Remarks at the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency in Lake Forest, California
Rick Warren, Pastor, Saddleback Church:
WARREN: Welcome to the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. I guess you got my invitation. We're here in Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Tonight, we're going to use the interview format with these two candidates. We believe in the separation of church and state, but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics, because faith is just a world view, and everybody has some kind of world view. It's important to know what they are.
Now, what I decided is to allow for proper comparison, I'm going to ask identical questions to each of these candidates. So you can compare apples to apples. Now, Senator Obama is going to go first. We flipped a coin, and we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence. Now, each of the interviews will be segmented into four different sections. We're going to look at four different things, and the number of questions answered in each segment will depend on how succinct the senator is.
I have to tell you up front, both of these guys are my friends. I don't happen to agree with everything each of them teach or believe, but they both care deeply about America. They're both patriots. And they have very different views on how America can be strengthened. In America, we've got to learn to disagree without demonizing each other and we need to restore civility -- Yes. We need to restore civility in our civil discourse, and that's the goal of the Saddleback Civil Forum.
So let's get started. And will you welcome Senator Barack Obama.
Thank you. Good to see you.
OBAMA: Good to see you.
WARREN: Thank you for being here.
OBAMA: Thank you. Pretty good crowd you've got here.
WARREN: We're going to talk about four different issues tonight, Barack. The first issue is on leadership.
OBAMA: All right.
WARREN: These first set of questions deal with your personal life as a leader, and I'm not going to do this with any other segment. But as a pastor, I've got some verses that have to do with leadership. And the first issue is the area of listening. There's a verse in proverbs that says, "fools think they need no advice but wise listen to other people." Who are the three wisest people you know in your life, and who are you going to rely on heavily in your administration?
OBAMA: First of all, let me thank you for having he here, Rick.
WARREN: You're welcome.
OBAMA: I love the ministries that are taking place here at Saddleback. This is the second time I have been here. The first time we had a wonderful time. Excluding you of course --
WARREN: And your wife.
OBAMA: I was going to say -- you know, there are so many people that are constantly helping to shape my views and my opinions. You mentioned one person I'd be listening to, and that's Michelle, my wife, who is not only wise, but she's honest. And one of the things you need, I think, any leader needs is somebody who can get up in your face and say boy, you really screwed that one up. You really blew that.
WARREN: Your wife's like that, too?
OBAMA: So that's very helpful. Another person in that category is my grandmother, is an extraordinary woman. She never went to college. She worked on a bomber assembly line during World War Ii while my grandfather was away, came back, got a job as a secretary and worked her way up to become a bank vice president before she retired. And she's a very grounded, common sense, no fuss, no frills kind of person. When I've got big decisions I often check in with her.
Now in terms of the administrations or how I would approach the presidency, I don't think I'd restrict myself to three people. There are people like Sam Nunn, a Democrat, or Dick Lugar, a Republican, who I'd listen to on foreign policy. On domestic policy, I've got friends ranging from Ted Kennedy to Tom Coburn, who don't necessarily agree on a lot of things, but who both have a sincere desire to see this country improve.
What I found is very helpful to me is to have a table where a lot of different points of view are represented, and where I can sit and poke and prod and ask them questions, so that any blind spots I have or predispositions that I have, that my assumptions are challenged. And I think that that's extraordinarily important.
WARREN: OK, all right. Let's talk about personal life. The Bible says that integrity and love are the basis of leadership. This is a tough question. What would be, looking over your life -- everybody's got weaknesses. Nobody's perfect -- would be the greatest moral failure in your life? And what would be the greatest moral failure of America?
OBAMA: Well, in my own life I'd break it up in stages. I had a difficult youth. My father wasn't in the house. I've written about this. You know, there were times where I experimented with drugs. I drank in my teenage years. And what I traced this to is a certain selfishness on my part. I was so obsessed with me and, you know, the reasons that I might be dissatisfied that I couldn't focus on other people. And I think the process for me of growing up was to recognize that it's not about me. It's about --
WARREN: I like that. I like that.
OBAMA: Absolutely. So -- but look, you know, when I -- when I find myself taking the wrong step, I think a lot of times it's because I'm trying to protect myself instead of trying to do god's work.
