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Obama in Cairo

June 4, 2009

Keeping a campaign promise by giving a speech in a majority Muslim country, President Obama gave a speech at Egypt’s Cairo University on Thursday. His comments were well received and walked a fine line between a forceful assertion of American ideals and a more diplomatic recognition of American errors. An example, from the New York Times:

“America is not and never will be at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security,” Mr. Obama said. “Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children.

He added, “It is my first duty as president to protect the American people.”

Mr. Obama said the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 caused “enormous trauma to our country.” He offered no direct criticism of the previous administration, but reminded his audience that he has “unequivocally prohibited the use of torture” and has ordered the prison to be closed at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals,” Mr. Obama said. “We are taking concrete actions to change course.”

That line, as well as many others, was met with booming applause from the crowd, often several seconds delayed because many in the audience were listening to the speech through a translator.

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