Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Message From GALA RE: Festival 2016

GALA Choruses Inc.
24 November, 2015

As I think about Festival 2016, I'm reminded of my most powerful memory from our last Festival. Elisa Boles, a student at Lick-Wilmerding High School, attended Festival 2012 with the Lesbian and Gay Chorus of San Francisco. This is an essay she wrote about the experience. It exemplifies the impact we hope the experience has on everyone who attends. 
Troubled Water
I watch from the audience as four teens shuffle out onto the brightly lit stage, the platform suddenly seeming fifty feet longer with only a few people on it. I had been in Denver for a few days already, having come with other Lick students to participate in a four day international festival of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) choruses. We Lick kids were the single non-LGBT-identified group present; I had heard we were even the first in the history of the festival to be allowed to perform. Just yesterday we had sung onstage alongside the Lesbian Gay Chorus of San Francisco in the premier of "Harvey Milk: A Cantata." And now, Ana and I were finally relaxing into a couple seats of the packed Ellie Caulkins Opera House to watch a youth choral group from the United States sing.
As the four youth walk onstage, the audience quiets down. The tallest choral member, a girl with chopped blond hair, peers out nervously into the crowd, gingerly takes the microphone out of the stand and opens her mouth.
"When you're weary, feeling small..."
The amplified notes bounce off the towering walls, the balcony, the seats, echoes jarring in the otherwise silent space. The baby-blue shirts of the singers stand out sharply against the darkness of the audience.
"When tears are in your eyes,"
Uneasy in the spotlight, the kids trip over the words like rocks in a river. I can't help wondering if they generally try to avoid this much attention.
"I will dry them all..."
I shift in my seat, attempting to get more comfortable. From somewhere below, I hear a muffled cough.
 "I'm on your side when times get rough"
A movement in the audience catches my attention. I turn my head slightly and find that two men near the front have stood up and are clapping along.
"And friends just can't be found"
Without warning their whole row is suddenly up and clapping with them, the row behind following, now the row behind that just beginning to rise as well. A steadily growing clamor arises as seat upon seat flip-flops vertical and dozens of feet drop to the floor like rain. The stage is suddenly out of sight as a wall of bodies erupts in front of me.
Festival Crowd

 "Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down"
And before I know it the surge has hit, my chair is flippity flopping, and the stage has come suddenly into view again below, hundreds of silhouettes facing the bright lights and swaying to the beat. Our arms surround each other as we move back and forth, back and forth, the steady pulse of ocean tides. And the four teens are no longer whispering in trepidation but shouting into the mikes, mouths widening into grins that take up the stage. The roaring wave catches up to us and we are singing in one voice that connects the pain and struggle and liberation and fulfillment.
"Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down."
But we are not a bridge; rather we are the rush of a tsunami; first cracking the sides of the concert hall, then erupting through the concrete walls and tearing through the streets of Denver. The wide boulevard filled with people cheering, waving, the path of the young singers a rippling corridor of hands reaching out for prized high-fives.
Even now, Denver brings up such mixed emotions for me. On one hand, I am proud to live in a nation that would allow such an event to take place. However, after talking to the festival participants and watching the youth perform, I can't begin to imagine what some of them must have gone home to, the kind of bullying and hatred some endure daily. Despite countless reminders of how liberal the Bay Area is compared to other parts of the U.S., I had always believed that in one way or another, our country practiced the tenets of equality and justice, and that Americans were overall striving to be a fair-minded people. It's clear to me now, after watching the discomfort of the youth onstage, that there is still much work to be done to ensure the rights and well-being of the LGBT, even in such a liberal city as San Francisco.
Within the LGBT community, there seems to be an overflowing amount of support for the others, to the point at which I'm almost dismayed that I can't belong to it. Instead of categorizing this vibrant group of people as an oddity and treating them as such, we need to follow their example; create a place where all people are safe and everyone is encouraged to shine. And in order to do so, we must accept the fact that we are not always the symbol of fairness and equality we pretend to be.
If there's a singular most important thing I learned from Denver, it's that just believing in liberty and justice won't make them reality for the LGBT community, or for any other minority group. It's not enough to accept, smile and walk away. I am reminded of the words of the cantata we sang onstage in Denver, words taken from the speeches of Harvey Milk:
   "You must make a commitment. Without it, you are just occupying space." 
Attending GALA's Festival has a profound and lasting impact on all of us. We grow musically. We gain new perspectives. And we bask in the glow of support from our choral community.
I can only hope that your experience at Festival 2016 matches Elisa's. I invite you to support GALA Choruses and Festival 2016 with a year-end gift. Your donation helps us to support LGBT choruses as we change our world through song. I look forward to seeing you in Denver. Thank you.
Robin Godfrey
Executive Director
GALA Choruses, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable arts association. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Inscription of Hope by Z. Randall Stoope.

Inscription of Hope by Z. Randall Stoope


I believe in the sun,
Even when it is not shining.
And I believe in love,
Even when there’s no one there.

And I believe in God,
Even when He is silent.
I believe though any trial,
There is always a way.

But sometimes in the suffering,
And hopeless despair.
My heart cries for shelter,
To know someone’s there.

But a voice rises within me,
Saying hold on my child.
I’ll give you strength I’ll give you hope,
Just stay a little while.

I believe in the sun, (Ooooo)
Even when it is not shining. (Ooooo)
And I believe in love, (Ooooo)
Even when there’s no one there. (Ooooo)

But I believe in God,
Even when He is silent.
I believe through any trial,
There is always a way.

Monday, November 9, 2015

We're Gonna Have A Miracle On Thirty FUNK Street

Miracle on Thirty Funk Street Lyrics

Personent Hodie

Personent hodie Voces puerulae
Laudantes Jucunde Qui no bis est natus
Summo Deo datus

Et de vir, vir, vir. Et de vir, vir, vir.
Et de virgineo ventre procreatus

Sing aloud on this day
Children all raise the lay.
Cheerfully we and they
Hasten to adore thee,
sent from highest glory.