WARREN: Fundamental selfishness.
OBAMA: So that I think is my own failure.
WARREN: What about America?
WARREN: I think America's greatest moral failure in my lifetime has been that we still don't abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me, and that notion of -- that basic principle applies to poverty. It applies to racism and sexism. It applies to, you know, not having -- not thinking about providing ladders of opportunity for people to get into the middle class. There's a pervasive sense, I think, that this country, as wealthy and powerful as we are, still don't spend enough time thinking about the least of us.
WARREN: We've talked about this before, about the common good, and the common ground and common good. Can you give me an example of a time -- you know, I've seen that a lot of good legislation gets killed because of party loyalty. Can you give me a good example where you went against party loyalty, and maybe even win against your own best interest, for the good of America?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I'll give you an example that, in fact, I worked with John McCain on, and that was the issue of campaign ethics reform and finance reform. That wasn't probably in my interest or his, for that matter, because the truth was that both Democrats and Republicans sort of like the status quo. And I was new to the Senate and didn't necessarily engender a lot of popularity when I started saying, you know, we're going to eliminate meals and gifts from corporate lobbyists. I remember one of my colleagues, whose name will be unmentioned, who said, where do you expect us to eat, McDonald's? I thought, well, actually, a lot of your constituents probably do eat at McDonald's, so that wouldn't be such a bad thing.
But I think that we were able to get a bill passed that hasn't made Washington perfect, but at least has started moving things forward. I guess the other example where I'm not sure that this was a -- more of a partisan issue, but it was something I felt very deeply, was when I opposed the initial decision to go into war in Iraq. That was not a popular view at the time. And I was just starting my campaign for the United States Senate. And I think there were a lot of people who advised me, you should be cautious. This is going to be successful. The president has a very high approval rating and you could end up losing the election as a consequence of this.
WARREN: Let me ask it this way. A lot of times candidates are accused of flip-flopping, but actually sometimes flip-flopping is smart because you actually have decided on a better position based on knowledge that you didn't have.
WARREN: What's the most significant position you held ten years ago that you no longer hold today, that you flipped on, you changed on, because you actually see it differently?
OBAMA: Because I actually changed my mind.
WARREN: You changed your mind. Exactly.
OBAMA: Well, you know, I -- I'm trying to think back ten years ago. I think that a good example would be the issue of welfare reform, where I always believed that welfare had to be changed. I was much more concerned ten years ago when President Clinton initially signed the bill that this could have disastrous results. I worked in the Illinois legislature to make sure that we were providing child care and health care, other support services for the women who were going to be kicked off the roles after a certain time.
It had -- it worked better than, I think, a lot of people anticipated. And, you know, one of the things that I am absolutely convinced of is that we have to work as a centerpiece of any social policy.
OBAMA: Not only because -- not only because ultimately people who work are going to get more income, but the intrinsic dignity of work, the sense of purpose.
WARREN: We were made for work.
OBAMA: We were made for work, and the sense that you are part of a community, because you're making a contribution, no matter how small to the well-being of the country as a whole. I think that is something that Democrats generally, I think, have made a significant shift on.
WARREN: What's the most significant -- let me ask it this way. What's the most gut-wrenching decision you ever had to make and how did you process that to come to that decision?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think the opposition to the war in Iraq was as tough a decision as I've had to make. Not only because there were political consequences, but also because Saddam Hussein was a real bad person, and there was no doubt that he meant America ill. But I was firmly convinced at the time that we did not have strong evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and there were a lot of questions that, as I spoke to experts, kept on coming up. Do we know how the Shia and the Sunni and the Kurds are going to get along in a post-Saddam situation? What's our assessment as to how this will affect the battle against terrorists like Al Qaida? Have we finished the job in Afghanistan?
So I agonized over that. And I think that questions of war and peace generally are so profound. You know, when you meet the troops, they're 19, 20, 21-year-old kids, and you're putting them into harm's way. There is a solemn obligation that you do everything you can to get that decision right. And now, as the war went forward, there are difficult decisions about how long do you keep on funding the war, if you strongly believe that it's not in America's national interest. At the same time, you don't want to have troops who are out there without the equipment they need.
