Today, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech on civil society at The Clinton Global Initiative. The following are some excerpts from his remarks:

“It was citizens here in America who worked to abolish slavery, who marched for women’s rights, and workers rights, and civil rights. They are the reason I can stand here today as President of the United States.”

“It’s citizens who, right now, are standing up for the freedom that is their God Given Right. And I have seen it myself in the advocates and activists that I have met all over the world.”

“I’ve seen it in the courage of Berta Soler, the leader of Cuba’s Ladies in White who endure harassment and arrest in order to win freedom for their loved ones and the Cuban people.”

“When people are free to speak their minds and hold their leaders accountable, governments are more responsive and more effective.”

“If you want strong successful countries, you need strong, vibrant civil societies.”

“We’ll continue to stand up for a free and open Internet, so individuals can access information and make up their own minds about the issues that their countries confront.”

“It is precisely because citizens and civil society can be so powerful…their ability to harness technology and connect and mobilize at this moment is so unprecedented that more and more governments are doing everything in their power to silence them.”

“Countries that respect human rights including freedom of association happen to be our closest partners…that is not an accident.”

“What is needed is an even stronger campaign to defend democracy.”

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