POLITICAL observations & opinions

* a new beginning: President Obama’s speech in Cairo (6-4-09)

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 5, 2009

President Obama’s speech in Cairo (6-4-09) …




Obama in Cairo



You can listen to the entirety of the President’s speech by clicking above, and I urge you to do so. It is a brilliant speech, facing head-on a series of difficult issues, and dealing with each in a thoughtful, intelligent, and compelling manner. I am so proud of our President; he continues to grow every single day.

Extracted below are some of the major points of President Obama’s speech, including his remarks about 7 specific areas of tension: violent extremism, Israel & Palestine, nuclear weapons, democracy, religious freedom, women’s rights, and economic development and opportunity.

Mr. Obama does not avoid what is difficult or that which makes some people uneasy.

He states his views, he teaches, he convinces, he leads.

Extracts from President Obama’s speech in Cairo – 6-4-09 

  • I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions.
  • We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate.
  • I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
  • But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors.
  • As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.
  • I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco.
  • I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.
  • But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America.
  • Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people.
  • That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely.

1. violent extremism

  • The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.
  • America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam.
  • We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security.
  • Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice.
  • Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis.

2. Israel & Palestine

  • The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.
  • America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable.
  • Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful.
  • Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong.
  • On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.
  • So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.
  • America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
  • 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.
  • Palestinians must abandon violence.
  • Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s.
  • The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.
  • Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society.
  • Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities.

3. nuclear weapons

  • The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.
  • This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.
  • I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons.

4. democracy

  • The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.
  • I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.
  • 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.

5. religious freedom

  • The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.
  • Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.
  • People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul.
  • Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together.

6. women’s rights

  • The sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.
  • 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.
  • 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 respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.

7. economic development and opportunity

  • Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.
  • 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.
  • But I also know that human progress cannot be denied.
  • all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas.

All these things must be done in partnership.

  • The issues that I have described will not be easy to address.
  • But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world we seek – a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected.
  • 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.

2 Responses to “* a new beginning: President Obama’s speech in Cairo (6-4-09)”

  1. Lew Weinstein said

    There are some who think anything but total uncritical support for everything Israel says and does means a lessening of the fundamental U.S. commitment to Israel. I am not one of these. I think Israeli expansion of the settlements is contrary to Israel’s interests as well as ours, and I applaud President Obama for taking on that issue squarely.

  2. Ilene from The Big Apple said


    Had a teeeny issue with comparing the plight of the Jews after the Holocaust with the Palestinian issue, but other than that … it was amazing. Isn’t it nice not to have to cringe when our President gives a speech?


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