Boy Wears Angela Davis Shirt, ca. 1970
Stephen Shames: Childhood and Youth
Copyright (c) 2009 The Daily Star
Friday, January 09, 2009
Barack Obama's historic speech on the Middle East
By John V. Whitbeck
President-elect Barack Obama has a problem. Particularly in the wake of Israel's holiday-season massacre of Gazans, he is under heavy pressure to focus immediately on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to "do something." However, if he were simply to announce an intention to work harder to achieve an impossible goal by means that have repeatedly failed - a decent "two-state solution" through bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations - such a commitment to further years of time-wasting would kill hope rather than inspire it and be counterproductive.
Furthermore, Obama's entourage has let it be known that he would like to make a major speech in a Muslim country early in his presidency. A welcome gesture, to be sure, but what would he say? If he were simply to promise "more of the same," as he did during his campaign, his frustrated audience might be tempted to throw shoes. What could he say that would be new and exciting, would truly represent "change" in American policy and would inspire genuine and justified hope that Middle East peace really is possible?
A conclusion to his speech along the following lines would offer change to believe in and audacious hope and could produce a far better future for Israelis, Palestinians and all mankind than most people would dare to dream possible in these somber days:
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Subject: My latest Athens News piece - advice to Hillary
Letter to Secretary of State Clinton
Dear Madame Secretary-designate,
In February 2003 I ended my resignation letter to Colin Powell, with the following words:
I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and prosperity of the American people and the world we share.
The election of Barack Obama has been a vindication for me and many other foreign service officers. Merely by existing as the embodiment of that universal dream we like to call "American," he has opened the door for the United States to represent itself effectively to the world again.
You have the skills to take full advantage of that opening. Powell was a superb diplomat, but diplomacy cannot restore America's global standing. Our policy choices matter more than the intelligence and gravitas with which we explain them. Fortunately, the American people have demanded a change in course. To fulfill their dream of security and prosperity, that change must respect a growing interdependence of U.S. and global interests.
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