For us born, born, born,
For us born, born, born
For us born on this morn,
Of the virgin Mary

All must join him to praise
Men and boys voices raise
On this day of all days
Angel voices ringing
Christmas tidings bringing

Gloria in excelsis
gloria in excelsis
Gloria, gloria. In excelsis

Xmas Done Got Funky

Christmas done got funky. Christmas done got funky
December used to be the month
I just couldn't wait till the twenty fifth
A time of appreciation
The twenty fifth of December just got done got funky
Christmas, Christmas uh huh. done got funky
Christmas Christmas, uh huh, done got funky
Santa Claus where's your red nose reindeer tell me.
They say you got tired of giving Santa
What the world are all the kids gonna do Santa without you?
No excuses. Who's to blame, oh no.
Christmas Christmas so done funky
Christmas funky. Christmas, funky.
Christmas done got funky. Christmas done got funky
Christmas done got funky.
Won't you take me to Funky town!
Won't you take me to Funky town?
Now we'l take you to Funky Town!
Now we'll take you to Funky town?
Christmas done got funky.
Christmas done got funky.
Christmas done got funky.

Joy To The World

Joy to the world. Joy to world Joy to the world the Lord is come.
And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing
Joy to the world. Joy to world the Lord is come.
And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing
Joy to the world. Joy to world the Lord is come.
And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing
Joy to the world. Joy to world Joy to the world the Lord is come.
Let every heart prepare him room! Let every heart prepare his room
Let every heart prepare him room! Let every heart prepare him room!
And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing
Joy to the world. Joy to the world. Joy to world the Lord is come.
And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing The Lord is come.
Joy! Joy! Joy! Joy! Joy!


See him flying through the sky dropping down from on high
Better not pout, better not cry you'll find out, I'll tell you why.
Santafly, Santafly, Santafly, something in his bag for you.
Santafly, Santafly, Santafly,
Santafly, Santafly, Santafly,
He sees you when you're sleeping, He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been good or bad so be good for goodness sake
Little Ally better get yo' self together.
Pay it safe, play it cool.
Santafly, Santafly, Santafly, something in his bag for you.

Angel Chorus

Gloria in excelsis deo Gloria in excelsis deo
Gloria in excelsis deo Gloria in excelsis deo
Cherubim and seraphim throng-ed in the air
Gloria in excelsis deo Gloria in excelsis deo
Gloria in excelsis deo Gloria in excelsis deo
Angels and archangels may have gathered there
Cherubim and seraphim, throng-ed the air.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there.
Cherubim and seraphim throng-ed the air
Gloria in excelsis deo Gloria in excelsis deo
Gloria in excelsis deo Gloria in excelsis deo
Gloria in excelsis deo Gloria in excelsis deo HUH!

Aint No Chimneys In The Projects

Aint no chimneys in the projects, Aint no chimneys in the projects
Mamma sat me down and said "Baby Santa Claus does magic things
As soon as you're asleep a chimney will appear and in the morning
you will see all he brings. Don't you worry that there
Aint no chimneys in the projects, Aint no chimneys in the projects.
Grown and see. Ho Ho
Aint no chimneys, Aint no chimneys,
Aint no chimneys in the projects. Aint no chimneys in the projects.
Aint no chimneys in the projects. Aint no chimneys in the projects.
Aint no chimneys in the projects. Aint no chimneys in the projects.

Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto

Santa Claus go straight to the ghetto
Hit up your reindeer uh! Go straight to the ghetto
Santa Claus go straight to the ghetto.
Fill every stocking you find. The kids are gonna love you so. uh!
Leave a toy for Johnny.
Santa Claus go straight to the ghetto.
Santa Claus go straight to the ghetto.
Tell him James Brown sent you. HUH!
Go straight to the ghetto. You know that I know what you will see.
Cause that was once me. Hit it!
You see mothers!
Santa Claus go straight to the ghetto.
Santa Claus Oh Lord, go straight to the ghetto.
Fill every stocking you find. You'll know that they need you so.
I'm beging you Santa Claus. Go straight to the ghetto.
Tell him Hank Ballard told you so.
Santa Claus, go straight to the ghetto.
Don't leave nothing for me. I've had my chance you see?
Santa Claus, go straight to the ghetto
Santa Claus, the soul brothers need you so.
Santa Claus, tell them James Brown sent you so. HUH!

Uptown Funk

Oh wap Oh wap Oh wap pap pow
Oh wap Oh wap Oh wap pap Hit it!
This hit, that ice cold, Michelle Pfeifer, that white gold.
This one, for them hood girls, them good girls straight masterpeices.
Stylin, while-in living it up in the city.
god Chucks on with Saint Laurent, Gotta kiss myself I'm so pretty.
Hot damn Ah pa-da. Hot damn Ah pa-da
Hot damn Ah pa-da Hot damn Ah pa-da Ah Wow!
Hoh---> Aah!
Come on! Givin it up, gettin it on, givin it to ya. Give it to me now. Come on, come on.
Give it to me! Givin it up, gettin' it on, givin it to ya. Give it to me now. Come on Come on!
Gotta give it to me! Gotta give it to me
Gotta give it to me hey, hey, hey, hey! Stop. Wait a minute.
Take a sip, sign the check. Harlem, Hollywood, Jackson, Misissippi.
If we show up, we gon' show out. [speak] Hot damm! Ah pa-da
Hot damn Ah pa-da. Hot damn Ah pa-da
Hot damn Ah pa-da Hot damn Ah pa-da Ah Wow!
Hoh---> Aah!
Come on!
Givin it up, gettin it on, givin it to ya. Give it to me now. Come on, come on.
Gotta give it to me! Gotta give it to me!
Gotta give it to me! Hey, hey, hey, hey
[Speak] Before we leave, I'm a tell ya a little something
Uptown Funk you up, Uptown funk you up.
Uptown funk you up, I said, Uptown funk you up, uptown funk you up.
[Speak] Come on! Dance! Jump on it. If you sexy, then flaunt it. if you freaky then own it.
Don't brag about it. Come show me. Come on.
Come on! Dance! Jump on it. If you sexy, then flaunt it.
Well it's Saturday night and we in the spot. Don't believe me just watch. Come on.
Givin it up, gettin it on, givin it to ya. Give it to me now. Come on, come on.
Givin it up, gettin it on, givin it to ya. Give it to me now. Come on, come on.
Gotta give it to me! Gotta give it to me! Gotta give it to me!
Hey, hey, hey, hey! Uptown Funk you up, Uptown funk you up.
Pa da ba da ba da ba Uptown funk you up, uptown funk you up.
Uptown funk you up, uptown funk you up. Uptown funk you up, uptown funk you up.
I said Uptown funk you up, uptown funk you up., Uptown funk you up
Pa da ba da ba da ba Uptown funk you up, uptown funk you up.
Uptown funk you up, uptown funk you up. I said Pa da da dap pap pa da dap POW!

