In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama invoked respect for human dignity as the quality of a free and open society that brings together a variety of policies that define the United States.

“It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world,” the president said. “It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.” He recommitted to condemning the persecution of women and religious minorities worldwide, as well people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

It’s also why the president banned specific CIA interrogation techniques with an executive order on his third day in office in 2009.

The remarks pick up a theme President Obama has articulated before. In his remarks following his meeting with Pope Francis last year, the president said they shared “a belief that in politics and in life the quality of empathy, the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes and to care for someone even if they don’t look like you or talk like you or share your philosophy — that that’s critical.”

“We do these things not only because they’re right,” the president stressed in his address, “but because they make us safer.”