It's been less than two years since a vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest the oppressive corruption in his country and sparked what became known as the Arab Spring. And since then, the world has been captivated by the transformation that's taken place, and the United -- the United States has supported the forces of change.
We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspiration of men and women who took to the streets. We insisted on change in Egypt because our support for democracy ultimately put us on the side of the people. We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen because the interests of the people were no longer being served by a corrupt status quo.
We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition and with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.
And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop and a new dawn can begin.
We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values; they are universal values. And even as there will be huge challenges to come with the transition to democracy, I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people, and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.
OBAMA: So let us remember that this is a season of progress. For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive and fair.
The democratic spirit has not been restricted to the Arab world. Over the past year, we've seen peaceful transitions of power in Malawi and Senegal and a new president in Somalia. In Burma, a president has freed political prisoners and opened a closed society. A courageous dissident has been elected to parliament, and people look forward to further reform.
Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity and the right to determine their future. And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said, "To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."