So all those questions surrounding the war have been very difficult for me.
WARREN: We'll be back and we're going to talk about world view in the next section.
WARREN: Everybody's got a world view, a Buddhist, a Baptist, a secularist, an atheist, everybody's got a world view. I wrote or invited people who get newsletter to write in their questions. We have about 200,000 questions that came in. And I only have 500 in this section. So no matter how you answer these world view questions, somebody's not going to like it, because we're all different kinds of world views in America. But as -- people want to know what your world view is. So as we go through this, these mine fields, let's just kind of tick them off, the mine fields of America. The first one is Christianity. Now, you've made no doubts about your faith in Jesus Christ. What does that mean to you? What does it mean to you to trust in Christ? And what does that mean to you on a daily basis? What does that really look like?
OBAMA: As a starting point, it means I believe in -- that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. Yes, I know that I don't walk alone. And I know that if I can get myself out of the way, that I can maybe carry out in some small way what he intends. And it means that those sins that I have on a fairly regular basis, hopefully will be washed away.
But what it also means, I think, is a sense of obligation to embrace not just words, but through deeds, the expectations, I think, that god has for us. And that means thinking about the least of these. It means acting -- well, acting justly, and loving mercy, and walking humbly with our god. And that -- I think trying to apply those lessons on a daily basis, knowing that you're going to fall a little bit short each day, and then being able to kind of take note and saying, well, that didn't quite work out the way I think it should have, but maybe I can get a little bit better. It gives me the confidence to try things, including things like running for president, where you're going to screw up once in a while.
WARREN: Yes. Let's go through the tough ones. Now, the most --
OBAMA: I thought that was pretty tough.
WARREN: That was a freebie. That was a gimme. That was a gimme, OK? Now, let's deal with abortion; 40 million abortions since Roe v. Wade. As a pastor, I have to deal with this all of the time, all of the pain and all of the conflicts. I know this is a very complex issue. Forty million abortions, at what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.
WARREN: Have you --
OBAMA: But let me just speak more generally about the issue of abortion, because this is something obviously the country wrestles with. One thing that I'm absolutely convinced of is that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. And so I think anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue, I think, is not paying attention. So that would be point number one.
But point number two, I am pro-choice. I believe in Roe v. Wade, and I come to that conclusion not because I'm pro-abortion, but because, ultimately, I don't think women make these decisions casually. I think they -- they wrestle with these things in profound ways, in consultation with their pastors or their spouses or their doctors or their family members. And so, for me, the goal right now should be -- and this is where I think we can find common ground. And by the way, I've now inserted this into the Democratic party platform, is how do we reduce the number of abortions? The fact is that although we have had a president who is opposed to abortion over the last eight years, abortions have not gone down and that is something we have to address.
WARREN: Have you ever voted to limit or reduce abortions?
OBAMA: I am in favor, for example, of limits on late-term abortions, if there is an exception for the mother's health. From the perspective of those who are pro-life, I think they would consider that inadequate, and I respect their views. One of the things that I've always said is that on this particular issue, if you believe that life begins at conception, then -- and you are consistent in that belief, then I can't argue with you on that, because that is a core issue of faith for you.
What I can do is say, are there ways that we can work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, so that we actually are reducing the sense that women are seeking out abortions. And as an example of that, one of the things that I've talked about is how do we provide the resources that allow women to make the choice to keep a child. You know, have we given them the health care that they need? Have we given them the support services that they need? Have we given them the options of adoption that are necessary? That can make a genuine difference.
WARREN: There's a lot more I'd like to ask on that. We have 15 other questions here. Define marriage.
OBAMA: I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian -- for me -- for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix. But --
WARREN: Would you support a Constitutional Amendment with that definition?
OBAMA: No, I would not.
WARREN: Why not?
OBAMA: Because historically -- because historically, we have not defined marriage in our constitution. It's been a matter of state law. That has been our tradition. I mean, let's break it down. The reason that people think there needs to be a constitutional amendment, some people believe, is because of the concern that -- about same-sex marriage. I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions. I do believe that we should not -- that for gay partners to want to visit each other in the hospital for the state to say, you know what, that's all right, I don't think in any way inhibits my core beliefs about what marriage are. I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view.