The Twelve Gays of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas the perfect gift would be, a Stoli and a tonic for me.
On the second day of Christmas the perfect gift would be two busted wigs and a Stoli
On the third day of Christmas the ---- three months rent, two busted wigs and a Stoli
On the fourth day of Christmas the ---four checkered shirts, three months rent two busted wigs
On the fifth day of Christmas the ---- Five golden rings. Four checkered shirts, three months rent
On the seventh day of/Sixth day of Christmas - six inch stilettos, five golden rings
On the seventh day of/Ninth day of Christmas---Feliz Navidad! Nine Macy's gift cards, eight feather boas, seven Sidetrack show tunes, six inch stilettos.
On the seventh day of/twelfth day of Christmas good singing men rejoice
twelve nutty fruitcakes, 'levn matching bow ties, ten queens a'-brunching, nine Macy's gift cards,
eight feather boas, seven Sidetrack show tunes, six in stilettos, Five Golden rings.
Four checkered shirts, three months rent, two busted wigs and a marriage license for me!

Gee Whiz It's Christmas

Hello there, Merry Christmas how you've been.
It's been a long, long time. Can't explain why you crossed my mind
I guess it's just to wish you a merry Christmas.
[speak] Oh, by the way, it's snowing.
It's been a long, long time. Can't explain why you crossed my mind.
I guess it's just to say, Gee whiz, it's Christmas.
It's funny that I haven't thought to call you before.
And why is it I haven't seen you around anymore.
Another year has passed and I can't erase the memory of your smiling face.
So I have to call you up and say Gee whiz, it's Christmas.
So don't forget the party that we're throwing
The warm fire from the fireplace will be glowing.
It's been a long, long time. I still can't figure out why you crossed my mind.
I guess it's just to say---Gee, Whiz! It's Christmas.
I'm wishing you a Merry. Have a merry, merry Christmas.
Gee, Whiz! Have a merry, merry Christmas.

I Feel Good Motet
Fa la la la la la la

Dance of the Sugerplum Fairy

Doo doo doo doo ya da dah ya da dah

My Day

We want to say: Every one has holidays
Ramadan! Talkin' bout December YEAH!

We Three Kings

We three kings of Orient are bearing gifts we traverse a far
field and fountain, moor and mountain following yonder star
O - O star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light
Oh what can I give, if I were a wise man.
Yet what I can I can will give him I'd give him my haert
O-O start of wonder, star of night, star of royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding guide us to the perfectly.
O-O star of wonder, star of night,, star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding guide us to thy perfect light.
Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading still proceeding guide us to thy perfect light.
Guide us to thy perfect light. Guide us to they perfect light.

Go Tell It On The Mountain
Go tell it on the mountain! Go tell it on the mountain!
It's that time of year again when the snow comes down
and it seems like there is magic in the air.
We gather with our folks, with out gifts and jokes
and good times for ALL of us to share.
Now most of y'all would think that the reason for the season
are the presents and glitter and the gold.
for the trees and men of snow, or the ho-ho hos, but you for about the story of old
[end speaking]
Go tell it on the mountain over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain! Go tell it on the mountain!
Go tell it on the mountain! Go tell it on the mountain!
It came up on that midnight clear, with the critter lowing all up in the hay.
Daddy Joseph, Virgin Mary ('cause she never gave it up) wishing Jesus a Happy Birthday.
We still love Mister Claus and the jingle bells and reindeer with his nose all red
but all the shoutin' and the praise is for the birth of J.C., the man who straight up rose from the dead.
Go tell it on the mountain! Go tell it on the mountain.
Go tell it on the mountain! Go tell it on the mountain.
Now Christmas ain't no solemn time, so ain't no reason for you to frown.
J.C. is love, turns water to wine, so you know he knows how to get down
So go ahead and hang that mistletoe and take that egg nogg away from your
crazy uncle Joe, kiss your gram, and ya man or ya lady friend
and go ahead and hold your loved ones tight.
Merry Christmas one and all, Merry Christmas one and all and to all a funky good night!
Go tell it on the mountain. Go tell it on the Mountain
Go tell it on the mountain. It's the reason for the season.
Go tell it on the mountain!

This Christmas

Dah bah doot dah dah bah dat dat da bah dah
Dah bah doot dah dah bah dat dat da bah dah
Hang all the mistletoe, I'm gonna get to know you better
oh this Christmas
And as we trim the tree, how much it's gonna be together
Oh this Christmas Woah Woah oh
and we're caroling hrough the night, the night
And this Christmas will be, will be a special Christmas for me. For me
Dah bah doot dah dah bah dat dat dah bah dah
Presents and cards are here, my world is filled with cheer and you ooo oh
This Christmas. And as I look around, your eyes out shine the town and you do
oh, this Christmas woah woah oh. And we're caroling through the night, the night
And this Christmas will be, will be a special Christmas for me, for me.
And this Christmas will be, a very special Christmas for me.
Dah bah doot dah dah bah dat dat da bah dah
Dah bah doot dah dah bah dat dat da bah dah

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Durbin Responds To My Letter On TPP

October 14, 2015

Mr. William Rosen
Lombard, IL 60148-1176

Dear Mr. Rosen:

         Thank you for contacting me about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.  I appreciate hearing from you.          

          In October 2015, the United States announced it had finalized negotiations with the 11 other TPP countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.          

          Free trade agreements like TPP allow American companies of all sizes to take part in the global economy, which can lead to job creation and economic growth here at home.  While gaining access to foreign markets is important to our economic future, we must keep the best interests of our country in mind when we craft trade agreements with other nations.                  

          To guarantee that American workers are protected from the effects of trade, I have supported the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.  This initiative provides reemployment services for workers who have lost their jobs due to increased imports or a shift in operations overseas, including training, job search, and relocation benefits.                    

          All trade agreements should be fair for American workers and not tilt the playing field toward the off-shoring of U.S. manufacturing jobs.  This and other considerations will be a priority for me when considering TPP.

          The text of the TPP has not been released to the public.  Once TPP is made public and the President declares his intent to sign the agreement, Congress will have 90 days to review and vote on it.                                

          I will keep your views in mind as the Senate considers the final TPP agreement.

          Thank you again for contacting me.  Please feel free to keep in touch.


