LONDON — Setting the stage for a G-8 summit starting today in France, President Barack Obama spoke Wednesday from one heart of "Old Europe" to assert that the U.S.-European alliance will lead the 21st century even as new powers such as China, India and Brazil emerge.
Flatly rejecting the notion that Western civilization has peaked, Obama instead insisted that the free people and free markets that forged a new order from the ashes of World War II remain essential to global leadership in economics, politics and security arrangements, especially as turmoil spreads across the Middle East and North Africa.
He spoke to both houses of Parliament at Westminster Hall, a cavernous, church-like structure that is the oldest part of Parliament. Obama was the first U.S. president to speak there; others, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, addressed Parliament in the Royal Gallery.
Paying homage to history, Obama saluted the English for developing the rule of law and the rights of citizens, values that he said inspired the United States and set a model for the world. With allied powers, he said, they built the modern global order.
His statement of faith in the U.S.-Europe alliance came as he looks to it to help the world pivot from the troubled last decade, as wars in Afghanistan and Iraq wind down, the world recovers from a recession and the death of Osama bin Laden signals a turning point against terrorism.
Topping the agenda is helping to usher in a new era of democracy across the Middle East and North Africa. That will dominate talks as he meets today and Friday in the old seaside resort of Deauville, France, with leaders at the Group of Eight summit.