Obama Defends Columbia’s Ahmadinejad Invite

By Jennifer Parker

Sep 24, 2007 1:07pm

ABC News’ Jonathan Greenberger Reports: Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., defended the right of his alma mater, Columbia University, to invite Iranian President Ahmadinejad to speak, but he also said that if were president of the university, he would not have made the same decision. 

"One of the values that we believe in is the value of academic freedom. They have the right to invite people to speak," Obama said during an on-camera press conference Monday. "It’s not a choice I would have made, but we don’t need to be fearful of the rantings of somebody like Ahmadinejad.  All we need to do is just to know what our values and ideals are and be clear about what America stands for."

Obama said he would have denied Ahmadinejad the opportunity to speak at Columbia because the Iranian president has "other forums" available to him in New York, including his speech at the United Nations.

Still, Obama continued to insist that as president, he would be willing to meet one-on-one with Ahmadinejad.

"Nothing’s changed with respect to my belief that strong countries and strong presidents talk to their enemies and talk to their adversaries," he said. “Listening to the views, even of those who we violently disagree with, that sends a signal to the world that we are going to turn the page on the failed diplomacy that the Bush administration has practiced for so long."

Obama’s comments came at a press conference in New York where he was endorsed by the New York corrections officers union.

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