “I got one call after 9/11 from someone at 2 a.m.,” recalls Syed Badrudduja, the mosque’s imam who is also a well-known local surgeon. And that phone call, the imam notes, wasn’t even from the area; it was from Ohio.

    The insular, protect-our-own culture of eastern Kentucky extends to the Muslims who call the area home.

    “People have been very kind. Even after 9/11 people would come up to me and say `if anyone gives you problems, we’ll take care of it for you, we have your back,’” Badrudduja says. He says that the mosque serves a need in remote southeastern Kentucky.

    It is much easier to “Other” people when you don’t know them personally.

  4. In the News: In Oklahoma, killings of Native Americans raise questions

    Mah-hi-vist, 18, whose name in English translates to Red Bird, has oppositional defiant disorder, a little-understood condition that he controlled with the help of therapy and medication. He’d been in the midst of a mental episode when his father, Wilbur Goodblanket, called 911, worried that his boy was going to hurt himself – but no one else.

    The family wanted help from medical personnel and law enforcement calming down Mah-hi-vist. But it did not work out that way. Instead, lawmen shot and killed Red Bird. The young man’s tragic fate highlights a series of deadly Oklahoma incidents in which mentally ill Native Americans encountered law enforcement officers who, campaigners and relatives say, are not trained properly in how to deal with them.[…]

    The Custer County district attorney later ruled the shooting a justifiable homicide.

    The Goodblankets call it something else. “Murder,” Melissa said. “They murdered our son.”

    At a time law enforcement agencies are re-examining training procedures and policies and outfitting officers with body cameras to address questionable police shooting and in-custody deaths in urban areas like Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, the Goodblankets believe their son’s death is a glaring example of inadequate training in rural Oklahoma law enforcement agencies that routinely encounter the mentally ill.

    In their search for answers, the Goodblankets discovered their ordeal was not unique to Custer County, whose namesake, Gen. George Armstrong Custer, carried out the slaughter of a peaceful band of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal members only 60 miles west of the Goodblanket home. Nor is it unique to Oklahoma, home to 39 federally recognized tribes.

    Ponder for a minute the insult of having to live in a county named to honor a man who massacred your ancestors.

    Then ponder for longer how this kind of thing, when it is not in a big city with big city news stations and cell phone video, can go mostly unreported and certainly unremarked.

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