If you haven’t already seen or heard Obama’s nearly one-hour speech in Cairo, read the Full Transcript. (Or maybe I’ve been out of the media loop for too long and you are already sick of it.)
I admit that when I first heard he was going to give this speech, I cringed. There are too many ways that it could totally flop. I never should have underestimated him.
Saturday night, Christi and I sat in bed and read the whole transcript together. When we got to the end, the first thing she said was, “I sure am glad we elected that man as our president!!” Like everyone else, we have strong disagreements with some of his views, but here he was truly impressive (kudos to his speech team too). He said things in ways that few human being are capable or qualified to say. . . he gave me a glimmer of hopefulness on issues that have weighed heavily on my heart for a long time—things I have felt totally hopeless about. Granted, the realist in me knows that the political leaders that need to make this peace, prosperity, and freedom happen won’t (see Chomsky’s response); and the hatred is so deeply seated; but if we can even begin to set a different tone . . . for those of us in cross-cultural settings tone is critical. (I’m sure the media and spin meisters have already given this a totally different feel by now, and I know certain people can’t stand anything Obama says, but I thought the speech was a great step in the right direction. I appreciated that the speech sounded more like a conversation with Moslems (with courteous connections) than an ethnocentric discussion about them. If you haven’t already, read the full transcript for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Of course, I’m reading this as an American Christian who has interacted with some Moslems in the past; I’ll be interested to see how more Moslem feel about it.
Here are a couple of responses:
“I like that Obama is here talking and listening. At least, I hope he is listening and not only talking,” . . .
“He is a beautiful speaker. He is eloquent. But the truth is we have heard this before. Can he really change America’s policies? Actions speak louder than words. And can Obama lead America to really take on those actions. We’ll see.”
On a somewhat different note, I couldn’t help thinking of some of the internal Christian conflicts when I read this.
Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations [or theological perspectives] are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country – you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.
All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.
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.
Expert analysis and responses (Washington Post)
Some unsurprising responses at Strong Reactions (CT)