To that end, he said something that seemed unusual. During his speech, he explicitly called out the need for the Muslim community -- abroad and in America -- to confront the sort of rhetoric that can lead to sympathy for terrorist actors.
"If we're to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate," Obama said. "That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. It's a real problem that Muslims must confront without excuse."
Challenging the Muslim community to address harsh or violent rhetoric is not normally a critical part of the president's articulated strategy to defeat the threat posed by terrorism. In February, he received widespread criticism after he pointed out that other religious traditions have also, at times, been home to violent extremists -- including Christianity.
"[L]est we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," he said. "In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ." In that speech, he didn't call out the need for Muslims to root out their own extremists.
But a few weeks later he did, albeit in less strident terms than he used Sunday night. Speaking at a summit specifically focused on the threat of violent extremism, Obama demanded more action from Muslim leaders -- some of whom were in the room.
"Now, just as those of us outside Muslim communities need to reject the terrorist narrative that the West and Islam are in conflict, or modern life and Islam are in conflict, I also believe that Muslim communities have a responsibility as well," Obama said. He noted (as he did on Sunday) that very few of the world's Muslims support the actions of the Islamic State, and assured listeners that he knew action was being taken.
He then continued: "[J]ust as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam, that there’s an inherent clash in civilizations. Everybody has to speak up very clearly that no matter what the grievance, violence against innocents doesn't defend Islam or Muslims, it damages Islam and Muslims."
In part, this is meant as a message to non-Muslim Americans who often demand that Muslims explicitly reject the actions of terrorists like the killers in San Bernardino. It was clearly intended as well to offer something of a rebuttal to the long-standing conservative critique that he won't call Islamic State's actions "Islamic terrorism." But it's also an explicit demand that Muslims not allow views sympathetic to radical elements to take root within their community.
As with many of Obama's other points on Sunday night, this was something the president has said before. As with many of those other points, they were said by Obama now with more urgency.