At a speech to the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York on Tuesday, President Barack Obama eschewed a political message, choosing instead to focus on the scourge of human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad.
Obama's speech was in stark contrast to Mitt Romney's, given earlier Tuesday, in which the Republican candidate articulated his foreign aid platform while also criticizing the president's Middle East policies.
Speaking about human trafficking, which he called "modern slavery," Obama said, "It ought to concern every person because it a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community because it tears at our social fabric."
"It ought to concern every business because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime," he added.
Obama said the U.S. would continue to do more to "spot it and stop it" here at home. He highlighted how this year was the first one in which the Obama administration, at the urging of the State Department and Secretary Hillary Clinton, included the U.S. in its annual human trafficking report.
The speech was preceded by an announcement from the White House revealing renewed efforts to combat human trafficking in the United States and abroad. These efforts included the following initiatives:
- An executive Order strengthening protections against human trafficking in federal contracts.
- Tools and training to identify and assist trafficking victims for federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials, immigration judges, commercial transportation officials and state and local law enforcement and educators.
- Increased resources for victims of human trafficking, including expanded services and legal assistance, and a new $6 million in Partnership for Freedom Innovation Awards funded by Humanity United with support from the Goldman Sachs Foundation.
- First-ever federal strategic action plan to be developed to strengthen victims' services while also developing the first-ever domestic human trafficking assessment to track trends within the U.S.
The annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting, which focuses on global economic development, sustainability and green policy and volunteerism, is hosted by former president Bill Clinton.
Clinton has stumped for Obama multiple times this election season, giving speeches in support of the current president's policies at the Democratic convention and on the campaign trail.
But pundits and insiders alike have acknowledged the occasional tension between the two men, who have never boasted a warm relationship.
Although the CGI always hosts both candidates during an election season, some questioned the timing of the Romney speech, which came just before the president's on the floor of the UN.
After his speech at the CGI, the president immediately headed to JFK to fly back to Washington, D.C. He will continue campaigning Wednesday.
by Lauren McGaughy
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