Friday, June 05, 2009

A New Beginning

Yesterday morning the world watched as our American President reached out his hand and asked for peace. Saying he came to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, President Obama told the audience at Cairo University that the cycle of suspicion and discord that has defined, deluded and destroyed the relationship for so long must end.

The President asked for a new beginning — “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.”

“There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground,” the President said. “So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.”

There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, and while directed at them, the President sounded the call for peace in all corners of the globe.

The President said that problems the United States and Muslims worldwide confront must be dealt with through partnership and progress, and must be shared. Sources of tension must be addressed directly — and plainly.

He rightly asserted that America will confront violent extremists who pose a threat to U.S. national security because we “reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women and children.”

“None of us should tolerate these extremists,” he said.

But, then the President went further and acknowledged to the world that military power alone will not solve problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. To that end, Congress has approved the investment of billions of dollars each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build hospitals, schools, roads and businesses, and help those who have been displaced by the war.

Then the President took on the 800-pound gorilla that so many before him have ignored — the difficult, if not near impossible, task of finding a peaceful and just end to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. “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,” he said. “I will personally pursue this outcome. For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.”

I was proud to hear balance and nuance in the voice of an American President. He acknowledged our unbreakable bond with Israel — one forged by President Truman and born of a need for a Jewish homeland that is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Today, the President is visiting Buchenwald, which was part of the Third Reich’s final solution for the Jews of Europe. Six million Jews were killed. As the President said, “denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful.”
He went on to turn to the equally legitimate needs of the Palestinians who have also suffered in pursuit of a homeland. He said, “ So, let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.”

The President said we can both be for democracy and still respect every nation’s sovereign right. He said that, while no form of government should be imposed on any nation by another, he believes strongly in a system of government that gives voice to the people, and that respects the rule of law and the rights of all.

“Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure,” he said. “Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.”

In an audience of students, he called for greater religious freedom as necessary for peoples of the world to be able to live together and said, “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.”

I watched the President in Cairo, yesterday, express the feelings so many Americans have wished to express to the world. He concluded by quoting simply from each of the three great religions’ holy writs and said:

“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.”


Please take a moment this weekend to read the full text of the speech. It can be found here>>