Stanley's blog

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.

I could not resist watching its entire 54 minutes. Of course, words alone are not sufficient, but they are certainly a start, bringing to the dispute historical context, vision, fairness, and above all, hope.

Of course, action must follow but Obama came over as young, vigorous, understanding and honest. He gives the impression that he believes every word he says. His decision to make such a high profile speech confirms the assessment that only a comprehensive peace in the Greater Middle East is workable. Obama shows great courage to make this an agenda priority when he faces huge domestic economic problems and needs all the political support he can get.

So much of what the President said merits being quoted in full, that I therefore recommend a reading of the whole speech.

It was a masterful combination of hard-hitting substance, quoting from the Koran, Bible and Talmud, delivered with obvious frankness and honesty, with a perfect balance and an extraordinary ability not to say a single word out of place. His delivery was impeccable as always. The success of the speech is borne out by its reception worldwide. By Arabs, despite his assertion that America‘s strong bonds with Israel are … unbreakable.” By the Israeli government, despite his commitment to the two state solution and his statement that: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements… It is time for these settlements to stop.”

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.

Two final observations. Obama both said that America’s strong bonds with Israel are unbreakable, but also that the US does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements and that it is time for these settlements to stop. How will he force Israel to cease expanding the settlements without breaking any bond?

Obama stated that Iran should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Does this mean that he accepts the right of Iran to enrich uranium enrichment if it accepts the Treaty safeguards?

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  1. A good analysis, and what underscores it is the eight year debacle that Bush created. Obama is of course prey to those who hope to see Obama do right by what Bush did wrong. Bush created such havoc among friend and foe, that it will be fifty years undoing the damage he did and Obama cannot even home to address all the horror that Bush brought into being. Hope Stanley is right and Obama can make good on some of the promise he represents.
    Warren Leming

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

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