On Sunday, Americans woke up to a nightmare that’s become mind-numbingly familiar: Another act of terrorism in a place no one expected. A madman filled with hate, with guns in his hands and just a horrible sense of vengeance and vindictiveness in his heart, apparently consumed by rage against LGBT Americans — and by extension, the openness and diversity that defines our American way of life.
We will learn more about the killer in the days to come. We know that he pledged allegiance to ISIS, that they are now taking credit, and that part of their strategy is to radicalize individuals and encourage attacks against the United States, even if they are not coordinated with ISIS leadership.
But there’s a lot we still don’t know, including what other mix of motives drove him to kill. The more we learn about what happened, the better we’ll be able to protect our people.
In the days ahead, we will also learn more about the many lives he viciously cut short — many of them young people just starting out in their lives.
They were travel agents and pharmacy techs, college students and amusement park workers — sons and daughters, brothers and sisters — and they had one thing in common: they all had a lot more to give.
We should all take a moment today, amid our busy lives, to think about them, to pray for everyone who was killed, for the wounded, those who are fighting to regain their lives and futures. For our first responders who walked into danger one more time.
As a mother, I can’t imagine what those families are going through.
Let’s also remember the other scenes we saw on Sunday:
We saw the faces of those first responders who rushed into danger to save as many people as they could.
We saw survivors like Chris Hansen who risked their lives to help others.
People gathering outside hospitals to comfort anxious family members waiting for news of their loved ones, and waiting too, to learn more about what they could do to make sure this never happened again.
Religious leaders condemning hate and appealing for peace. People lining up to donate blood. Americans refusing to be intimidated or divided.
Yesterday, I called Mayor Dyer of Orlando and offered my support and my appreciation for the leadership that he and the other officials have shown.
This is a moment when all Americans need to stand together.
No matter how many times we endure attacks like this, the horror never fades. The murder of innocent people breaks our hearts, tears at our sense of security, and makes us furious.
Now we have to steel our resolve and respond. That’s what I want to talk to you about: how we respond.
The Orlando terrorist may be dead, but the virus that poisoned his mind remains very much alive. We must attack it with clear eyes, steady hands, unwavering determination and pride in our country and our values.
I have no doubt we can meet this challenge — if we meet it together.
Whatever we learn about this killer, his motives in the days ahead, we know already the barbarity we face from radical jihadists is profound.
In the Middle East, ISIS is attempting a genocide of religious and ethnic minorities, they are slaughtering Muslims who refuse to accept their medieval ways, they are beheading civilians, including executing LGBT people, they are murdering Americans and Europeans, enslaving, torturing, and raping women and girls.
In speeches like this one after Paris, Brussels, and San Bernardino, I have laid out a plan to defeat ISIS and the other radical jihadist groups in the region and beyond.
The attack in Orlando makes it even more clear: we cannot contain this threat — we must defeat it.
The good news is that the coalition effort in Syria and Iraq has made real gains in recent months.
So we should keep the pressure on ramping up the air campaign, accelerating support for our friends fighting to take and hold ground, and pushing our partners in the region to do even more.
We also need continued American leadership to help resolve the political conflicts that fuel ISIS recruitment efforts.
But as ISIS loses actual ground in Iraq and Syria, it will seek to stage more attacks and gain stronger footholds wherever it can, from Afghanistan to Libya to Europe.
The threat is metastasizing. We saw this in Paris and we saw it in Brussels.
We face a twisted ideology and poisoned psychology that inspires the so-called “lone wolves” — radicalized individuals who may or may not have contact and direction from any formal organization.
So yes, efforts to defeat ISIS on the battlefield must succeed. But it will take more than that. We have to be just as adaptable and versatile as our enemies.
As president, I will make identifying and stopping lone wolves a top priority. I will put a team together from across the entire government, as well as the private sector, and our communities to get on top of this urgent challenge. And I’ll make sure our law enforcement and intelligence professionals have the resources they need to get the job done.
As we do this, there are three areas that demand attention.
First, we and our allies must work hand-in-hand to dismantle the networks that move money, and propaganda and arms and fighters around the world.
We have to flow — we have to stem the flow of jihadists from Europe and America to Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan — and then back again. The only way to do this is by working closely with our partners. Strengthening our alliances, not weakening them or walking away from them.
Second, here at home, we must harden our own defenses.
We have to do more to support our first responders, law enforcement, and intelligence officers who do incredible work every day — at great personal risk — to keep our country safe. I have seen first-hand how hard their job is and how well they do it.
In Orlando, at least one police officer was shot in the head. Thankfully, his life was saved by a Kevlar helmet…
It’s often been said that our law enforcement, our intelligence agencies, and our first responders have to be right 100 percent of the time. A terrorist only has to be right once. What a heavy responsibility.
These men and women deserve both our respect and gratitude, and the right tools, resources, and training. Too often, state and local officials can’t get access to intelligence from the federal government that would help them do their jobs.
We need to change that.
We also need to work with local law enforcement and business owners on ways to protect vulnerable, so called “soft targets” like nightclubs and shopping malls and hotels and movie theaters and schools and houses of worship.
Now, I know a lot of Americans are asking how it was possible that someone already on the FBI’s radar could have still been able to commit an attack like the one in Orlando — and what more we can do to stop this kind of thing from happening again.
Well, we have to see what the investigation uncovers. If there are things that can and should be done to improve our ability to prevent, we must do them.
We already know we need more resources for this fight. The professionals who keep us safe would be the first to say we need better intelligence to discover and disrupt terrorist plots before they can be carried out. That’s why I’ve proposed an “intelligence surge” to bolster our capabilities across the board, with appropriate safeguards here at home.
Even as we make sure our security officials get the tools they need to prevent attacks, it’s essential that we stop terrorists from getting the tools they need to carry out the attacks — and that is especially true when it comes to assault weapons like those used in Orlando and San Bernardino. I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets.
