President Obama Discusses the Prospects for Progress at the United Nations General Assembly

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at United Nations General Assembly (September 24, 2013)

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, N.Y., Sept. 23, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly this morning, President Obama expressed optimism at the prospects for diplomacy in solving a range of long-simmering conflicts across the globe.

"For decades, the United Nations has in fact made a difference -- from helping to eradicate disease, to educating children, to brokering peace," he said. "But like every generation of leaders, we face new and profound challenges, and this body continues to be tested. The question is whether we possess the wisdom and the courage, as nation-states and members of an international community, to squarely meet those challenges; whether the United Nations can meet the tests of our time."

Specifically, he focused his remarks on three themes -- the civil war in Syria and the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, the potential for diplomatic engagement with Iran, and a revival of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Discussing Syria, the President said that we've seen progress in recent days.

"The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles," he said. "Now there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so."

The President also told the General Assembly that he has hopes for a diplomatic solution to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons -- despite decades of mistrust.

"I don’t believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight -- the suspicions run too deep," he said. "But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect."

Finally, the President urged the entire international community to rally behind the pursuit of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

"Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depends upon the realization of a Palestinian state, and we should say so clearly," he said. "Arab states, and those who supported the Palestinians, must recognize that stability will only be served through a two-state solution and a secure Israel. All of us must recognize that peace will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists throughout the region, and embolden those who are prepared to build a better future."

Watch the video here

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President Obama Calls for an End to Violence in Egypt

President Obama this morning issued a statement on the unfolding situation in Egypt and called for an end to violence.

"The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces," he said. "We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest. We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom, or that might makes right. And today the United States extends its condolences to the families of those who were killed and those who were wounded."

The President announced that he is canceling the biannual joint military training exercise that U.S. forces hold with Egyptian counterparts and weighing the implications of the Egyptian interim government's actions as the United States considers further steps that we may take. 

"The Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen," he said. 

Watch video of President Obama's statement here

Listen to the audio of the President's statement here:

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Watch President Obama Discuss the NSA and Syria Tonight on Charlie Rose

President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Charlie Rose (June 16, 2013)

President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Charlie Rose in the White House Library, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Before leaving for this week's G-8 summit in the United Kingdom, President Obama sat down with Charlie Rose in the White House Library for a 45-minute interview on topics ranging from Syria to the National Security Agency.

That discussion will air tonight at 11:00 PM on PBS stations across the country. For more specifics, check your local listings.

Update: Watch a segment of that interview here

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An American Hero Receives the Medal of Honor

President Barack Obama awards Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha the Medal of Honor (February 11, 2013)

President Barack Obama awards Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This afternoon, former Army Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha received the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House. He's the fourth living individual to do so.

On Oct. 3, 2009, Romesha was part of a unit attached to Combat Outpost Keating in the northeastern mountains of Afghanistan. In the early morning, while most of the unit was still asleep, they came under attack. Fifty-three Americans found themselves defending a position the Defense Department later called "indefensible" from more than 300 Taliban fighters.

It soon became one of the most intense battles in the war in Afghanistan.

"With gunfire impacting all around him," President Obama said, "Clint raced to one of the barracks and grabbed a machine gun. He took aim at one of the enemy machine teams and took it out. A rocket-propelled grenade exploded, sending shrapnel into his hip, his arm, and his neck. But he kept fighting, disregarding his own wounds, and tending to an injured comrade instead."

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Meet the Next White House Chief of Staff

President Barack Obama announces Denis McDonough as his Chief of Staff, Jan. 25, 2013

President Barack Obama announces Denis McDonough as his Chief of Staff, replacing Jack Lew, the President’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 25, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

President Obama today tapped Denis McDonough to serve as his Chief of Staff and lead the team at the White House.

McDonough, 43, was previously the Deputy National Security Advisor. He began his career as a staffer on Capitol Hill -- where he served in both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. In the White House, he previously served as the head of strategic communications for the National Security Council and as the NSS chief of staff.

"Denis has played a key role in every major national security decision of my presidency," the President said, "from ending the war in Iraq to winding down the war in Afghanistan; from our response to natural disasters around the world like Haiti and the tsunami in Japan to the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' to countless crises in between, day and night -- and that includes many nights. I’ve actually begun to think that Denis likes pulling all-nighters. The truth is nobody out-works Denis McDonough."