WARREN: OK, how about this, what about stem cells? We've had this scientific break-through of treating these pluripotent stem cells in adult cells. Do we still need federal funding for research? Would you still support that for embryo stem cells?
OBAMA: Keep in mind the way the stem cell legislation that was vetoed by the president was structured. What it said was you could only use embryos that were about to be discarded, that had been created as a consequence of attempts at in vitro fertilization. There were very tightly circumscribed mechanisms that were permitted. I think that that is a legitimate moral approach to take. If we are going to discard those embryos, and we know that there's potential research that could lead to curing debilitating diseases, Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's Disease, you know, if that possibility presents itself, then I think that we should, in a careful way, go ahead and pursue that research.
Now, if, in fact, adult stem cell lines are working just as well, then of course we should try to avoid any kind of moral arguments that may be in place.
But I want to make a broader point, Pastor Rick, on an issue like stem cell research. It's not like people who are in favor of stem cell research are going around thinking to themselves, you know, boy, let's go destroy some embryos. All right? That's not the perspective that I think people come to that issue on. I think what they say is, we would not tolerate a situation in which, you know, we're encouraging human cloning or in some ways diminishing the sacredness of human life and what it means to be human. But that in narrow circumstances, you know, there is nothing inappropriate with us pursuing scientific research that could lead to cures, so long as we're not designing embryos for that purpose.
WARREN: OK, we've got one last time -- I've got a bunch more, but let me ask you one about evil. Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?
OBAMA: Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children. I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely, and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, now, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is God's task, but we can be soldiers in that process, and we can confront it when we see it.
Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil's been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.
WARREN: In the name of good.
OBAMA: In the name of good, and I think, you know, one thing that's very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think that our intentions are good, doesn't always mean that we're going to be doing good.
WARREN: OK. All right. Let's move on to some domestic issues. Don't give me your stump speech on these. Try to -- let's go through it.
OBAMA: All right, this is hard. I've been stumping for a long time.
WARREN: I know it is.
OBAMA: All right.
WARREN: OK. The courts. Let me ask it this way. Which existing Supreme Court justice would you not have nominated?
OBAMA: That's a good one. That's a good one. I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. [ applause ] I don't think that he -- I don't think that he was as strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation, setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretations of a lot of the Constitution. I would not nominate Justice Scalia, although I don't think there's any doubt about his intellectual brilliance, because he and I just disagree. He taught at the University of Chicago, as did I in the law school.
WARREN: How about John Roberts?
OBAMA: John Roberts, I have to say was a tougher question only because I find him to be a very compelling person, you know, in conversation individually. He's clearly smart, very thoughtful. I will tell you that how I've seen him operate since he went to the bench confirms the suspicions that I had and the reason that I voted against him, and I'll give you one very specific instance and this is not a stump speech.
WARREN: All right.
OBAMA: I think one of the -
WARREN: I think --
OBAMA: Right, exactly. I'm getting the cues. I'm getting the cues. One of the most important jobs of, I believe the Supreme Court is to guard against the encroachment of the executive branch on the other, the power of the other branches.
OBAMA: And I think that he has been a little bit too willing and eager to give an administration, whether it's mine or George Bush's, more power than I think the Constitution originally intended.
WARREN: OK. The role of faith-based organizes, recent poll says 80 percent of Americans think faith-based organizations do a better job at community services than the government, helping addictions, you know, [ applause ] all the different homelessness, poverty, things like that. The civil rights act of '64 says that faith-based organizations have a right to hire people who believe like they do. Would you insist that faith-based organizations forfeit that right to access federal funds?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think you're aware of, Pastor Rick, that I gave a speech earlier this summer promoting faith-based initiatives. I think that we should have an all hands on deck approach when it comes to issues like poverty and substance abuse and as somebody who got my start out of college working with churches, who are trying to deal with the devastation of steel plants closing in the south side of Chicago, I know the power of faith-based institutions to get stuff done. What I have said is that when it comes, first of all, to funding faith-based organizations, they are always free to hire whoever they want, when it comes to their own mission, who the pastor is, various ministries, that they want to set up, but, and this has been a longstanding rule.
