And speaking of climate change, I would point out that there is a connection between democracy and science. The premise of science is that we observe and we test our hypotheses, our ideas. We base decisions on facts, not superstition; not what our ideology tells us, but rather what we can observe. And at a time when the globe is shrinking and more and more we’re going to have to take collective action to deal with problems like climate change, the presence of a democratic debate allows the science to flourish and to shape our collective responses.
Now, democracy, like all human institutions, is imperfect. It can be slow; it can be frustrating; it can be hard; it can be messy. Politicians tend to be unpopular in democracies, regardless of party, because, by definition, democracies require that you don’t get a hundred percent of what you want. It requires compromise. Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst form of government — except for all the others. (Laughter.) And in a multiethnic, multiracial, multicultural society, like the United States, democracy can be especially complicated. Believe me, I know. (Laughter.)
But it is better than the alternatives because it allows us to peacefully work through our differences and move closer to our ideals. It allows us to test new ideas and it allows us to correct for mistakes. Any action by a President, or any result of an election, or any legislation that has proven flawed can be corrected through the process of democracy.
And throughout our history, it’s how we have come to see that all people are created equal — even though, when we were founded, that was not the case. We could work to expand the rights that were established in our founding to African Americans, and to women, to Americans with disabilities, to Native Americans; why all Americans now have the freedom to marry the person they love. (Applause.) It’s why we welcome people of all races and all religions and all backgrounds, and immigrants who strive to give their children a better life and who make our country stronger.
And so here, where democracy was born, we affirm once more the rights and the ideals and the institutions upon which our way of life endures. Freedom of speech and assembly — because true legitimacy can only come from the people, who must never be silenced. A free press to expose injustice and corruption and hold leaders accountable. Freedom of religion — because we’re all equal in the eyes of God. Independent judiciaries to uphold rule of law and human rights. Separation of powers to limit the reach of any one branch of government. Free and fair elections — because citizens must be able to choose their own leaders, even if your candidate doesn’t always win. (Laughter.)
We compete hard in campaigns in America and here in Greece. But after the election, democracy depends on a peaceful transition of power, especially when you don’t get the result you want. (Applause.)