We may have our disagreements on gun safety regulations, but we should all be able to agree on a few things.
If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked. You shouldn’t be able to exploit loopholes and evade criminal background checks by buying online or at a gun show.
And yes, if you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America.
I know some will say that assault weapons and background checks are totally separate issues having nothing to do with terrorism.
Well, in Orlando and San Bernardino, terrorists used assault weapons, the AR-15, and they used it to kill Americans. That was the same assault weapon used to kill those little children in Sandy Hook. We have to make it harder for people who should not have those weapons of war.
That might not stop every shooting or terrorist attack. But it will stop some and it will save lives and it will protect our first responders. And I want you to know I’m not going to stop fighting for these kinds of provisions.
The third area that demands attention is preventing radicalization, and countering efforts by ISIS and other international terrorist networks to recruit in the United States and Europe.
For starters, it is long past time for the Saudis, the Qataris, the Kuwaitis and others to stop their citizens from funding extremist organizations. And they should stop supporting radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path toward extremism.
We also have to use all our capabilities to counter jihadist propaganda online. This is something I spent a lot of time on at the State Department. As president, I will work with our great tech companies from Silicon Valley to Boston to step up our game.
We have to do a better job intercepting ISIS’s communications, tracking and analyzing social media posts, and mapping jihadist networks, as well as promoting credible voices who can provide alternatives to radicalization.
And there is more work to do offline as well.
Since 9/11, law enforcement agencies have worked hard to build relationships with Muslim-American communities. Millions of peace-loving Muslims live, work, and raise their families across America. They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to help us block it. We should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them.
Last year, I visited a pilot program in Minneapolis that helps parents, teachers, imams, mental health professionals, and others recognize signs of radicalization in young people and work with law enforcement to intervene before it’s too late.
I’ve also met with local leaders pursuing innovative approaches in Los Angeles and other places. We need more efforts like that, in more cities across America. And, as the Director of the FBI has pointed out, we should avoid eroding trust in the community, which will only make law enforcement’s job more difficult.
Inflammatory, anti-Muslim rhetoric — and threatening to ban the families and friends of Muslim Americans, as well as millions of Muslim business people and tourists from entering our country — hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror. So does saying that we have to start special surveillance on our fellow Americans because of their religion.
It’s no coincidence that hate crimes against American Muslims and mosques have tripled after Paris and San Bernardino.
That’s wrong and it’s also dangerous. It plays right into the terrorists’ hands.
Still, as I have said before, none of us can close our eyes to the fact that we do face enemies who use their distorted version of Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. They’d take us all back to the Stone Age if they could, just as they have in parts of Iraq and Syria.
The terrorist in Orlando targeted LGBT Americans out of hatred and bigotry. And an attack on any American is an attack on all Americans.
I want to say this to all the LGBT people grieving today in Florida and across our country: you have millions of allies who will always have your back. And I am one of them.
From Stonewall to Laramie and now Orlando, we’ve seen too many examples of how the struggle to live freely, openly and without fear has been met by violence. We have to stand together. Be proud together. There is no better rebuke to the terrorists and all those who hate.
Our open, diverse society is an asset in the struggle against terrorism, not a liability. It makes us stronger and more resistant to radicalization. This raises a larger point about the future of our country.
America is strongest when we all believe they have a stake in our country and our future. This vision has sustained us from the beginning — the belief that yes, we are all created equal and the journey we have made to turn that into reality over our history. That we are not a land of winners and losers. That we all should have the opportunity to live up to our God-given potential, and we have a responsibility to help others to do so as well.
As I look at American history, I see this has always been a country of “we” not “me.” We stand together because we are stronger together.
E pluribus unum — out of many, one — has seen us through the darkest chapters of our history. Even since 13 squabbling colonies put aside their disagreements and united, because they realized they were going to rise together or fall separately.
Generation after generation has fought and marched and organized to widen the circle of dignity and opportunity — ending slavery, securing and expanding the right to vote, throwing open the doors of education, building the greatest middle class the world has ever seen.
We are stronger when more people can participate in our democracy. And we are stronger when everyone can share in the rewards of our economy, and contribute to our communities.
When we bridge our divides and lift each other up, instead of tearing each other down.
We have overcome a lot together, and we will overcome the threats of terror and radicalization and our other challenges.
Here in Ohio, and all across America, I’ve listened to people talk about the problems that keep them up at night.
The bonds that hold us together as communities — as one national community — are strained by an economy with too much inequality and too little upward mobility, by social and political divisions that have diminished our trust in each other and our confidence in our shared future.
I have heard that, and I want you to know as your president I will work every day to break down the barriers holding you back and keeping us apart. We are going to get an economy to work for everyone, not just those at the top. We are going to forge a new sense of connection and shared responsibility to each other and our nation.
Finally, let us remind us all, I remember how it felt on the day after 9/11. I’ll bet you do as well.
Americans from every walk of life rallied together with a sense of common purpose on September the 12th. And in the days and weeks and months that followed we had each other’s backs.
I was a senator from New York. There was a Republican president, a Republican governor, and a Republican mayor. We did not attack each other — we worked with each other to protect our country and to rebuild our city.
President Bush went to a Muslim community center just six days after the attacks to send a message of unity and solidarity. To anyone who wanted to take out their anger on our Muslim neighbors and fellow citizens, he said, “That should not and that will not stand in America.”
It is time to get back to the spirit of those days. The Spirit of 9/12. Let’s make sure we keep looking to the best of country, to the best within each of us.
Democratic and Republican presidents have risen to the occasion in the face of tragedy. That is what we are called to do my friends, and I am so confident and optimistic that is exactly what we will do.
Thank you all so much.