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President Barack Obama's Oval Office Address Tries to Reassure Anxious Nation

What he's asking Americans to do

Malcolm Venable

President Barack Obama tried to reassure an anxious nation with an Oval Office address Sunday night that took on recent acts of terrorism, mass shootings, as well as increased fears about Islamic terrorists.

Only his third speech from the Oval Office - an occasion intended to convey significance and intimacy with the American public - Obama laid bare his strategy for defeating terrorism and asked Americans to remember our values and avoid discrimination.

"I know how real the danger is," he said. "I have no greater responsibility than to keep the American people safe." The president, who has demonstrated expressions of grief, sadness and even anger in the wake of mass shootings in recent years, appeared to be trying to strike a comforting tone - avoiding somber, sad expressions in favor of being direct and even a hint of a faint, reassuring smile.

After speaking about the attacks in San Bernardino, which he said were still being investigated, Obama laid out a point-by-point strategy for defeating terrorism, which included enlisting global allies and cutting off resources of terrorist groups, Moving to a domestic emphasis, the president called on Congress to pass legislation that limits access to guns, and then spent a sizable amount of time talking about the need for togetherness, and ask that people avoid prejudice against Muslims.

"What we cannot do is turn against one another," he said, by making this a war of America against Islam. Most of the victims of terrorism by Muslims are Muslims themselves, he said. "It is the responsibility of all Americans, of every faith, to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It's our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim-Americans should somehow be treated differently," he said, referring to recent suggestions by some presidential candidates.

America will prevail with togetherness, and leaning into its founding values, he said. "Freedom is more powerful than fear."