President Obama announced the opening of embassies in Cuba and the United States, formally beginning the process to establish diplomatic relations with the communist island nation after 54 years of American isolation.

"This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas," Obama said in a statement in the Rose Garden with Vice President Joe Biden at his side.

"This is what change looks like," he said later in his remarks, referring Secretary of State John Kerry's plans to travel to Cuba later this summer and hoist the American flag above the U.S. embassy in Havana.

The president vigorously defended the move to open the embassies and try to normalize diplomatic and economic relations with Havana against detractors who argue that doing so is only appeasing the Castro regime, which regularly imprisons democracy activists and refuses to all free and fair elections.

Read more on WashingtonExaminer.com