Watchwoman on the Wall

By Susan Jones

Knotted gun sculpture, a gift from the Luxembourg government at the UN

( – In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday, President Obama called for “open societies” that “empower their citizens,” including homosexuals and women.

“No country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere,” Obama said one day after the United States started allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the U.S. military.

In a reference to women, Obama said, “no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs.”

Obama noted that the United State this week signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. “Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.”

Elsewhere in his speech, the president mentioned poverty that punishes children. “We must act on the belief that freedom from want is a basic human right,” he said.

To preserve the planet, Obama called for action on climate change: “Together, we must work to transform the energy that powers are economies, and support others as they move down that path. That is what our commitment to the next generation demands.”

Japanese Peace Bell, made out of coins donated by children at the UN

He also praised the United Nations as an institution that binds our fates together: “When the corner-stone of this very building was put in place, President Truman came here to New York and said, ‘The United Nations is essentially an expression of the moral nature of man’s aspirations.’ As we live in a world that is changing at a breathtaking pace, that is a lesson that we must never forget.”

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