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President Obama Hosts President Karzai

President Barack Obama and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan participate in a joint press conference (January 11, 2013)

President Barack Obama and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan participate in a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama hosted Afghan President Hamid Karzai today at the White House for talks on the partnership between our two nations and the role of U.S. troops in that country.

And coming out of those talks, President Obama was able to discuss a milestone we'll reach this year when Afghan forces take full responsibility for their nation's security and the war draws to a close.

"This progress is only possible because of the incredible sacrifices of our troops and our diplomats, the forces of our many coalition partners, and the Afghan people who’ve endured extraordinary hardship," he said. "In this war, more than 2,000 of America’s sons and daughters have given their lives. These are patriots that we honor today, tomorrow, and forever."

In his statement, President Karzai echoed that message.

"During our conversations...I thanked the President for the help that the United States has given to the Afghan people," he said, "for all that we have gained in the past 10 years, and that those gains will be kept by any standard while we are working for peace and stability in Afghanistan, including the respect for Afghan constitution."

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President Obama Nominates Jacob Lew as Treasury Secretary

President Barack Obama announces Chief of Staff Jack Lew is his nominee for Treasury Secretary (January 10, 2013)

President Barack Obama announces Chief of Staff Jack Lew is his nominee for Treasury Secretary to replace Timothy Geithner, right, in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Today, in an event President Obama nominated Jacob Lew -- the current White House chief of staff -- to serve as the next Treasury Secretary.

"Over the past year, I’ve sought Jack’s advice on virtually every decision that I’ve made, from economic policy to foreign policy," the President said.

Jack Lew has decades of experience tackling some of the nation's toughest economic challenges. As director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Clinton, Lew helped to negotiate the deal that balanced the federal budget -- and led to a budget surplus. In the Obama Administration, even before becoming chief of staff, he has helped to manage the day-to-day operations at the State Department and shepherd through the Budget Control Act to reduce federal spending in a second stint at OMB.

"One reason Jack has been so effective in this town is because he is a low-key guy who prefers to surround himself with policy experts rather than television cameras," said President Obama. "And over the years, he’s built a reputation as a master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises."

The President also offered his gratitude to his current Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner -- who helped to guide the country through the financial crisis and get the economy growing again.

"When the history books are written," he said, "Tim Geithner is going to go down as one of our finest Secretaries of the Treasury." 

Read the full remarks here, or watch the video of the event

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President Obama Wants Chuck Hagel to Run the Pentagon

President Obama announces Chuck Hagel as his nominee for Secretary of Defense (January 7, 2013)

President Barack Obama announces former Senator Chuck Hagel, second from left, as his nominee for Secretary of Defense, and John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, second from right, as his nominee for Director of the CIA, during an announcement in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 7, 2013. Joining them are departing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, and acting CIA Director Michael Morrell, right. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Speaking from the East Room of the White House, President Obama today announced two key nominations for his national security team. He tapped John Brennan to serve as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and he asked Sen. Chuck Hagel to serve as Secretary of Defense.

"Chuck Hagel’s leadership of our military would be historic," he said. "He’d be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense, one of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war, and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department. As I saw during our visits together to Afghanistan and Iraq, in Chuck Hagel our troops see a decorated combat veteran of character and strength. They see one of their own."

The President and Hagel have known each other for nearly a decade and served together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hagel spent two terms in the upper chamber of Congress and helped to lead the fight for passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Under President Reagan, Hagel served as a deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration, and while co-founding his own business, he served as the CEO of the United Service Organization. He's also co-chaired the Intelligence Advisory Board for President Obama.

"Chuck knows that war is not an abstraction," President Obama said. "He understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, that’s something we only do when it’s absolutely necessary."

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President Obama Discusses the Fiscal Cliff

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press in the Brady Press Briefing Room (December 21, 2012)

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Dec. 21, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

After a week of negotiation and debate around the fiscal cliff, President Obama took to the James S. Brady Briefing Room in the White House to talk about where we are in the fight to keep middle-class taxes from going up.

"I just spoke to Speaker Boehner and I also met with Senator Reid," he said. "In the next few days, I've asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction. That's an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days. Once this legislation is agreed to, I expect Democrats and Republicans to get back to Washington and have it pass both chambers. And I will immediately sign that legislation into law, before January 1st of next year. It’s that simple."

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