At long last a U.S. President reaches out to the “other half” of the world.   In a time where it feels like an almost insurmountable culture war between factions of various sorts, it’s encouraging to be opening a dialogue between peoples.  Truly, as President Obama states below, the only way out of the vicious cycles of hatred and war is by tackling the issues of social and economic justice and mutual prosperity:

“So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and 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.”

Having been privileged to have spent a semester of college in Cairo in 1998 I am especially glad to see President Obama calling attention to our commonalities as one people.  The vast majority of people on earth share far more in common with one another than we realize.  One speech does not change the reality of the situation the world faces, however, as President Obama has shown through his career, the power of words, thoughts, and speech is in their ability to change minds, attitudes, and preconceptions.   Just as terrorists do not aim to win in direct combat, but seek to defeat a people emotionally and spiritually, destroying the fabric of their lives and forcing them to become the very enemy they project upon the other;  so to can a consistent policy of political engagement, equitable economic growth, and social justice serve to undercut the pool of hatred and resentment that fuels terrorism.

Such a policy however, can only enrage the engines of war and hatred on both sides.  As we have seen so many times in history, the practical application of peace among peoples is the most dangerous of political activities.  Let us hope that peaceful, hardworking, and reasonable people across the world of all nations, faiths, and ethnicities can stand together and put out the flames of violence.  Change starts with words, and words can change minds, and only minds can change the world.    This is a historic speech and worth reading (or viewing):


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