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Revolution: The Obama Effect

March 31, 2011

obama peace prizePresident Obama’s world renowned speech in Cairo, Egypt (June 4, 2009) entitled “A New Beginning” was the smoldering catalyst for the sweeping movements for freedom and democracy that are engulfing so any Arab and Muslim nations today.  It would be only months later that he was notified that he would receive the Nobel Peace Prize.  Now more than ever, I am beginning to understand why.

“Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.” – Barack Obama – Cairo 2009

Many of us fail to appreciate the varying world views of America, and the associated social and diplomatic impacts.  But certainly, the leadership of former President George W. Bush had left America’s reputation in tatters.  This was particularly true among those in the many Muslim nations as they observed our needless aggression in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  During that critical time, many other (free and industrialized) nations had also begun to see the United States as a violent and self serving global intimidator rather than a dependable ally.

There can be no better example of the power of America, than the impacts of the words in our President’s Cairo speech.  Clearly the whole of President Obama’s presence in Cairo, coupled his powerful oratory and his personal history gave him a distinct advantage.  Still nobody could have known that this was the genesis of a perfect social and political storm that perhaps even Obama himself, had not anticipated (one never knows what goes on in the mind of such a brilliant man).  The people of the many Muslim countries of world had been living for generations under an iron fist of horrific social, democratic and economic suppression, and beyond that, they feared and were confused by what they saw as ongoing American anti-Muslim wars and anti-Islamic politics under Bush leadership.  The relationship between the people of many Muslim nations and many American people had literally disintegrated.

President Obama wanted to send an unprecedented welcoming message to change hearts and minds around the world with his Cairo speech.  Clearly, he accomplished his objective, but he also made a promise that provided hope. He provided a call to arms for Arabs and Muslims that we are now seeing take the form of demonstrations and demands for freedom, opportunity and self rule.

“Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.” – Barack Obama – Cairo 2009

Based on this historic speech, how could anyone be surprised that President Obama lent our support to NATO and the opposition in Libya?  After all, he said that he would.  But more importantly, the incredible timing of the brave actions of the people of the Middle East and North Africa must be fully considered.  When has there been a time in the history of the world, in which Arabs and citizens of Muslim countries might have been reasonably assured that America might not look the other way as their tyrannical governments brutally suppressed them?  When had there been a time in the history of the world that an American President encouraged them to seize upon their dreams of freedom?

“So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it.” – Barack Obama – Cairo 2009

in the looking glassWords matter.  But I believe that actions matter more.  America’s leadership in Libya (and also in Egypt) have had and will continue to yield positive global impacts.  A message has been sent that America will not look the other way and continue to support dictators, autocrats and tyrants who deprive their people of a self-rule, and opportunities for a comfortable way of life.  Our participation/manipulation of the regime change in Egypt was the first and best evidence of this.  And then, the people of suppressed Arab and Muslim nations around the world knew that President intended to stand by his word from the historic Cairo speech.  Now there is no stemming the tide.  Instead of looking the other way, America for the first time, has turned her back on two regimes that had once been tolerated and even nurtured by this country.  The world now knows that Muslim and Arab nations around the world can rely on the United States if , as the President said in his speech, they seek to pursue a better life.

It all began with the Cairo speech.  I believe that anyone who under-estimates the horrible impacts of words and actions (or the lack thereof) you must only recall the image of this country during the previous administration. In a dramatic reversal, President Barack Obama has made an incredible promise and the world has watched as he has unwaveringly kept his word.  Cairo was not political theatre.  As I listened, I sensed the Presidents sincerity that at the time. I believed every word that the President said.  Apparently, so did the Nobel Prize Committee.  What none of us could know however, was that tens of millions living under the rule of ruthless potentates and dictators were also listening and realizing that this was their opportunity.  They heard President Obama, they believed him and they trusted him.  Now, with a vision of America as a supporter and ally, the citizens of the Arab and Muslim nations are marching forward to claim their destiny.  They knew that this was their moment and they capitalized on it.

The wars are winding down and America is proudly standing for freedom for all people. President Obama’s shrewd leadership and compassionate diplomacy may well go down in history as the greatest social and geopolitical achievement of all time.

L. A.Walker

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