      Richard J. Durbin
      United States Senator

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Monday Stroll Down Memory Lane

On Monday after work I took the train down to the city to attend an open rehearsal of the Civic Orchestra at Symphony Center. I had some time to kill beforehand so I went to the bust of Sir George Solti on the East side of Michigan avenue. Just standing there the memories swirled in me as I sang at the dedication of this bust in 1987 singing with the Glen Ellyn Childrens Chorus. The whole experience just wandering around the city was just fantastic. The rehearsal was run by the current director of the CSO Riaccardo Multi. I couldn't help but marvel at the whole experience and I was entirely glad that I made the time to attend the rehearsal.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Senator Durbin Respond To My Letter Re: Planned Parenthood

September 11, 2015

Mr. William Rosen
Lombard, IL 60148-1176

Dear Mr. Rosen:

Thank you for contacting me about funding for Planned Parenthood.  I appreciate hearing from you. 
Several law makers have vowed to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of a video campaign that reportedly portrays the organization's participation in fetal tissue donation programs. 
The effort to bar Planned Parenthood health centers from receiving any federal funds would jeopardize women's access to safe, affordable reproductive health care.  Planned Parenthood clinics offer a broad range of essential health services including contraception and related counseling, breast and cervical cancer screening, pregnancy testing and counseling, and screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.  
I will work to protect women's access to reproductive health care and family planning services should the Senate consider defunding Planned Parenthood. 
Thanks again for contacting me.  Please feel free to keep in touch.  
Dick Durbin, Senator

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Stop The Madness In Kentucky

STOP the discrimination in Kentucky!
It's time for Kim Davis to do her job. We stand with you.  
The Supreme Court just denied a request to continue discriminating against loving, committed same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky pending an appeal of the county clerk's case. This was already after the historic decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which declared marriage equality as a fundamental right.
Photo credit: Timothy D. Easley/AP

Marriage equality is now the law of the land. We can't let discrimination continue in Kentucky or ANYWHERE.

I am standing with HRC in support the loving committed same-sex couples who simply want the basic right to a marriage license.

William Rosen
Lombard, IL 60148-1176
United States

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Screenshot Of Work Contacts.

This is a screenshot of all the locations of people that I have worked at my job. Nearly the entire United States is represented. I think it's pretty awesome.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Evan Osnos interviews the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei.

August 14, 2015
Dear Mr. Rosen:

Thank you for contacting me in support of the nuclear agreement reached between the United States, five other nations, and Iran. I appreciate hearing from you and share your support.
           On July 14, 2015, President Obama announced that Iran reached an agreement with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany (also referred to as P5+1) to significantly reduce its nuclear capacity. This agreement was the result of nearly two years of negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran. 
          Iran has agreed to reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, a chemical element that can be used to make nuclear weapons, by 98 percent for 15 years. It will also remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges, which are the machines needed to produce the kind of uranium used for nuclear weapons. Iran also agreed to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to have access to its key nuclear facilities and entire uranium supply chain.
         I recently posted the full text of this agreement on my website so that the people of Illinois may read it for themselves. You can read through the agreement by clicking here.
          I have read through the agreement and spoken with our nation's top experts and am convinced this is the best option for ensuring that Iran does not seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons. President Obama made the right choice to use diplomatic negotiations to ultimately lessen this threat to the world.

          I am under no illusions about the Iran regime, and the United States will need to aggressively counter Iranian destabilization in the region, a task made easier without the threat of a nuclear weapon. No agreement today could have solved all our differences with Iran, including support for terrorist groups and holding of American citizens. But for the first time in decades, Iran's nuclear weapons program has been halted  an accomplishment no previous administration or Congress has been able to achieve.
          Congress will have 60 days to review the agreement, and I will continue to do so with diligence. We must prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and ensure the security of our nation and that of our allies.    
          Thank you again for contacting me. Please feel free to keep in touch.


      Richard J. Durbin
      United States Senator


Friday, August 14, 2015

Listen To Kansas City Native Janelle Monae's New Protest Song

Set against adrenaline-amped, angry drum beats, "Hell You Talmbout" is an insistent demand from Monae and the musicians of her Wondaland label to keeping repeating the now all-too-familiar names:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I Remember Singing This in GECC

After a brief warm-up we open the piece we’re going to perform in April, A German Requiem, by Johannes Brahms. Although I’ve done this piece twice before, it’s in German and I no longer remember what the words mean. Just because this is church music, one shouldn’t assume it’s about something . . . churchy. One Christmas we sang a piece by the British composer Benjamin Britten that referred to a few missing children. “Timothy, Mark, and John are gone, are gone, are gone, are gone, are gone,” one line went. Turns out that one particularly hard winter the boys were butchered Sweeney Todd– style and salted down to eat. “Famine tracks us down the lanes, Hunger holds our horses’ reins.” We were singing about cannibalism. Cannibalizing children, no less. I looked out at the audience when we came to that part. Are they getting this? The actual text of the piece might be vague, but the title is Nicolas and the Pickled Boys and it’s printed right there in the program . The chorus ends with St. Nicolas bringing the boys back to life (“ Timothy , Mark, and John, put your fleshly garments on!”) who then sing “alleluia.” For the performance, we had three choir boys who walked down the center aisle of the church, singing in their pure and innocent voices, without a hint of the grisly deaths they’d just suffered.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

