Capping a historic visit to Cuba, President Obama delivered a sweeping speech about American ideals and reconciliation at the Gran Teatro de la Havana.
“I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas,” Obama said.
The speech was carried live by Cuban state television, giving Obama a chance to speak directly to the Cuban people. Cuban President Raúl Castro sat in the balcony of the theater, where he heard Obama issue a tough rebuke of the Cuban regime’s crackdown on dissent.
“I believe citizens should be free to speak their minds without fear,” Obama said.
He went on to acknowledge the many struggles of American democracy — how it is still dealing with the scars of slavery, how there is too much money in politics. Obama used himself as an example of why a democratic system works. When he was born, he said, it would have been illegal for his mother and father to marry.
But people organized and they protested and they debated the issue, Obama said. And today, he is the first black president.
“We, like every country, need the space that democracy gives us to change,” Obama said.
Then he addressed Castro directly.
“You do not need to fear a threat from the United States,” Obama said. “You do not need to fear the different voices of the Cuban people.”