A Return to JFK: President Obama Speaks at American University About the Iran Nuclear Deal

In an effort to advocate for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—also known as the Iran nuclear deal—President Barack Obama recently visited American University's School of International Service (SIS) to outline the importance of diplomacy in the Iranian nuclear deal.

In his Aug. 5 speech, the president made his case for the importance of diplomacy. He referenced former President John F. Kennedy, who spoke at American University in 1963 at the height of the Cold War, and echoed how Kennedy used diplomacy to avoid nuclear catastrophe.

“Strength, in Kennedy’s view, included powerful armed forces, and the willingness to stand up for our values around the world. But, he rejected the prevailing attitude among some security circles that equated security with a perpetual war footing,” Obama said. “Instead, he promised strong, principled American leadership on behalf of what he called a practical and attainable peace … The agreement now reached between the International Community and the Islamic Republic of Iran builds on this tradition of strong, principled diplomacy.”

During the course of his speech, the president framed the deal as both a sensible diplomatic solution and the only alternative to war, citing Iran’s ability to advance its nuclear capabilities without it. President Obama also emphasized that what brought Iran to the table—multilateral economic sanctions from the U.S., China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the European Union—would fall apart without the deal.

For more images from the event, please visit the gallery.

The president reiterated that walking away from the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, should not be an option because it would only lead to a better deal for Iran in the future. In his closing remarks, Obama again called upon JFK’s words more than 50 years prior, noting that although efforts toward peace are not as dramatic as a move toward war, the pursuit of peace is what’s most needed “in this world so full of strife.”

A Common Occurrence at AU

As evidenced by Obama’s reference to Kennedy’s speech, the visitation of dignitaries to the campus is a common occurrence. As American University President Neil Kerwin noted prior to introducing Obama, "Our campus is a place where different cultures, perspectives, and points of view are discussed with passion and civility. That is a core value … that we practice and protect. That is why American presidents and other world leaders come to our campus to test ideas, make policy statements, and create change."