President Obama Remarks on the Iran Nuclear Deal

President Obama spoke at American University about the nuclear agreement reached with Iran. He defended the deal, contending that congressional rejection of the deal would leave future administrations with another war in the Middle East as the only option. He said that criticisms of the agreement were coming from those who voted for the Iraq War. The president also called the deal a continuation of “principled diplomacy,” invoking President Kennedy’s speech in 1963 in which he called for a nuclear test-ban treaty with the Soviet Union.
It is a great honor to be back at American University, which has prepared generations of young people for service and public life.
I want to thank President Kerwin and the American University family for hosting us here today.
Fifty-two years ago, President Kennedy, at the height of the Cold War, addressed this same university on the subject of peace. The Berlin Wall had just been built. The Soviet Union had tested the most powerful weapons ever developed. China was on the verge of acquiring the nuclear bomb. Less than 20 years after the end of World War II, the prospect of nuclear war was all too real.
With all of the threats that we face today, it is hard to appreciate how much more dangerous the world was at that time. In light of these mounting threats, a number of strategists here in the United States argued we had to take military action against the Soviets, to hasten what they saw as inevitable confrontation. But the young president offered a different vision.
Strength, in his view, included powerful armed forces and a willingness to stand up for our values around the world. But he rejected the prevailing attitude among some foreign-policy circles that equated security with a perpetual war footing.
Instead, he promised strong, principled American leadership on behalf of what he called a practical and attainable peace, a peace based not on a sudden revolution in human nature, but on a gradual evolution in human institutions, on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements.
Such wisdom would help guide our ship of state through some of the most perilous moments in human history. With Kennedy at the helm, the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved peacefully.
Under Democratic and Republican presidents, new agreements were forged: A nonproliferation treaty that prohibited nations from acquiring nuclear weapons, while allowing them to access peaceful nuclear energy, the SALT and START treaties, which bound the United States and the Soviet Union to cooperation on arms control.
Not every conflict was averted, but the world avoided nuclear catastrophe, and we created the time and the space to win the Cold War without firing a shot at the Soviets.
The agreement now reached between the international community and the Islamic Republic of Iran builds on this tradition of strong, principled policy diplomacy.
After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb. It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.
As was true in previous treaties, it does not resolve all problems. It certainly doesn’t resolve all our problems with Iran. It does not ensure a warming between our two countries. But it achieves one of our most critical security objectives. As such, it is a very good deal.
Today, I want to speak to you about this deal and the most consequential foreign-policy debate that our country has had since the invasion of Iraq, as Congress decides whether to support this historic diplomatic breakthrough or instead blocks it over the objection of the vast majority of the world. Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should, for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.
Now, when I ran for president eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war. We had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place.
It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy, a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus, a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported.
Leaders did not level with the American people about the costs of war, insisting that we could easily impose our will on a part of the world with a profoundly different culture and history.
And, of course, those calling for war labeled themselves strong and decisive while dismissing those who disagreed as weak, even appeasers of a malevolent adversary.
More than a decade later, we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq. Our troops achieved every mission they were given, but thousands of lives were lost, tens of thousands wounded. That doesn’t count the lives lost among Iraqis. Nearly a trillion dollars was spent.
Today, Iraq remains gripped by sectarian conflict, and the emergence of al-Qaida in Iraq has now evolved into ISIL. And ironically, the single greatest beneficiary in the region of that war was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which saw its strategic position strengthened by the removal of its long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein.
I raise this recent history because now more than ever, we need clear thinking in our foreign policy, and I raise this history because it bears directly on how we respond to the Iranian nuclear program. That program has been around for decades, dating back to the Shah’s efforts, with U.S. support, in the 1960s and ’70s to develop nuclear power. The theocracy that overthrew the Shah accelerated the program after the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, a war in which Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons to brutal effect, and Iran’s nuclear program advanced steadily through the 1990s despite unilateral U.S. sanctions.
When the Bush administration took office, Iran had no centrifuges, the machines necessary to produce material for a bomb, that were spinning to enrich uranium. But despite repeated warnings from the United States government, by the time I took office, Iran had installed several thousand centrifuges and showed no inclination to slow, much less halt, its program.
Among U.S. policymakers, there’s never been disagreement on the danger posed by an Iranian nuclear bomb. Democrats and Republicans alike have recognized that it would spark an arms race in the world’s most unstable region and turn every crisis into a potential nuclear showdown. It would embolden terrorist groups like Hezbollah and pose an unacceptable risk to Israel, which Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened to destroy. More broadly, it could unravel the global commitment to nonproliferation that the world has done so much to defend.
The question then is not whether to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but how. Even before taking office, I made clear that Iran would not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon on my watch, and it’s been my policy throughout my presidency to keep all options, including possible military options, on the table to achieve that objective.
But I have also made clear my preference for a peaceful diplomatic resolution of the issue, not just because of the costs of war, but also because a negotiated agreement offered a more effective, verifiable and durable resolution. And so in 2009, we let the Iranians know that a diplomatic path was available. Iran failed to take that path, and our intelligence community exposed the existence of a covert nuclear facility at Fordo.
Now some have argued that Iran’s intransigence showed the futility of negotiations. In fact, it was our very willingness to negotiate that helped America rally the world to our cause and secured international participation in an unprecedented framework of commercial and financial sanctions.
Keep in mind, unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran had been in place for decades, but had failed to pressure Iran to the negotiating table. What made our new approach more effective was our ability to draw upon new U.N. Security Council resolutions, combining strong enforcement with voluntary agreements for nations like China and India, Japan and South Korea, to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil, as well as the imposition by our European allies of a total oil embargo.
Winning this global buy-in was not easy. I know; I was there. In some cases, our partners lost billions of dollars in trade because of their decision to cooperate. But we were able to convince them that, absent a diplomatic resolution, the result could be war with major disruptions to the global economy, and even greater instability in the Middle East.
In other words, it was diplomacy, hard, painstaking diplomacy, not saber rattling, not tough talk, that ratcheted up the pressure on Iran. With the world now unified beside us, Iran’s economy contracted severely, and remains about 20 percent smaller today than it would have otherwise been. No doubt this hardship played a role in Iran’s 2013 elections, when the Iranian people elected a new government, that promised to improve the economy through engagement to the world.
