Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Reason I Voted for Him

Below are some excerpts from President Barack Obama's speech in Egypt. I am indebted to him for what he is trying to accomplish. It's been a long time since I've had any pride in the person who leads our country. I am genuinely hopeful.

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.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. 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. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do - to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.
As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam - at places like Al-Azhar University - that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words - within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores - that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations - to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort - a sustained effort - to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples - a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

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. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you.


10 comments:

Ms. Moon said...

He makes me so damn proud.

Syd said...

Great speech. He makes me very hopeful that the world has a chance.

Alec Beattie said...

You're so lucky to have a leader like Obama. We're stuck with a bunch of tits who're more concerned about getting away with stealing biscuits and other tosspot shit. Screw elections in the UK, let's have a revolution! Public executions! Imagine the look on Alistair Darling's face!

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Alec,
That is funny. Actually, I felt the same way about King George (Bush). I kept hoping some patriot would take him out.

I hate Bush and Cheney with a passion. As they say over here, so eloquently, I wouldn't piss on either one of them if they were on fire.

Love,

SB

kelly Al-Saleh said...

Hey SB,

I hope this is the start of something better. I'm especially interested cos my dad is Palestinian... my mum is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Both parents homelands in turmoil.


your telly fixed yet?

x Kelly

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Kelly,
What an interesting and cool heritage. I hope it's the start of something better, too.

Nah, telly still down for the count. The Cable Guy is due tomorrow morning. Let us pray.

Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope your weekend will be a good one.

My very best to you,

SB

Lady Lemon said...

Dude, I love our new pres. He makes me prouder to be an American than I have ever been.

I am just constantly blown away when I hear him speak. Over and over, I'm like "God Damn, Obama! You're so totally the shit, dude. I can't believe we get to have you as our pres!" After W, you can't take anything for granted.

Once in a blue moon, when I am feeling really fiesty, I will turn to my BF and say "Ok, whip it out. This one's for Obama."

Wait, TMI?

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Lady Lemon,
Hey, we all have to do our part to help make America great, right? We are supposed to improve America, little by little. You are clearly doing your part.

Have a great weekend!

SB

Steph said...

That gave me chills.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Steph,
Me, too. Me, too.

Love,

SB