This week, President Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Laos. During his visit toWat Xieng Thong, a Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang, President Obama reflected on the historic nature of this trip, his approach to countries that have historically been adversarial with the U.S., and what his visit means for the future of our two countries.
On his approach to countries with which we share a difficult history:
“If you look at what we've done in Cuba and Myanmar and Laos and Vietnam, these are countries that were historic enemies and it grows out of the vestiges of the Cold War. But a new generation of people all around the world are ready to turn the chapter, and we have to meet them and work with them.”
On why it was important to visit Laos:
“When we are able to come here, show respect for their culture, recognize our history and point towards a future in which we can work together, we will actually have more influence. We'll be able to promote our ideals more effectively. And we'll also learn from these countries.”
On what our engagement with countries like Laos means for our future:
“For so long the United States has been so big, so powerful that we felt that we could afford not to know about a country like Laos. But the world has shrunk, it's interconnected — and if we want to deal with issues from climate change to wildlife trafficking, to dealing with terrorism, we need the cooperation of everybody. That's part of what we've been able to accomplish, I think over the last seven, eight years is open up places that previously were closed and engage people in ways that will pay huge dividends in the future.”