A window had cracked open. Iran came back to the nuclear talks. And after a series of negotiations, Iran agreed with the international community to an interim deal, a deal that rolled back Iran’s stockpile of near 20 percent enriched uranium, and froze the progress of its program so that the P5+1 — the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the European Union, could negotiate a comprehensive deal without the fear that Iran might be stalling for time.
Now, let me pause here just to remind everybody that, when the interim deal was announced, critics, the same critics we are hearing from now, called it a historic mistake. They insisted Iran would ignore its obligations, they warned that the sanctions would unravel. They warned that Iran would receive a windfall to support terrorism.
The critics were wrong. The progress of Iran’s nuclear program was halted for the first time in a decade, its stockpile of dangerous materials was reduced, the deployment of its advanced centrifuges was stopped, inspections did increase. There was no flood of money into Iran. And the architecture of the international sanctions remained in place. In fact, the interim deal worked so well that the same people who criticized it so fiercely now cite it as an excuse not to support the broader accord. Think about that. What was once proclaimed as an historic mistake is now held up as a success and a reason to not sign the comprehensive of deal.
So keep that in mind when you assess the credibility of the arguments being made against diplomacy today. Despite the criticism, we moved ahead to negotiate a more lasting, comprehensive deal. Our diplomats, led by Secretary of State John Kerry kept our coalition united, our nuclear experts, including one of the best in the world, Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz, work tirelessly on a technical details.
In July, we reached a comprehensive of plan of action that meets our objectives. Under its terms, Iran is never allowed to build a nuclear weapon. And while Iran, like any party to the nuclear non- proliferation treaty, is allowed to access peaceful nuclear energy, the agreement strictly defines the manner in which its nuclear program can proceed, ensuring that all pathways to a bomb are cut off.
Here is how.Under this deal, Iran cannot acquire the plutonium needed for a bomb. The core of its heavy reactor at Arak will be pulled out, filled with concrete, replaced with one that will not produce plutonium for a weapon. The spent fuel from that reactor will be shipped out of the country, and Iran will not build any new heavy water reactors for at least 15 years.
Iran will also not be able to acquire the enriched uranium that could be used for a bomb. As soon as this deal is implemented, Iran will remove two-thirds of its centrifuges. For the next decade, Iran will not enrich uranium with its more advanced centrifuges. Iran will not enrich uranium at the previously undisclosed Fordo facility, which is very deep underground, for at least 15 years.
Iran will get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, which is currently enough for up to 10 nuclear bombs for the next 15 years. Even after those 15 years have passed, Iran will never have the right to use a peaceful program as cover to pursue a weapon, and in fact this deal shuts off the type of covert path Iran pursued in the past.
There will be 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities. For decades, inspectors will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, from the uranium mines and mills where they get raw materials to the centrifuge production facilities where they make machines to enrich it. And understand why this is so important.
For Iran to cheat, it has to build a lot more than just one building or covert facility like Fordo. It would need a secret source for every single aspect of its program. No nation in history has been able to pull of such subterfuge when subjected to such rigorous inspections. And under the terms of the deal, inspectors will have the permanent ability to inspect any suspicious sites in Iran.
And finally, Iran has powerful incentives to keep its commitments. Before getting sanctions relief, Iran has to take significant concrete steps, like removing centrifuges and getting rid of its stock piles. If Iran violates the agreement over the next decade, all of the sanctions can snap back into place. We won’t need the support of other members of the U.N. Security Council, America can trigger snap back on our own.
On the other hand, if Iran abides by the deal, and its economy beings to reintegrate with the world, the incentive to avoid snap back will only grow.
So this deal is not just the best choice among alternatives, this is the strongest nonproliferation agreement ever negotiated, and because this is such a strong deal, every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support. The United Nations Security Council has unanimously supported it. The majority of arms control and nonproliferation experts support it. Over 100 former ambassadors who served under Republican and Democratic presidents support it.
I’ve had to make a lot of tough calls as president, but whether or not this deal is good for American security is not one of those calls, it’s not even close. Unfortunately, we’re living through a time in American politics where every foreign policy decision is viewed through a partisan prison, evaluated by headline-grabbing soundbites, and so before the ink was even dry on this deal, before Congress even read it, a majority of Republicans declared their virulent opposition. Lobbyists and pundits were suddenly transformed into armchair nuclear scientists disputing the assessments of experts like Secretary Moniz, challenging his findings, offering multiple and sometimes contradictory arguments about why Congress should reject this deal.
But if you repeat these arguments long enough, they can get some traction. So, let me address just a few of the arguments that have been made so far in opposition to this deal.
First, there’re those who say the inspections are not strong enough, because inspectors can’t go anywhere in Iran at any time with no notice.
Well, here’s the truth. Inspectors will be allowed daily access to Iran’s key nuclear sites.
If there is a reason for inspecting a suspicious undeclared site anywhere in Iran, inspectors will get that access even if Iran objects. This access can be with as little as 24 hours notice.
And while the process for resolving a dispute about access can take up to 24 days, once we’ve identified a site that raises suspicion, we will be watching it continuously until inspectors get in.
And — and by the way, nuclear material isn’t something you hide in the closet.
It can leave a trace for years.
The bottom line is, if Iran cheats, we can catch them, and we will.
Second, there are those who argue that the deal isn’t strong enough, because some of the limitations on Iran’s civilian nuclear program expire in 15 years.
Let me repeat. The prohibition on Iran having a nuclear weapon is permanent. The ban on weapons-related research is permanent. Inspections are permanent.
It is true that some of the limitations regarding Iran’s peaceful program last only 15 years. But that’s how arms control agreements work. The first SALT treaty with the Soviet Union lasted five years. The first START treaty lasted 15 years.
And in our current situation, if 15 or 20 years from now, Iran tries to build a bomb, this deal ensures that the United States will have better tools to detect it, a stronger basis under international law to respond and the same options available to stop our weapons program as we have today, including, if necessary, military options.
On the other hand, without this deal, the scenarios that critics warn about happening in 15 years could happen six months from now. By killing this deal, Congress would not merely Iran’s pathway to a bomb, it would accelerate it.
Third, a number of critics say the deal isn’t worth it, because Iran will get billions of dollars in sanctions relief.
Now, let’s be clear. The international sanctions were put in place precisely to get Iran to agree to constraints on its program. That’s the point of sanctions. Any negotiated agreement with Iran would involve sanctions relief.
So an argument against sanctions relief is effectively an argument against any diplomatic resolution of this issue. It is true that if Iran lives up to its commitments, it will gain access to roughly $56 billion of its own money, revenue frozen overseas by other countries.
But the notion that this will be a game-changer with all this money funneled into Iran’s pernicious activities misses the reality of Iran’s current situation.
Partly because of our sanctions, the Iranian government has over half a trillion dollars in urgent requirements, from funding pensions and salaries to paying for crumbling infrastructure.
Iran’s leaders have raised expectations of their people, that sanctions relief will improve their lives. Even a repressive regime like Iran’s cannot completely ignore those expectations, and that’s why our best analysts expect the bulk of this revenue to go into spending that improves the economy and benefits the lives of the Iranian people.