WARREN: College Christians?
OBAMA: Yes, absolutely. When it comes to the programs that are federally funded, then we do have to be careful to make sure that we are not creating a situation where people are being discriminated against, using federal money. That's not new. That's a concept that was true under the Clinton administration. That was true under the Bush administration. There are, in 95 percent of the circumstances, it's not an issue because people are careful about how they use the funds. There are some tough issues. Five percent of the situations where people might say I want to hire somebody of my faith for a program that is fully funded by the federal government and we're offering services to the public, and my --
WARREN: In relief, like in Katrina.
WARREN: If I took people to Katrina, and I wanted to hire some people to do relief, if I took federal money to help in that relief, I wouldn't be able to say, I only want people who believe like we do.
OBAMA: Well, you know, it's one of those situations where the devil's in the details. I think generally speaking, faith-based organizations should not be advantaged or disadvantaged when it comes to getting federal funds, by virtue of the fact that they're faith- based organizations. They just want a level playing field. But what we do want to make sure of is that as a general principle we're not using federal funding to discriminate, but that is only when it comes to the narrow program that is being funded by the federal government. That does not affect any of the other ministries that are being taken, that are taking place.
WARREN: OK. Let's go to education. America right now ranks 19th in high school graduations. We're first in incarcerations.
OBAMA: Not good.
WARREN: Not good. 80 percent of Americans recently polled said they believe in merit pay. Now, for teachers, do you -- I'm not asking do you think all teachers should get a raise. Do you think better teachers should be paid better? They should be paid more than poor teachers?
OBAMA: I think that we should -- and I've said this publicly, that we should set up a system of performance pay for teachers, negotiated with teachers, worked with the teachers to figure out the assessments, so that they feel like they're being judged fairly, it's not at the whim of the principal. That it's not simply based on a single high stakes standardized test but the basic notion that teaching is a profession, that teachers are underpaid, so we need to pay them all more, but -- and create a higher baseline, but then we should also reward excellence.
WARREN: Reward excellence.
OBAMA: I think that is a concept that all of us should embrace. [ applause ]
WARREN: OK. Taxes, this is a real simple question. Define rich. [ laughter ] I mean give me a number, Is it $50,000, $100,000, 200,000? Everybody keeps talking about who we're going to tax. How can you define that?
OBAMA: You know, if you've got book sales of $25 million, then you qualify.
[ laughter ] [ applause ]
WARREN: No, I'm not asking about me.
OBAMA: Look, the -- here's how I think about it. Here's how I think about it. And this is reflected in my tax plan. If you are making $150,000 a year or less, as a family, then you're middle class or you may be poor. But $150,000 down you're basically middle class, obviously depends on the region where you're living.
WARREN: In this region, you're poor.
OBAMA: Yes, well -- depending. I don't know what housing practices are going. I would argue that if you're making more than $250,000, then you're in the top three percent, four percent of this country. You're doing well. Now, these things are all relative. And I'm not suggesting that everybody is making over $250,000 is living on easy street. But the question that I think we have to ask ourselves is, if we believe in good schools, if we believe in good roles, if we want to make sure that kids can go to college, if we don't want to leave a mountain of debt for the next generation. Then we've got to pay for these things, they don't come for free, and it is irresponsible.
I believe it is irresponsible intergenerationally for us to invest or for us to spend $10 billion a month on a war and not have a way of paying for it. That, I think, is unacceptable. So nobody likes to pay taxes. I haven't sold 25 million books but I've been selling some books lately, and so I write a pretty big check to Uncle Sam. Nobody likes it. What I can say is under the approach I'm taking, if you make $150,000 or less, you will see a tax cut. If you're making $250,000 a year or more, you're going to see a modest increase. What I'm trying to do is create a sense of balance, and fairness in our tax code. One thing I think we can all agree on, is that it should be simpler so that you don't have all these loopholes and big stacks of stuff that you've got to comb through, which wastes a huge amount of money and allows special interests to take advantage of things that ordinary people cannot take advantage of.
