U.S. President Barack Obama is reaching out to the European public as well as its leaders, promising a new era in ties across the Atlantic. NATO allies gathered for summit talks on the French German border, Mr. Obama actively sought support for his new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, and announced plans for a push for nuclear disarmament.
The president is reaching out directly to the European public. "What we thought was important was for me to have an opportunity to not only speak with you but also to hear from you, because that's ultimately how we can learn about each other," he said.
At a sports arena in Strasbourg, France, the president began a dialogue with French and German students.
It had all the trappings of a campaign rally. And indeed it was - a campaign for the hearts and minds of Europeans.
It was at this event, not a formal press conference or photo-opportunity, that he chose to make a big announcement. "This weekend in Prague I will lay out the agenda to seek the goal of a world without nuclear weapons," he said.
He offered few details about the speech he will give Sunday in the Czech capital. But he told Europeans nuclear prolifieration is not just America's problem, but theirs as well. "Even with the Cold War now over, the spread of nuclear weapons or the theft of nuclear material could lead to the extermination of any city on the planet," he said.
Mr. Obama told a young German that the threat has not lessened just because there is a new administration in Washington. "I think that it is important for Europe to understand that even though I'm now President and George Bush is no longer president, al Qaida is still a threat, and that we cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as president, suddenly everything is going to be okay," he said.
In the hours leading up to the NATO summit, Mr. Obama also held individual talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Speaking at a joint news conference, Mr. Sarkozy said France totally supports the new US strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and will send more trainers to work with the Afghan armed forces and police.
And Chancellor Merkel conceded the new American strategy is very much in line with the approach she has advocated for some time.
Security is tight throughout the border region as France and Germany co-host this summit. Protesters have threatened to disrupt the proceedings. But none of the protests are directed at Mr. Obama. And in the center of Strasbourg cheering crowds pressed against the barricades for a look at the new American president.