Last winter, I found a promotional copy of the Norton Reader in my campus mailbox. It contained a copy of Barack Obama’s “A New Beginning” speech delivered in Cairo in 2009, here presented to English professors for use in the classroom as an unqualified hallmark of diplomatic eloquence.
Even as the Middle East erupts in riots, college students will be asked to ponder the question posed by the professor-editors in one of the topic questions:
Obama concludes with a call to action directed especially toward the world’s youth: “And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country — you more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world’ (paragraph 68).” Write a paper in which you discuss way you personally might respond to this call.
The publisher’s instructor’s page tells English professors that this speech “marked a new beginning in U.S. relations with the rest of the world.” Intriguing. So: what has happened as a result of this “new beginning”?
Most recently, we have had a 9/11 invasion of our consulate in Libya resulting in our ambassador and three others being brutally murdered, while surrounding countries — presumably emerging democracies of the “Arab Spring” — erupted into riots, burning the U.S. flag and the symbols of the very president who stood in Cairo as the avatar of the Second Coming.
Mainstream outlets have largely ignored this ineptitude, instead following the continued diversions towards the amateur filmmaker of Innocence of Muslims. Certainly my colleagues — who received extra compensation to select, edit, and write introductions, topic questions, and footnotes to this speech and other selections of study-worthy rhetoric — could not have known the outcome of Obama’s words as they included the speech in a book that at one time would have been filled with only words that have withstood the test of time. (Yes, my colleagues deemed the words of Barack Hussein Obama as worth taking a place next to the venerable words of Abraham Lincoln. This is typical of my colleagues — other Obama speeches are also included in textbooks.)
The Cairo speech has proved testament to the supreme egotism of a man who believes that through his mere words and presence he can turn around centuries of history and entire civilizations. “I have come here,” he proclaimed in Cairo, although sans Roman columns, “to seek a new beginning.” And the world was supposed to stop and take notice. He flattered the Muslim world by lying about the West: the historical errors were legion, remarked on by numerous conservative commentators and historians. The liberal media gave him a pass, letting his reputation as an “intellectual” stand.