The Speech Obama Should Have Given in Cairo 2009Posted: April 24, 2016
President Obama occasionally rises to the sublime, a gift rare for professional politicians. His speech in Cairo in June 2009, nearly seven years ago, remains a major flop, an Edsel of foreign policy speeches. Yet, in an entirely different forum (London), speaking about an entirely different topics (US protests), he gave the speech he should have given then. Let us quote a few lines from his speech that Egyptians, rulers and revolutionaries alike, can heed.
Movements are “really effective in bringing attention to problems”
Activists “you’ve highlighted an issue and brought it to people’s attention and shined a spotlight, and elected officials or people who are in a position to start bringing about change are ready to sit down with you, then you can’t just keep on yelling at them” [ implicitly rulers must do more than pretend to listen]
And to many so-called leaders of January 25 “And you can’t refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position”
To all sides in a polarized country “You then have a responsibility to prepare an agenda that is achievable, that can institutionalize the changes you seek, and to engage the other side, and occasionally to take half a loaf that will advance the gains that you seek, understanding that there’s going to be more work to do, but this is what is achievable at this moment”
To those loudly urging democracy on Egypt ” change is hard and incremental”
To all sides in a country in deep trouble “solving a problem means accepting a series of partial solutions”
At the moment, those who applauded the 2009 speech will likely pay little heed to the above words.
— Maged Atiya