This morning, President Obama announced that on March 21, he will travel to Cuba. 

He will be the first American President since Calvin Coolidge in 1928 to visit Cuba.

So how did we get to this point?

The President’s Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes is playing an integral role in the process of restoring the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. He took part in the secret negotiations between our government and the Cuban government in Canada, negotiations that had the support of Pope Francis and the Vatican. And today’s announcement marks a huge step toward successfully rejecting failed policies that are rooted in the Cold War and creating opportunities that will engage and empower the Cuban people.

Rhodes discusses Cuba

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, left, confers with Ricardo Zuniga, National Security Council’s Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, during President Barack Obama’s phone call with President Raúl Castro of Cuba, in the Oval Office, Dec. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

He took to Medium to lay out how the U.S. got to this announcement today:

Early in the Obama administration, we made it easier for Cuban-Americans to travel and send remittances to Cuba — because the President believed that Cuban-Americans are our best ambassadors to the Cuban people.

We later pursued many months of secret negotiations hosted by the Canadian government and supported by Pope Francis and the Vatican. And on December 17, 2014, President Obama announced — along with President Raul Castro of Cuba — that the United States and Cuba would begin a new chapter and take steps to normalize relations.

Since then, we have made progress in opening up relations between our two countries. Last summer, we restored diplomatic relations and Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Cuba to raise the American flag over our Embassy. This enhanced diplomatic presence makes it much easier for the United States to advance our interests and values in Cuba, as we do in countries around the world. We’ve been able to engage Cubans from all walks of life. We’ve facilitated visits to Cuba by U.S. lawmakers, businesses, and academics. Changes in U.S. policies and regulations have allowed for greater travel and commerce between our countries. In fact, over this period, the number of authorized American visitors to Cuba has gone up by 54 percent, enabling increased people-to-people engagement. This will continue to increase, as earlier this week, the United States and Cuban governments reached an agreement that will restore direct flights between our countries for the first time in over 50 years — a change that will allow up to 110 direct flights to Cuba from the United States each day.