Even though I'm traveling and not monitoring hailing or other frequencies in the usual profusion, I am happy to take note of President Obama's speech in Cairo--a daring, risky, straightforward text, which Richard Engels of NBC News, who heard it in Arabic, said was well crafted for that language and culture.
The primary audience was the 1.5 billion people in the Muslim world, and reporters say a lot were listening. First reactions were very positive. Engel said people were listening with their mouths hanging open--they'd never heard an American President speak this way. Andrea Mitchell said the speech was potentially transformational in terms of U.S. relations to the Muslim world, and transforming the Obama presidency.
But the transformational aspect began not with the words but with the sight--if for a moment westerners saw Barack Obama through Muslim eyes, they might get a hint of that. Barack Hussein Obama, President of the United States.
His speech sought conciliation based on equal respect and treatment--he called for an end of stereotyping Muslims, and also the stereotyping in the Muslim world of America and Americans. He made pronouncements that offended some Israelis, some Arabs (particularly governments and powers that be) and some in the west, but he set a new agenda and a new tone. The largest paper in Egypt proclaimed, he is the one we have been waiting for. A citizen proclaimed to a reporter, Yes we can!
A speech of course is not everything, but everything may depend on it. It's another necessary if not sufficient piece of the puzzle that may fit together to make a better future.
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