President Barack Obama said on Sunday that the threat of terrorism to the United States has evolved into a new phase in the wake of recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, but he vowed that the nation will ultimately defeat the Islamic State and other militant groups.
“The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it,” Obama said during a 14-minute Oval Office address. Using an acronym for the group, he declared: “We will destroy ISIL.”
Obama hoped the rare prime-time address would help reassure an uneasy nation after a series of deadly terrorist attacks. Obama, who has struggled to calm public fears, made the decision to speak directly to the nation – only the third time he has used the venue – late last week and has been working on his remarks through the weekend.
Obama said the effort to defeat terrorists will “not depend on tough talk or abandoning our values or giving in to fear. Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless.”
Obama urged the public not to react with fear that could flame divisive rhetoric against the Muslim community and, the president believes, provide ballast to the Islamic State’s propaganda campaign.
“Let’s make sure we never forget what make us exceptional,” he said. “Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear.”
Aides said his aim Sunday was to clearly spell out the extent of the terrorist threats to the United States, explain his approach to fighting extremists in the Middle East and their propaganda on the Internet, and caution the American people from reacting in ways that Obama believes could exacerbate the problem.