Obama Buries ‘Last Remnants of the Cold War’ in Landmark Cuba Speech, Then Takes in a Ball Game
On President Obama’s final full day on a historic trip to Cuba, he addressed a packed theater of 1,500 Cuban individuals and delegates with a speech that acknowledged overcoming the “differences between” our governments, but also to finally leave the Cold War behind. “I am here to bury the last remnants of the Cold War in the Americas. I am here to extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” Obama said, according to USA Today.
But while Obama extends a friendly hand, he expects the Cuban people and its leaders to return the gesture. Obama pressed the delegation to address differences between America and Cuban leaders to help him persuade the U.S. Congress to lift the 54-year-old embargo. “Now, I want to be clear: The differences between our governments over these many years are real, and they are important. I’m sure President Castro would say the same thing,” he said, acknowledging Cuban President Raúl Castro, who watched the speech from a box seat, USA Today reported. “I know, because I’ve heard him address those differences at length.” Speaking of the embargo, the Cuban audience applauded the president when he spoke of ending it, but the room was noticeably quiet when Obama pressed Cuban leaders that they too must change. From USA Today: “’[The embargo] is an outdated burden on the Cuban people. It’s a burden on the Americans who want to work and do business or invest here in Cuba.’ “But the applause was more subdued when he continued, saying that ‘even if we lifted the embargo tomorrow, Cubans would not realize their potential without continued change here in Cuba.’” The trip has come under much scrutiny from some leaders around the world, particularly Republicans in Congress and across the country, and that criticism reached a fevered pitch on Tuesday after the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, when Obama maintained his scheduled agenda and attended a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team. Many argued the president should have immediately canceled his trip and flown back, despite there being no imminent threat to the United States. But in an interview with ESPN later in the day, Obama explained his decision. From Upworthy (their emphasis):
“It’s always a challenge when you have a terrorist attack anywhere in the world. Particularly in this age of 24/7 news coverage, you want to be respectful and understand the gravity of the situation. But the whole premise of terrorism is to try to disrupt people’s ordinary lives. And one of my most powerful memories, and one of my proudest moments as president, was watching Boston respond after the marathon. And when Ortiz went out and said, probably the only time that America didn’t have a problem with somebody cursing on live TV, was when he talked about Boston and how strong it was and that it was not going to be intimidated. And that is the kind of resilience and kind of strength that we have to continually show in the face of these terrorists. They cannot defeat America. They don’t produce anything. They don’t have a message that appeals to the vast majority of Muslims or the vast majority of people around the world. What they can do is scare and make people afraid and disrupt our daily lives and divide us. And as long as we don’t allow that to happen, we’re going to be OK.“