— Barack Obama 44th President of the United States of America 1961
2014, Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall Speech (November 2014)
Kontextus: But what I said to the civil society groups is, yes, it is important to protect specific ethnic groups from discrimination. And it is natural in a democracy that ethnic groups organize among themselves to be heard in the halls of power. So in the United States, for example, as its democracy developed, the Irish in big cities, they came together and they built organizations, and they were able to promote the interests of Irish Americans. And African Americans, when they were seeking their freedom, you had organizations like the NAACP that promoted the interests of African Americans. So there's nothing wrong with groups organizing around ethnic identity, or around economic interests, or around regional concerns. That's how a democracy naturally works. You get with people who agree with you or who are like you to make sure that your concerns are heard. But what I said is that it is important for a democracy that people's identities are also a national identity. If you walk down the streets of New York City, you will see people looking more different than this group right here. You'll see blue-eyed, blonde people. You'll see dark-skinned, black people. You'll see Asians. You'll see Muslims. You'll see -- but if you ask any of those people, “What are you?” -- I'm American. Now I may be an African American or an Asian American or an Irish American, but the first thing I'll say is, I'm an American. And if you don't have that sense of national unity, then it's very hard for a country to succeed -- particularly a small country like Myanmar. If people think in terms of ethnic identity before national identity, then I think over time the country will start breaking apart and democracy will not work. So there has to be a sense of common purpose. But that's not an excuse then for majority groups to say, don’t complain, to ethnic minorities -- because the ethnic minorities may have some real complaints. And part of what is important for the majority groups to do -- if, in fact, you have a national identity, that means that you've got to be concerned with a minority also because it reflects badly on your country if somebody from a minority group is not being treated fairly. America could not live up to its potential until it treated its black citizens fairly. That's just a fact, that that was a stain on America when an entire group of people couldn't vote, or didn't have legal protections. Because it made all [[United States Declarations of Independence|the Declarations of Independence and Constitution and rule of law, it made that seem like an illusion. And so when the Civil Rights Movement happened in the United States, that wasn't just a victory for African Americans, that was a victory for America because what it showed was that the whole country was going to be concerned about everybody, not just about some people. And it was a victory for America's national identity that it was treating minorities fairly. And that's I think how every country in ASEAN, including Myanmar, needs to think about these problems. You need to respect people's differences. You need to be attentive to the grievances of minorities that may be discriminated against. But both the majority and the minority, the powerful and the powerless, also have to have a sense of national identity in order to be successful.