June 6, 2009
President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo University on 4 June, rivals the brilliance of John F Kennedy’s Ich bin ein Berliner 1963 speech in Berlin. Shrewdly, the event was hosted by Cairo University, founded in 1908, al-Azhar University, founded in 975.
The president stated that he had come to seek a new beginning between the US and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
Seven issues were addressed: terrorism, Israelis-Palestinians-Arabs, nuclear weapons, democracy, religious freedom, women’s rights and economic development & opportunity.
All these things must be done in partnership. The world we seek can only be achieved together. We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning and achieve it together.
Specific extracts which have stayed in my mind include:
· “So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace…”
· “America… includes nearly 7 million American Muslims today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.”
· “Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world.”
· “Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich…. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful.”
· “Palestinians must abandon violence…. violence is a dead end. “
· “In the middle of the cold war, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.”
· “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.”
· “… no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.”
· “…governments that protect these [human] rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.”
· “Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together.”
· “I reject the view of some in the west that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous...”
· “I know that for many, the face of globalisation is contradictory… 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… But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be a contradiction between development and tradition.”
· “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. 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.”
All in all, an inspiring speech on an inspiring occasion, bringing hope to us all and exposing the dearth of leadership on the side if the Atlantic.
Author : Stanley Crossick