Now, this is not to say that sanctions relief will provide no benefit to Iran’s military. Let’s stipulate that some of that money will flow to activities that we object to.
We have no illusions about the Iranian government or the significance of the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force. Iran supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. It supports proxy groups that threaten our interests and the interests of our allies, including proxy groups who killed our troops in Iraq.
They tried to destabilize our Gulf partners. But Iran has been engaged in these activities for decades. They engaged in them before sanctions and while sanctions were in place. In fact, Iran even engaged in these sanctions in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war, a war that cost them nearly a million lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. The truth is that Iran has always found a way to fund these efforts, and whatever benefit Iran may claim from sanctions relief pales in comparison to the danger it could pose with a nuclear weapon.
Moreover, there is no scenario where sanctions relief turns Iran into the region’s dominant power. Iran’s defense budget is eight times smaller than the combined budget of our Gulf allies. Their conventional capabilities will never compare to Israel’s, and our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge helps guarantee that.
Over the last several years, Iran has had to spend billions of dollars to support its only ally in the Arab world, Bashar al-Assad, even as he’s lost control of huge chunks of his country. And Hezbollah suffered significant blows on this same battlefield. And Iran, like the rest of the region, is being forced to respond to the threat of ISIL in Iraq.
So, contrary to the alarmists who claim Iran is on the brink of taking over the Middle East, or even the world, Iran will remain a regional power with its own set of challenges. The ruling regime is dangerous and it is repressive. We will continue to have sanctions in place on Iran’s support for terrorism and violation of human rights. We will continue to insist upon the release of Americans detained unjustly. We will have a lot of differences with the Iranian regime.
But if we are serious about confronting Iran’s destabilizing activities, it is hard to imagine a worse approach than blocking this deal. Instead, we need to check the behavior that we are concerned about directly, by helping our allies in the region strengthen their own capabilities to counter a cyber attack or a ballistic missile, by improving the interdiction of weapons’ shipments that go to groups like Hezbollah, by training our allies’ special forces so they can more effectively respond to situations like Yemen.
All these capabilities will make a difference. We will be in a stronger position to implement them with this deal.
And by the way, such a strategy also helps us effectively confront the immediate and lethal threat posed by ISIL.
Now, the final criticism, this is sort of catchall that you may hear, is the notion that there is a better deal to be had. We should get a better deal. That is repeated over and over again. It’s a bad deal — we need a better deal.
One that relies on vague promises of toughness and, more recently, the argument that we can apply a broader and indefinite set of sanctions to squeeze the Iranian regime harder. Those making this argument are either ignorant of Iranian society, or they are not being straight with the American people. Sanctions alone are not going to force Iran to completely dismantle all vestiges of its nuclear infrastructure, even aspects that are consistent with peaceful programs. That, is oftentimes, is what the critics are calling a better deal.
Neither the Iranian government, or the Iranian opposition, or the Iranian people would agree to what they would view as a total surrender of their sovereignty.
Moreover, our closest allies in Europe or in Asia, much less China or Russia, certainly are not going to enforce existing sanctions for another five, 10, 15 years according to the dictates of the U.S. Congress because their willingness to support sanctions in the first place was based on Iran ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons. It was not based on the belief that Iran cannot have peaceful nuclear power, and it certainly wasn’t based on a desire for regime change in Iran.
As a result, those who say we can just walk away from this deal and maintain sanctions are selling a fantasy. Instead of strengthening our position, as some have suggested, Congress’ rejection would almost certainly result in multi-lateral sanctions unraveling.
If, as has also been suggested, we tried to maintain unilateral sanctions, beefen them up, we would be standing alone. We cannot dictate the foreign, economic and energy policies of every major power in the world. In order to even try to do that, we would have to sanction, for example, some of the world’s largest banks. We’d have to cut off countries like China from the American financial system. And since they happen to be major purchasers of our debt, such actions could trigger severe disruptions in our own economy, and, by way, raise questions internationally about the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. That’s part of the reason why many of the previous unilateral sanctions were waived.
What’s more likely to happen should Congress reject this deal is that Iran would end up with some form of sanctions relief without having to accept any of the constraints or inspections required by this deal. So in that sense, the critics are right. Walk away from this agreement, and you will get a better deal — for Iran.
Now because more sanctions won’t produce the results that the critics want, we have to be honest. Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any U.S. administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option, another war in the Middle East. I say this not to be provocative, I am stating a fact. Without this deal, Iran will be in a position, however tough our rhetoric may be, to steadily advance its capabilities. Its breakout time, which is already fairly small, could shrink to near zero. Does anyone really doubt that the same voices now raised against this deal will be demanding that whoever is president bomb those nuclear facilities? And as someone who does firmly believe that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon and who has wrestled with this issue since the beginning of my presidency, I can tell you that alternatives to military actions will have been exhausted once we reject a hard-won diplomatic solution that the world almost unanimously supports.
So let’s not mince words. The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.
And here’s the irony. As I said before, military action would be far less effective than this deal in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That’s not just my supposition. Every estimate, including those from Israeli analysts, suggest military action would only set back Iran’s program by a few years at best, which is a fraction of the limitations imposed by this deal.
It would likely guarantee that inspectors are kicked out of Iran. It is probable that it would drive Iran’s program deeper underground. It would certainly destroy the international unity that we have spent so many years building.
Now, there are some of opponents — I have to give them credit. They’re opponents of this deal who accept the choice of war. In fact, they argue that surgical strikes against Iran’s facilities will be quick and painless.
But if we’ve learned anything from the last decade, it’s that wars in general and wars in the Middle East in particular are anything but simple.
The only certainty in war is human suffering, uncertain costs, unintended consequences.
We can also be sure that the Americans who bear the heaviest burden are the less-than-1 percent of us, the outstanding men and women who serve in uniform, and not those of us who send them to war.
As commander-in-chief, I have not shied away from using force when necessary. I have ordered tens of thousands of young Americans into combat. I have sat by their bedside sometimes when they come home.
I’ve ordered military action in seven countries. There are times when force is necessary, and if Iran does not abide by this deal, it’s possible that we don’t have an alternative.
But how can we, in good conscience, justify war before we’ve tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives, that has been agreed to by Iran, that is supported by the rest of the world and that preserves our option if the deal falls short? How could we justify that to our troops? How could we justify that to the world or to future generations? In the end, that should be a lesson that we’ve learned from over a decade of war. On the front end, ask tough questions, subject our own assumptions to evidence and analysis, resist the conventional wisdom and the drumbeat of war, worry less about being labeled weak, worry more about getting it right.
I recognize that resorting to force may be tempting in the face of the rhetoric and behavior that emanates from parts of Iran. It is offensive. It is incendiary. We do take it seriously.
