President Obama delivers remarks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at Pearl Harbor.
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan pause for a moment of silence following a wreath laying at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 27, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Today, President Obama welcomed Prime Minister of Shinzo Abe of Japan to Hawaii to further reconciliation between our people and the close alliance between our nations. Following their meeting, President Obama and Prime Minister Abe made an historic visit to the USS ARIZONA Memorial to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. At the memorial, President Obama said:

“Our presence here today — the connections not just between our governments but between our people; the presence…

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave from Air Force One at Jose Marti International Airport prior to departure from Havana, Cuba en route to Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 22, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Two years ago, the United States and Cuba surprised the world by announcing a coordinated effort to begin normalizing relations. It took 18 months of secret negotiations, a trip to the Vatican, and a leap of faith by both sides to get there, but in one announcement on December 17, 2014, President Obama decisively broke with decades of a failed policy.

Tonight, President Obama will head out on Air Force One once more to meet with some of America’s closest allies who have partnered with us over the last eight years to bring about important progress.

First stop: Athens, Greece

This will be the President’s first trip to Greece and the final official state visit of his Administration. The visit will fulfill his longtime desire to travel to Greece, given the deeply rooted U.S.-Greek friendship, our commitment to economic stability and prosperity, and the history of democratic values that we share.

President Obama speaks with members of the Young African Leaders Initiative Program (YALI) at a townhall in Washington, DC on August 3, 2016.

President Obama started in public life not as an elected official but as a community organizer. He worked with churches and other groups on the south side of Chicago to push public leaders to fight poverty, improve the local school system and make housing more affordable, and to bring about the change the community needed and deserved. So much of the progress that America has made in expanding freedom and opportunity at home grew out of this kind of bottom-up civic participation.

All over the world, independent and strong civil society — NGOs, faith leaders, and other community advocates —…

Ben Rhodes at a Tak Bak ceremony in Laos with YSEALI leaders. July 2016

Last week, I travelled to two countries that don’t always get a lot of attention in the United States, but are important to our past and our future.

In September, President Obama will become the first sitting President to visit Laos.

Given its increasing role in global affairs, President Obama has put an increasing focus on the Asia Pacific, and Southeast Asia in particular. During his trip, he will attend the ASEAN and East Asia Summits for the final time. He will also be able to build a new bilateral relationship with a former adversary and increasingly developing country.


President Barack Obama participates in a discussion with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Mai Medhat, Jean Bosco Nzeyimana and Mariana Costa Checa, at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford Memorial Auditorium at Stanford University, Calif., June 24, 2016.

Even as we respond to crises around the world, the United States must also make it clear to the world what we are for — a future defined by people who build, not destroy.

That’s why President Obama led the United States delegation in the seventh and final Global Entrepreneurship Summit of his Administration. Over the last seven years, I’ve worked on each GES, which have brought together some 17,000 young entrepreneurs and leading innovators in Washington, Istanbul, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Marrakech, and Nairobi. …

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan participate in a wreath laying at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, Japan, May 27, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Last week, President Obama took a trip to Vietnam and Japan that began and ended in cities where America’s legacy has been shaped by war.

Of course, these two wars were extraordinarily different, but the one common thread in the trip was the overwhelmingly warm welcome that we received in both places.


President Barack Obama is presented a bouquet of flowers by a young woman as he is greeted upon arrival at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 22, 2016. Mai Phuoc Dung, Chief of Protocol for Vietnam and Pete A. Selfridge, Chief of Protocol, U.S. Department of State are present at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, the President became the third U.S. president to visit Vietnam since the normalization of relations between our countries began just over 20 years ago.

For many Americans, “Vietnam” is a word associated with war, and the extraordinarily complex history between our countries. But since normalization began, the U.S. and Vietnam have steadily built bonds of partnership, demonstrating that we can recognize history without being imprisoned by it. Indeed, the President’s visit to Vietnam will be historic not because it is a first, but because our relationship is evolving into a deep friendship and strategic partnership.

President Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan after the conclusion of the G-7 Summit later this month.

There has been intense interest on both sides of the Pacific in the possibility of a presidential visit to Hiroshima — the first by a sitting U.S. President — so I wanted to share some details on what the purpose of the visit is, and what the President will do.

Given recent travel to Hiroshima by our Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as the city’s role in hosting the G-7 Ministerial in April, we believe that this is the appropriate moment for the President to visit this city and shrine.

In recent years, few things have been as exhaustively debated or written about than the Iran deal.

That debate reignited this week after a long article about me included a section about the Iran deal. There are many issues raised in an article of this length, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to respond to those topics in the weeks and months to come.

However, given the importance of the questions raised about the Iran deal over the last few days, I want to make several points about one issue: how we advocated for the deal.

First, we…

Ben Rhodes

White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications & Speechwriting. Notes may be archived:

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