THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON A NEW BEGINNING
June 4, 2009
1:10 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am honored
to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For
over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a
century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. And together, you
represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I’m grateful for your hospitality,
and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And I’m also proud to carry with me the
goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in
my country: Assalaamu alaykum. (Applause.)
We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the
world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The
relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and
cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by
colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in
which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their
own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization
led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.
Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of
Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these
extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view
Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human
rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.
So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who
sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that
can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and
discord must end.
I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims
around the world, one based on 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. I know there’s been a lot of
publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I
answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to
this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each
other 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.” (Applause.) That is what I will try to do
today — 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.
Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I’m 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
at 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 — 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 — (applause) — 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. (Applause.)
I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to
recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second
President, John Adams, wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity
against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American
Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have
served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses,
they have taught at our universities, they’ve excelled in our sports arenas, they’ve won
Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first
Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our
Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers — Thomas
Jefferson — kept in his personal library. (Applause.)
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first
revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and
Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my
responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of
Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)
But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just
as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a selfinterested
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.”
Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack
Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) 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 — and that includes nearly
7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and
educational levels that are higher than the American average. (Applause.)
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion.
That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within
our borders. That’s why the United States 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.
Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words
alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly
in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our
failure to meet them will hurt us all.
For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one
country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are
at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all
nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are
endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that
is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.) That is what it means to share this
world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human
And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a
record of nations and tribes — and, yes, religions — subjugating one another in pursuit of
their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our
interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over
another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners
to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared.
Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the
opposite: We must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as
clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally
The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.
In Ankara, I made clear that America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam.
(Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave
threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject:
the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to
protect the American people.
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to work
together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with
broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I’m
aware that there’s still some who would question or even justify the events of 9/11. But
let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were
innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done
nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people,
claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive
scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These
are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.
Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no
military — we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young
men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would
gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were
not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many
Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.
And that’s why we’re partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs
involved, America’s commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate
these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of
different faiths — but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are
irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam.
The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as if he has killed all
mankind. (Applause.) And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if
he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so
much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in
combating violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace.
Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in
Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the
next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and
businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who’ve been displaced. That’s why we
are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver
services that people depend on.
Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that
provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that
the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also
believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build
international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. (Applause.) Indeed,
we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will
grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”
Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future — and to
leave Iraq to Iraqis. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people — (applause) — I have
made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory
or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. And that’s why I ordered the removal of our
combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq’s
democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July,
and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. (Applause.) We will help Iraq train
its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq
as a partner, and never as a patron.
And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never
alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. 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. We are taking concrete actions to change
course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I
have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. (Applause.)
So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law.
And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened.
The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the
sooner we will all be safer.
The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between
Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.
America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based
upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish
homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in
Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald,
which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and
gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire
Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is
hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews —
is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of
memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and
Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they’ve
endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza,
and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to
lead. They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation.
So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And
America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity,
opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.)
For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations,
each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It’s easy to point fingers —
for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding, and for
Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its
borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other,
then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides
to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and
That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest.
And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and
dedication that the task requires. (Applause.) The obligations — the obligations that the
parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for
them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong
and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the
whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full
and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center
of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to
South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that
violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at
sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is
claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian
Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its
people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to
recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to
unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past
agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be
denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of
continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous
agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to
And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work
and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing
humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing
lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people
must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable
And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an
important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict
should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems.
Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the
institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and to choose
progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public
what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot
impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away.
Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act
on what everyone knows to be true.
Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a
responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see
their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the
place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home
for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to
mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra — (applause) — as in the story of Isra,
when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)
The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of
nations on nuclear weapons.
This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic
Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my
country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold
War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian
government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostagetaking
and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather
than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my
country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but
rather what future it wants to build.
I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with
courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two
countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of
mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons,
we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It’s about
preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the
world down a hugely dangerous path.
I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No
single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that’s
why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations
hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation — including Iran — should have the
right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the
nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it
must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I’m hopeful that all countries in the region
can share in this goal.
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)
I know — I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent
years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear:
No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the
people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions
of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as
we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an
unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind
and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal
administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the
people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are
human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)
Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear:
Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure.
Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of
all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree
with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they
govern with respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only
when they’re out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of
others. (Applause.) So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by
the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your
power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and
participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your
people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without
these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) The fifth issue that we must address
together is religious freedom.
Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and
Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout
Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we
need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based
upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for
religion to thrive, but it’s being challenged in many different ways.
Among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the
rejection of somebody else’s faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld —
whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. (Applause.) And if we are
being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions
between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always
examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on
charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation.
That’s why I’m committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can
Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from
practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim
woman should wear. We can’t disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence
In fact, faith should bring us together. And that’s why we’re forging service projects in
America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That’s why we welcome
efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s interfaith dialogue and Turkey’s leadership in
the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith
service, so bridges between peoples lead to action — whether it is combating malaria in
Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.
The sixth issue — the sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights. (Applause.) I
know –- I know — and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about
this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her
hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is
denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that countries where women are
well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
Now, let me be clear: Issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for
Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we’ve seen Muslim-majority
countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues
in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.
I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.
(Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity — men
and women — to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the
same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live
their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. And that is why the United
States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for
girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps
people live their dreams. (Applause.)
Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.
I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and
television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and
mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also
huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations — including America — this
change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic
choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities — those things we most cherish
about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.
But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions
between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their
economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the
astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In
ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of
innovation and education.
And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what
comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work.
Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are
beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that
education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century — (applause) — and in
too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I’m
emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has
focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader
On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one
that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage
more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim
students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children
around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can
communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.
On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner
with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on
Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders,
foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities
around the world.
On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological
development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace
so they can create more jobs. We’ll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the
Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on
programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean
water, grow new crops. Today I’m announcing a new global effort with the Organization
of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with
Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.
All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens
and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim
communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility
to join together on behalf of the world that we seek — a world where extremists no longer
threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and
Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for
peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all
God’s children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But
we can only achieve it together.
I know there are many — Muslim and non-Muslim — who question whether we can forge
this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the
way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort — that we are fated to
disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real
change can occur. There’s so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the
years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. 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.
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’s easier to start wars than to end them. It’s easier to blame others than to look inward.
It’s easier 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’s one rule that lies at the heart
of every religion — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
(Applause.) 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 hearts of billions around the world. 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
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. Thank you very much. Thank you.