HARTFORD, Conn. — President Biden on Friday sought to reassert America's leadership in the fight for human rights around the world, but he acknowledged that depends in part on the country's performance at home and said the best course is for the United States to be honest about its flaws.

Speaking at a center dedicated to Thomas Dodd, a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after World War II, Biden tied the horrors unveiled there to current human rights violations around the world.

"We see human rights and democratic principles increasingly under assault, and we feel the same charge of history upon our own shoulder to act," Biden said. "We have fewer democracies today than we did 15 years ago. Fewer. Not more — fewer. It cannot be sustained."

The president was invited to the Dodd Human Rights Center at the University of Connecticut by former senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), Thomas Dodd's son and a longtime friend of Biden's. In earlier years, Biden said, the push for global human rights was sometimes wrongly seen as separate from the struggle for civil rights in America.

"Today, we know that our efforts to defend human rights around the world are stronger because we recognize our own historic challenges as part of that same fight," Biden said. "Leading by example means taking action at home to renew and defend our own democracy."

More prosaically, Biden framed the debate over his domestic policy agenda in global terms, arguing that Washington's ability to reach consensus would affect America's ability to compete in a global economy — and to serve as a moral leader. Before visiting the Dodd Center for his human rights speech, Biden stopped at a child-care center in Hartford to underline his plans for providing free prekindergarten care.

Biden has long stressed that his presidency, in part by demonstrating competence, would aim to restore America’s place as a global leader after four years of clashes with allies under Donald Trump. But intraparty squabbles have stalled Biden’s infrastructure plan, and partisan logjams have choked efforts to reform policing, reduce poverty and eradicate barriers to voting rights.

“Autocrats believe that the world is moving so rapidly that democracies cannot generate consensus quickly enough to get things done,” he said, adding that he had argued that point with adversaries like Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “They don’t measure us based on the size of our military,” Biden said. “They measure us based on whether we can get anything done.”

Throughout his human rights speech, Biden raised his voice and occasionally banged on the podium for emphasis. He spoke broadly of America’s struggles with voting rights, racial justice and other problems, without getting specific.

He did not mention Trump by name, for example, but he asserted that “attacks on truth are still the harbinger of tyranny,” at a time when Trump continues to falsely assert that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Weeks before Biden makes a second trip to Europe as president, Hartford and the Dodd Center, located in a community called Storrs, became the latest places for him to tout both his infrastructure plan and his worldview. In Hartford, he toured the Capitol Child Development Center, where he argued that his infrastructure plan would help build a “care economy” that safeguards the most vulnerable members of society and eases the financial burden on caretakers.

Lawmakers are almost certain to pare back the $3.5 trillion price tag of Biden’s safety-net bill, if it survives at all. But Biden said a nation’s investment in its infrastructure — both logistical and social — is fundamental to its strength in the 21st-century marketplace.

“How can we compete in the world if millions of American parents, especially moms, can’t be part of the workforce, because they can’t afford the cost of child care or eldercare?” Biden said, noting that countries like Latvia and Germany invest more money per capita into child care and early education than the United States.

During the dedication ceremony for the Dodd Center, Biden said the nation could best play a fundamental role in advancing human rights around the world “by practicing what we preach” and by speaking out about atrocities.

Biden’s White House has on occasion been criticized for skirting opportunities to further equity and human rights in the United States and abroad, a fact underscored by protesters who showed up Friday urging the president to end a controversial asylum policy.

From Egypt to Turkey to Saudi Arabia, the administration has struggled to balance Biden’s emphasis on human rights with a reluctance to unduly alienate allies, sometimes facing criticism from those who feel that balance was off-kilter.

At home, Biden’s administration has taken fire from his own party for not doing more to counter the raft of state laws restricting voting that have been passed in the wake of Trump’s baseless claims about a stolen 2020 election. The statutes, passed by GOP-led legislatures, have had an outsize effect on Black Americans, Democrats contend, and Biden himself has called them “Jim Crow on steroids.”

Critics also say Biden and his party have not done enough to dismantle the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to pass most bills in the 100-member chamber — a tall order given that the Senate is effectively split 50-50 between the parties, with Vice President Harris casting tiebreaking votes.

On the U.S. border, many have been disturbed by images of Haitian immigrants, seeking asylum during a tumultuous time in that country, being herded and grabbed by White immigration agents on horseback — images that hark back to America’s more openly racist past.

The White House responds that Biden has taken numerous steps to promote racial justice, enact a more humane immigration policy, protect voting rights, advance the rights of women and LGBT people, and embrace a fairer society in general.

Those fights cannot be won overnight, Biden’s defenders argue, especially when they still face fierce opposition from so many quarters.

“The first 10 minutes I was in office, I ended the Muslim ban,” Biden said Friday, adding that he also quickly took actions “advancing racial equity through the federal government, overturning the ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the United States military, establishing the White House gender policy council.”

Biden’s theory — that promoting democracy at home gives the United States credibility on the world stage — faces big tests in coming months. In December, he leads a summit “to defend democratic values.”

Before that, Biden travels to Rome later this month to participate in a meeting of the G-20 industrialized nations, focusing in part on covid-19, and then to Glasgow to join a global summit on climate change. But both on the pandemic and climate change, the U.S. has struggled at times to make significant headway.

Biden argued that while the U.S. cannot claim a spotless record, it can strive to be candid about its faults.

“Leading by example means not pretending that our history has been perfect, but demonstrating how strong nations speak honestly about the past and uphold the truth and strive to improve,” he said.