Friday, June 5, 2009

Naam, feena! (Yes we can!) n°3 - Speech Commentary

As promised, here is my take on Obama's speech at Cairo University yesterday.

To start off with, I have taken the actual transcript of his speech and picked out the parts I thought were most important. So if you missed the speech, can't bother to read the entire thing or just want a refresher, enjoy.

I've also taken the liberty of putting my comments in red italics between Obama's words (just like a girl over-analyzing a text message from her crush), and breaking it into an easy to follow structure.

This is the layout of the speech, set out very neatly like a high school essay:


BODY : "Issues"
  1. Fighting violent extremism in all forms

  2. Israeli-Palestinian Situation

  3. Nuclear Weapons

  4. Democracy

  5. Religious freedom

  6. Women’s Rights

  7. Economic Development and Opportunity (proposes a Partnership)





"More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims and a Cold War in which Muslim majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations..."

Iraq war much?

I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap and share common principles, principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings...

Applause breaks Obama had not anticipated whenever he mentions/quotes the Koran and the historical importance and influence of Islam...

And 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. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire.

a.k.a. "We stereotype you as terrorists but you stereotype us as well."

Let there be no doubt, Islam is a part of America.

Blunt, important statement; acknowledging that Islam is an integral part of the US. Has this been done before?

And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations: to live in peace and security, to get an education and to work with dignity, to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Ok, I just had to throw this in here. This is something I have been saying for a long, long time. Republican, Democrat, Muslim, Christian, Man, Woman- we all want the same things in the end. Obama, or his speech writers, are just much more concise. I'll be stealing this if you don't mind...

Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail."

And that is a threat.

BODY: "The Issues"


It is my first duty as president to protect the American people.

a.k.a. The potential for war is not out of the question if the American people are threatened.

We plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been displaced.

That's why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.

I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no basis and no claim on their territory or resources. … That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012.

No claim on Iraqi territory?! Woohoo! Refreshing! Must watch to see if these promises are kept.


America's strong bonds with Israel are well-known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied. …Six million Jews were killed, more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless. It is ignorant, and it is hateful.

Mandatory Israel ass-kissing so speech is not seen as too pro-Muslim


Now, I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nations should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons…. 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.

Again, his aspiration for a nuclear-weapon free world. Iran can have nuclear power if it obeys intl guidelines...


No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other. That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people.

America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.

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. These are not just American ideas. They are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere.

America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments, provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power. Once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others
elections alone do not make true democracy.

a.k.a. "We are not going to say that democracy is the best form of government, but it really is." And I must say that I, of course, agree.


People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul.

This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive. But it's being challenged in many different ways. Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith.

The richness of religious diversity must be upheld, whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt.

Lebanon shoutout!!!


I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal.

Notice how he says "chooses." Very important and subtle

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.

Of course!

Now let me be clear, issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam.

Nice to have that said.

I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.

I'm sorry, what? You are CONVINCED?? Really, and what made you come to that genius conviction?? Don't you have two daughters? He should have said: "It is an indisputable fact that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons." Was he trying to play it safe with his audience??

I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal. And I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.

Freedom of choice again!

That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim- majority country to support expanded literacy for girls and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.


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 into the home.

That Angelina Jolie--why is she so damn sexy??

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition.

In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education… 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.

Thank you for addressing this issue. Maybe unlike the last American administration he won't just benefit financially from all the oil-money

-->PARTNERSHIP: (Plan to create bond btwn Muslims and the US)

At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students are internships in America, invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world and create a new, online network so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.
On economic development, we will create a new core of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim majority countries. And I will host a summit on entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations, and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.
On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim majority country and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops.
Today, I'm announcing a new global effort with the organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.


Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. 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 reimagine the world, the remake this world.

I'm an idealist, but I truly believe that. Screw that, I'm a realist and I believe that.

It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier 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. There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion, that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

The Holy Quran tells us, 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.

Nice touch

Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you."

End it with God, always a crowd-pleaser


Overall, nothing too radical. An important reach out to the Muslim world (and he tried to hit on the Arab world instead of just the Muslim World through mentioning the Copts and Maronites). Important statement that Islam is a part of the US. Standard mandatory ass-kissing to Israel so as not to piss them off, but nothing to extreme reminiscent of the Palin-Biden "We love Israel"debate or any of Bush's speeches.

Mainly, its things that people (civilized and educated people the world over) already know and agree on, but something that needed to be said.

Some good quotes to remember Obama by.

You've heard the man. What do you think?



  1. Thanks for the analysis, LZ. I think the guy is impressive and his speech is noble, open minded, definitely a change from the patronising last administration.

  2. Thanks for the breakdown.

    But I have one thing to say. I think people are born with almost the same chances, abilities, and opportunities... So it would be a failed argument to classify people into man and woman. In abstract, both could be evaluated upon same grounds.

    But at the same time and in practice (especially when considering the different social/cultural experiences of either one), I don't think women's successful performance in society could be taken as an indesputable fact. It's not a fact.

    Truth is that the number of men who have been making contributions to this world other than in the field of parenthood - whether useful, useless or harmful contributions - has been much greater than that of women. It's how this patriarchal world has been running, although I don't find this a valid and strong argument anymore. Times are changing. So we are yet to see how far women could outnumber and surpass men in both value and proportional measure. That's all.

    So, I understand why he would make a safe statement like that; inorder to avoid falling into a fallacy. Not that this didn't happen in other parts of his speech.