Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cliff's Notes of Obama’s Speech in Cairo, by Lindsey Price



This is REEEEALLY IMPORTANT (any of my Jerusalem friends will understand this homage to Brother Seely, our Ancient Near East professor, and I really mean it!)- not just for Egyptians, not just for Muslims, not just for the Arab world, but also for us as Americans who ought to be studying what our current administration has plans to do and what their core values are. This also was a call to American's to learn more about Islam so that we can grow together in mutual respect. So I hope that this post serves as a nice overview and to educate and inspire progress, as was intended. sorry about this color-it's being stubborn!-

I was very happy with President Obama’s speech in Cairo this week. Of course, its not a panacea, but I think that he took a lot of time to plan and prepare, and as a result, I feel that he outlined very well many things that are of great global importance right now.

I was a little annoyed at how much time he spent on trying to connect himself with Islam when, come on Obama, you’re a rich American Christian politician whose dad’s family just happened to have some black Muslims - a religion somewhat alienated from what most people view as the world of Islam. But, hey, you’ve gotta give him credit for trying. And he did say many good things that will hopefully get the point across that, no, the US does not hate Islam.

So after all of his feel-good Islam comments, he finally got down to the main points of his speech which included (and I will quote my favorite or the most notable parts of each section):

  1. Confronting Extremism

{This is addressed a lot in point 2} The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

  1. Israel/Palestine

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered. {I LOVE this part}

  1. Nuclear Weapons

No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

  1. Democracy

So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.{I was a little surprised by the bluntness of this- a different point of view than the previous administration} That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

  1. Religious Freedom

Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's.{Very good point- following this would help settle a lot of hate in Israel/Palestine}The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

  1. Women’s Rights

Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams. {YAY! This is a BIG deal for me and this was probably my favorite part of the specch}

  1. Economic Development

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations – including my own – this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities – those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education. {And then he gave some great ideas about creating business and technology partnerships and creating more international internships and scholarships…none of which we probably have money for at the time…}

  1. PEACE!

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you.


OKAY, so I have been reading online and listening to the radio and the reactions so far have been pretty positive. Most Cairo university student’s whose opinions I read seemed to be glad at the overall balance (meaning lack of bias) that the President’s speech held. However, a few of them condemned him for his excess of rhetoric verses his lack of concrete solutions. Although, as we know, most of the issues the world faces do not have a simple solution. And this was not meant to be a “let’s solve the world’s problems, right here, right now” speech, rather it was meant to be more of a “let’s put out on the table for the world the opinions of the US’ new administration and try to start a better relationship with our Muslim neighbors” speech, and I think that it was successful in fulfilling that. I think that this speech will serve as an outline to Obama's presidenct and as a guide to legislators worldwide. Hence, it truly is "REEEEEEALY IMPORTANT" :)

Click here to read the entire text of the speech compliments of The New York Times.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

i bet we could have gotten him to come visit our nonprofit...seeing as it was at the U of Cairo!