Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Yes they can - and did

President Obama's now famous "Cairo Speech" was delivered to the Muslim world on June 4, 2009. “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,” Obama said.

Some salient excerpts that I think bear on the current upheaval in Egypt:
"There are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy."

"I know there are many – Muslim and non-Muslim – who question whether we can forge this new beginning. . . . 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."
Did Egypt’s youth – now among the thongs protesting in Tahrir Square – take Obama’s words to heart? We know his message resonated with and lifted spirits on the Arab Street, if only briefly. To be sure, the political drama unfolding in Cairo today stems from a long history of abuse by Pharaoh Mubarak’s authoritarianism. A popular explosion was probably inevitable. But I can’t but wonder if history will ultimately conclude that Mr. Obama’s powerful speech lit the fuse.

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