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The LA Report Blog


June 4, 2009


The President, Clearly Striving to Improve America's Image in the Eyes of Muslims, Brings Message of Positive Change Overseas; Emphasizes Need for All Religions and Nations To Live and Work Together in Peace, By Finding Common Ground Rather Than Focusing On Differences and Discord

Commentary by Don Rose

President Obama seemed to be, for 54 minutes at least, the World President. While his inspiring speech at the University of Cairo made a special appeal to Muslims in several sections, Obama's message transcended nations, with words undeniable in their logic, delivered with a controlled passion that seemed to be saying, Wake up, world! It's me, Barack, and I believe we're ready for a new way of thinking. Our world can do better. He implored his audience to let go of status quo, and listen to what we know. That we can and should listen and learn from each other. That we all have basic human rights, and no one is more right than others. He gave examples from history showing how numerous nations and peoples have suffered injustices and pain, but we can and must move forward to write a new chapter in history.

Obama often sounded like a kind of world parent, implying that it is time to set aside childish things and grow up on a global scale. For example, he discussed how both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered terribly, but each side must change if there is to be lasting peace. Palestinians must abandon violence, Obama said (pointing out that it was peaceful resistance, not violence, which brought about change for blacks in America) -- but Israel must stop settlements and accept Palestine's right to exist (just as Palestine must recognize Israel). Our President, the man of mixed race, the American with the Muslim middle name, is the one American leader in recent memory who could make such statements with such conviction, imploring Muslims, Christians and Jews to go beyond painful history to a new, peaceful destiny.

Obama ended his exceptional speech with a reference to the Golden Rule, and this seemed to indeed summarize his overarching message. "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you" are words that transcend borders. The words are ancient, yet transcend time. They still apply here in the 21st century, and are more needed than ever. But perhaps the main accomplishment of Obama's speech was to show how an American President can set out a bold vision to the entire world and challenge all nations to live up to it, without sounding condescending, preachy or demanding. He knows that we are better than we have been.

Sure, some might call Obama's message pollyanna, or criticize him for stating too broad a vision. But that's what I find most endearing about this man who continues to break barriers -- his ongoing, passionate, unwavering Audacity of Hope. He is not afraid to lay out a vision that shoots for the stars. Now we need to build the (international-relations) ship to reach that stellar destination. I just hope the citizens of the world can become as audacious as Obama, because in this time of giant global challenges, audacious thinking may be the best (and only) way to envision the solutions we need to survive as a species.