WARREN: OK. We'll be right back.
WARREN: Welcome back to the Saddleback Civil Forum on the presidency. In this last section, I want us to talk about America's responsibility to the rest of the world. We are the most blessed nation in the world, and we're blessed to be a blessing, to whom much is given, much is required. So let me -- let's just go down some of the issues, international issues. First thing, let's just talk about war. As an American, what's worth dying for? What's worth having sacrifice of the American lives for?
OBAMA: Well, obviously American freedom, American lives, America's national interests. You know, I was just with my family on vacation in Hawaii and visited the place where my grandfather is laid to rest, the Punch Bowl National Cemetery.
WARREN: Punch Bowl, yes.
OBAMA: And then went out to Arizona, out in Pearl Harbor and you're reminded of the sacrifices that have been made on behalf of our freedom. And I think that is a solemn obligation that we all have. I think that we also have forged alliances with countries, NATO being a prime example, where we have pledged to act militarily for the common defense, that is in our national interest and that is something that I think we have to abide by.
WARREN: What would be the criteria that you would commit troops to end the genocide, for instance, it's like what's going on in Darfur or could happen in Georgia or anywhere else?
OBAMA: You know -- I don't think that there is a hard and fast line at which you say, OK, we are going in. I think it is always a judgment call. I think that the basic principle has to be that we have it within our power to prevent mass killing and genocide, and we can work in concert with the international community to prevent it, then we should act.
Now, we have to do so -- [ applause ] we have to do so -- I think that international component is very critical. We may not get 100 percent agreement.
WARREN: The war without U.N. approval?
OBAMA: Yes, absolutely, but I think you take an example like Bosnia, when we went in and undoubtedly saved lives. We did not have U.N. approval, but there was a strong international case that had been made that ethnic cleansing was taking place, and under those circumstances, when we have it within our power, we should, you know, we should take action.
WARREN: OK. This one is dear to my heart. Most people don't know that there are 148 million orphans in the world. 148 million kids growing up without mommies and dads. They don't need to be in an orphanage. They need to be in families. But a lot of families can't afford to take these kids in. Would you be willing to consider and even commit to doing some kind of emergency plan for orphans, like President Bush did with AIDS, almost a president's emergency plan for orphans, to deal with this issue?
OBAMA: I cheated a little bit. I actually looked at this idea ahead of time, and I think it is a great idea. I think it's something that we should sit down and figure out, working between non- governmental organizations, you know, national institutions, the U.S. government and try to figure out what can we do. I think that part of our plan, though, has to be, how do we prevent more orphans in the first place, and that means that we're helping to build a public health infrastructure around the world, that we are, you know, building on the great work that you, and by the way, this president has done when it comes to AIDS funding around the world. I think it helps. I'm often a critic of President Bush, but I think the PEPFAR program has saved lives and has done very good work and he deserves enormous credit for that.
WARREN: Religious persecution, what do you think the U.S. should do to end religious persecution, for instance, in China, in Iraq, and in many of our supposed allies? I'm not just talking about persecution of Christianity, but there's religious persecution around the world that persecutes millions of people.
OBAMA: Well, I think the first thing we have to do is to bear witness and speak out, and not pretend that it's not taking place. You know, our relationship with China, for example, is a very complicated one. You know, we're trading partners. Unfortunately, they are now lenders to us because we haven't been taking care of our economy the way we need to be. I don't think any of us want to see military conflict with China.
So we want to manage this relationship and move them into the world community as a full partner, but we can't purchase that by ignoring the very real prosecutions, persecutions that are taking place, and so having an administration that is speaking out, joining in international forums, where we can point out human rights abuses, and the absence of religious freedom, that, I think, is absolutely critical. Over time, what we are doing is setting up new norms and creating a universal principle that people's faith and people's beliefs have to be protected.
And as you said, it's not just Christians, and we've got to make sure, you know, one thing I think is very important for us to do on all of these issues is to lead by example. That's why I think it's so important for us to have religious tolerance here in the United States. That's why it's so important for us, when we are criticizing other countries about rule of law to make sure that we're abiding by rule of law, and habeas corpus, and we're not engaging in torture, because that gives us a moral standing to talk about these other issues.
