"This is not an afterthought. This is not a sideline in our foreign policy," Obama said.
The president also announced he would commission the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on mass killings—compiling the assessments of the American intelligence community on the risks of and possible responses to genocide.
"We need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities—because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people," he said.
After his speech, Obama shook hands with Holocaust survivors in the first two rows of the audience.
John McCain, a frequent and vocal critic of Obama's foreign policy, welcomed the president's announcements but said more must be done to help Syria's opposition survive the government's deadly crackdown.
"The only way to stop the killing, force Assad to leave power, and create the conditions for a negotiated political transition for Syria is to change the military balance of power on the ground, including giving the Syrian people the means to defend themselves," McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, said in a statement.
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