In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can Ė and will Ė insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.
All this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk Ė our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. As long as Iím Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military in the world. We will invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families Ė gay and straight. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat. We will keep faith with our veterans Ė investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors; supporting our military families; and giving our veterans the benefits, education, and job opportunities they have earned. And I want to thank my wife Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they serve us.
But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans Ė no matter where they live or what their party Ė are denied that right simply because they canít wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. Thatís why, tonight, Iím announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And Iím asking two long-time experts in the field, whoíve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romneyís campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.
Of course, what Iíve said tonight matters little if we donít come together to protect our most precious resource Ė our children.
Following the speeches from elected officials, the crowd stands at long tables as they dig into BBQ, brunswick stew, cadillac rice at the Law Enforcement Cookout at Wayne Dasher's pond house in Glennville, Ga., on Thursday, April 17, 2014.