But superpowers should not act impulsively in response to taunts or even provocations that can be addressed short of war. Just because Iranian hardliners chant “Death to America” does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe. In fact, it’s those…
In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hardliners chanting “Death to America” who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican Caucus.
The majority of the Iranian people have powerful incentives to urge their government to move in a different, less provocative direction, incentives that are strengthened by this deal. We should offer them that chance. We should give them the opportunity.
It’s not guaranteed to succeed. But if they take it, that would be good for Iran. It would be good for the United States. It would be good for a region that has known too much conflict. It would be good for the world.
And if Iran does not move in that direction, if Iran violates this deal, we will have ample ability to respond. You know, the agreements pursued by Kennedy and Reagan with the Soviet Union. Those agreements and treaties involved America accepting significant constraints on our arsenal. As such, they were riskier.
This agreement involves no such constraints. The defense budget of the United States is more than $600 billion. To repeat, Iran’s is about $15 billion. Our military remains the ultimate backstop to any security agreement that we make. I have stated that Iran will never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon, and have done what is necessary to make sure our military options are real. And I have no doubt that any president who follows me will take the same position.
So, let me sum up here. When we carefully examine the arguments against this deal, none stand up to scrutiny. That may be why the rhetoric on the other side is so strident. I suppose some of it can be ascribed to knee-jerk partisanship that has become all too familiar, rhetoric that renders every decision made to be a disaster, a surrender. You’re aiding terrorists; you’re endangering freedom.
On the other hand, I do think it is important to a knowledge another more understandable motivation behind the opposition to this deal, or at least skepticism to this deal. And that is a sincere affinity for our friend and ally Israel. An affinity that, as someone who has been a stalwart friend to Israel throughout my career, I deeply share.
When the Israeli government is opposed to something, people in the United States take notice; and they should. No one can blame Israelis for having a deep skepticism about any dealings with the government like Iran’s, which includes leaders who deny the Holocaust, embrace an ideology of anti-Semitism, facilitate the flow of rockets that are arrayed on Israel’s borders. Are pointed at Tel Aviv.
In such a dangerous neighbor Israel has to be vigilant, and it rightly insists it cannot depend on any other country, even it’s great friend the United States, for its own security.
So, we have to take seriously concerns in Israel. But the fact is, partly due to American military and intelligence assistance, which my administration has provided at unprecedented levels, Israel can defend itself against any conventional danger, whether from Iran directly or from its proxies. On the other hand, a nuclear-armed Iran changes that equation.
And that’s why this deal must be judged by what it achieves on the central goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This deal does exactly that. I say this as someone who is done more than any other president to strengthen Israel’s security. And I have made clear to the Israeli government that we are prepared to discuss how we can deepen that cooperation even further. Already, we have held talks with Israel on concluding another 10-year plan for U.S. security assistance to Israel.
We can enhance support for areas like missile defense, information sharing, interdiction, all to help meet Israel’s pressing security needs. And to provide a hedge against any additional activities that Iran may engage in as a consequence of sanctions relief.
But I have also listened to the Israeli security establishment, which warned of the danger posed by a nuclear armed Iran for decades. In fact, they helped develop many of the ideas that ultimately led to this deal. So to friends of Israel and the Israeli people, I say this. A nuclear armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America, and to the world than an Iran that benefits from sanctions relief.
I recognize that prime minister Netanyahu disagrees, disagrees strongly. I do not doubt his sincerity, but I believe he is wrong. I believe the facts support this deal. I believe they are in America’s interests and Israel’s interests, and as president of the United States it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally.
I do not believe that would be the right thing to do for the United States, I do not believe it would be the right thing to do for Israel.
For the last couple of weeks, I have repeatedly challenged anyone opposed to this deal to put forward a better, plausible alternative. I have yet to hear one. What I’ve heard instead are the same types of arguments that we heard in the run up to the Iraq war. “Iran cannot be dealt with diplomatically.” “We can take military strikes without significant consequences.” “We shouldn’t worry about what the rest of the world thinks, because once we act, everyone will fall in line.” “Tougher talk, more military threats will force Iran into submission.” “We can get a better deal.”
I know it’s easy to play in people’s fears, to magnify threats, to compare any attempt at diplomacy to Munich, but none of these arguments hold up. They didn’t back in 2002, in 2003, they shouldn’t now.
That same mind set in many cases offered by the same people, who seem to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong lead to a war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United States than anything we have done in the decades before or since. It’s a mind set out of step with the traditions of American foreign policy where we exhaust diplomacy before war and debate matters of war and peace in the cold light of truth.
“Peace is not the absence of conflict,” President Reagan once said. It is the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means. President Kennedy warned Americans not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than the exchange of threats. It is time to apply such wisdom. The deal before us doesn’t bet on Iran changing, it doesn’t require trust, it verifies and requires Iran to forsake a nuclear weapon.
Just as we struck agreements with the Soviet Union at a time when they were threatening our allies, arming proxies against us, proclaiming their commitment to destroy our way of life, and had nuclear weapons pointed at all of our major cities, a genuine existential threat.
You know, we live in a complicated world, a world in which the forces unleashed by human innovation are creating for our children that were unimaginable for most of human history.
It is also a world of persistent threats, a world in which mass violence and cruelty is all too common and human innovation risks the destruction of all that we hold dear.
In this world, the United States of America remains the most powerful nation on Earth, and I believe that we will remain such for decades to come.
But we are one nation among many, and what separates us from the empires of old, what has made us exceptional, is not the mere fact of our military might.
Since World War II, the deadliest war in human history, we have used our power to try and bind nations together in a system of international law. We have led an evolution of those human institutions President Kennedy spoke about to prevent the spread of deadly weapons, to uphold peace and security and promote human progress.
We now have the opportunity to build on that progress. We built a coalition and held together through sanctions and negotiations, and now we have before us a solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon without resorting to war.
As Americans, we should be proud of this achievement. And as members of Congress reflect on their pending decision, I urge them to set aside political concerns, shut out the noise, consider the stakes involved with the vote that you will cast.
If Congress kills this deal, we will lose more than just constraints on Iran’s nuclear deal or the sanctions we have painstakingly built. We will have lost something more precious: America’s credibility as a leader of diplomacy. America’s credibility is the anchor of the international system.
John F. Kennedy cautioned here more than 50 years ago at this university that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war. But it’s so very important. It is surely the pursuit of peace that is most needed in this world so full of strife.
My fellow Americans, contact your representatives in Congress, remind them of who we are, remind them of what is best in us and what we stand for so that we can leave behind a world that is more secure and more peaceful for our children.
Thank you very much.