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In Final UN Address, Obama Urges World Leaders to ‘Go Forward and Not Back’

Livestream via PBS

In his last address to the United Nations General Assembly as leader of the United States, President Barack Obama encouraged world leaders to embrace principles of “liberty, freedom, justice” on a global scale.

He shared some of the world’s collective achievements, such as reducing poverty by 40% in the past 20 years, and empowering more democratic governments, like Myanmar.

“It could not have happened if we had not worked together,” he said.

Still, he encouraged world leaders to continue to “promote models of development rather than dependence,” advice that supports new bills like the Education for All Act, and Global Food Security Act, which Global Citizen worked to help get in front of world leaders.

Overall, Obama touched on many of the issues Global Citizens are passionate about and offered promising and hopeful words on each.

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Young People Matter

Obama encouraged world leaders to focus on the issues that matter to young people in the world today.

Pointing to the change in younger generations, he noted young people are “more educated, tolerant, inclusive, empathetic, compassionate toward their fellow human beings,” and credited technology for bringing more people together.

Refugee Crisis

While stating that there’s “more to come,” referring to the refugee summit he is hosting today,  Obama still urged world leaders to do more for refugees. He asked them to use their hearts to empathize with refugees, rather than focus on military victory, of which there is nothing to be won, in his perspective.

“We have to follow through even when the politics are hard, because in the eyes of innocent men, women children… we have to have the empathy to see ourselves,” said Obama.

Read More: UN Suspends All Aid Convoys to Syria After Deadly Airstrike Attack

Refugees welcomeImage: IRIS CT

Global Education

“Young people need a global education in order to be able to thrive,” he said, also mentioning the need to promote girls’ education, and the importance of increasing economic opportunities for all on a global scale. This will require all countries to create policies where they are working with one another in the best interests of all people on the planet. 


“Economies are more successful when we close the gap between rich and poor,” said Obama.  

With technology, he said, everyone can see into the world of the world’s top 1%, which only exacerbates the views of inequality. While Obama noted that it’s hard for governments to keep up, it is still their responsibility to do more.

Furthering Global Connectivity

He warned the global community that closing itself off will only hurt a nation rather than protect it.

“Today a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself,” he said, a potential veiled reference to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

“We must work together to make sure the benefits of integration are shared,” he said.

This includes technology, and especially public health research, he said. Countries should strengthen their own efforts around public health to combat viruses like Zika, and “help poor countries with their public health systems.”

Work for a More Peaceful World

In his most direct request for other world leaders, Obama asked all nations to decrease their stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

He said the world should work together to promote tolerance on a global level and combat growing racism and xenophobia.  

In promotion of peace, Obama also called on overall tolerance for people, including ensuring girls education, warning that the “fragile bonds of civilization will fray” if global society does not take on these issues making them a global reality.

His final address to the UN certainly gives hope for a better future, if action is taken by all.

“We can only end extreme poverty if the Sustainable Development Goals are more than words on paper,” he said toward the end the address.  

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