WARREN: OK. Another issue, the third largest and the fastest growing criminal industry in the world is human trafficking. $32 billion a year. A lot of people don't know that there are about 27 million people living in slavery right now. Many of them in sex trafficking than any others. How do we speak out and how do you plan to do something about that?
OBAMA: This has to be a top priority and this is an area where we've already seen bipartisan agreement on this issue. What we have to do is to create better, more effective tools for prosecuting those who are engaging in human trafficking and we have to do that within our country. Sadly, there are thousands who are trapped in various forms of enslavement, here in our country.
Oftentimes young women who are caught up in prostitution. So we've got to give prosecutors the tools to crack down on these human trafficking networks. Internationally, we've got to speak out and we've got to forge alliances with other countries to share intelligence, to roll up the financing networks that are involved in them. It is a debasement of our common humanity, whenever we see something like that taking place.
WARREN: OK. In a minute, in one minute, because I know you could take the entire hour on this, tell me in a minute why you want to be president.
OBAMA: You know, I remember what my mother used to tell me. I was talking to somebody a while back and I said the one time that she would get really angry with me is if she ever thought that I was being mean to somebody, or unfair to somebody. She said, imagine standing in their shoes. Imagine looking through their eyes. That basic idea of empathy, and that, I think, is what's made America special is that notion, that everybody has got a shot. If we see somebody down and out, if we see a kid who can't afford college, that we care for them, too.
And I want to be president because that's the America I believe in and I feel like that American dream is slipping away. I think we are at a critical juncture. Economically, I think we are at a critical juncture. Internationally, we've got to make some big decisions not just for us for the next generation and we keep on putting it off. And unfortunately, our politics is broken and Washington is so broken, that we can't bring together people of goodwill to solve these common problems. I think I have the ability to build bridges across partisan lines, racial, regional lines to get people to work on some common sense solutions to critical issues and I hope that I have the opportunity to do that.
[ applause ]
WARREN: I'm going to skip over a couple of these other important ones and just ask you, what do you say to people who opposed me asking you these questions? That will be the last one.
OBAMA: These are the kinds of forums that we need, where we have a conversation, and I think based on -- [ applause ] -- based on these conversations, the American people can make a good judgment. I mean, one of the things, if you're a person of faith like me, I believe that things will work out and we will get the president that we need. What you want, though, is just to make sure that people have good information, that they're not just consuming negative ads or the kind of nasty tit-for-tat that has become so common in politics.
You know, I want people to know me well and I want people -- I'm sure John McCain feels the same way. And that if we are both known and people know where we stand on issues. You know, I trust in the American people. They're going to make a good decision and we're going to be able to solve the big problems that we face.
WARREN: OK. I've got 30 seconds. What would you tell the American public if you knew there wouldn't be any repercussions?
[ laughter ]
OBAMA: Well, you know what I would tell them? Is that solving big problems, like for example, energy, is not going to be easy and everybody is going to have to get involved. And we are going to have to all think about how are we using energy more efficiently and there's going to be a price to pay in transitioning to a more energy- efficient economy and dealing with issues like climate change. And if we pretend like everything is free, and there's no sacrifice involved, then we are betraying the tradition of America.
I think about my grandparents' generation, coming out of a depression, fighting World War II, you know, they've confronted some challenges we can't even imagine. If they were willing to make sacrifices on our behalf, we should be able to make some sacrifices on behalf of the next generation.
WARREN: Senator, thank you.
OBAMA: Thank you.
WARREN: Would you stand? Would you stand? And thank Senator Barack Obama.
OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you.
WARREN: Thank you.
OBAMA: Thank you so much.
WARREN: And while you're still standing, would you welcome at the same time Senator John McCain, would you welcome him, as he comes out here.
Hi, John. Good to see you.
MCCAIN: Good to see you.
WARREN: Thank you guys. Thank you so much.
(END OF OBAMA PORTION)
Barack Obama, Remarks at the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency in Lake Forest, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/278531