As a child of the Cold War, I am absolutely thrilled to see this day:
Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama announced Wednesday plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease economic restrictions on the nation, a policy shift he called the end of an "outdated approach" to U.S.-Cuban relations that, "for decades, has failed to advance our interests."
Obama said the U.S. will move towards re-opening its embassy in the communist nation and allow some travel and trade that had been banned under a decades-long embargo instated during the Kennedy administration.
"Through these changes we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas," he said.
Speaking at the same time as Obama from his own country, Cuban President Raul Castro lauded the move.
"This expression by President Barack Obama deserves the respect and recognition by all the people and I want to thank and recognize support from the Vatican and especially from Pope Francis for the improvement of relations between Cuba and the United States," he said.
Obama's announcement comes as both nations have released political prisoners in a show of goodwill, with American Alan Gross headed home on "humanitarian" grounds from Cuba early Wednesday morning. In a separate swap, a U.S. intelligence source held for 20 years was released in exchange for three jailed Cuban spies..