Venturing into an unfamiliar region of the world, President Barack Obama made a splash on a stage of leaders from across the Americas on Friday and promised to offer them a new style of U.S. politics: more pragmatism, less arrogance.The language was more striking on Cuba:
"We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms," the president told the heads of every democratic government across the Western Hemisphere.
"But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership," Obama said. "There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations."
Such an idea — that the United States is equal, despite being keeper of the world's most powerful military and leader of an economy that helps steer the globe — was telling.
But he made a point of referring to Cuba, whose government has been at ideological odds with Washington for half a century following Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.Though it is plainly obvious that our Cuba policy has failed, it is still a shock to see a U.S. President finally admit it and attempt to do something different. We will see how successful it is, but it's definitely a good start.
"The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba. I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled in overcoming decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day," Obama said in his address.
"Over the past two years, I have indicated -- and I repeat today -- that I am prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues -- from human rights, free speech and democratic reform to drugs, migration and economic issues," he added.