President Obama addressed the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2012. His speech, probably crafted and delivered with the upcoming presidential election in mind, was also a warning (or at least it should have been) for the world at large. We have too many issues and problems as a collective group to not sit up and listen; too many personal problems and differences that need addressing.
Shortly after the speech, I posted the YouTube clipping of the video on my Facebook page saying that I hoped even if Obama didn't get reelected as US president that he remained active in public service. They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but I think in his case, it is his words that are mightier than the sword (or at least I hope they are... the people who awarded him the Nobel prize in 2009 probably thought so too). I don't think there are many in the US and world today (politics or otherwise) who could stand up to Obama in terms of oratory skills, and the ability to deliver a message as clearly and crisply as he does. Therefore, through his words alone, he has a lot to give the world, and the world a lot to learn from him. The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him early in his Presidency may have been a bit premature to some, but I believe that, if speeches such as these have the desired effect (on even a small segment of the population), then it may just have been warranted.
To me, this was one of his better speeches, ranking alongside his momentous and historic address at the University of Cairo, in the early months of his presidency. It wasn't just how he said it, because you know that is always going to be done with a certain degree of style and panache, but it was more about what he said. This speech came shortly after unrest had erupted around the world in protest of a video that was deemed offensive to Islam and its practitioners (I haven't seen the video, so I cannot say much more). Quoting the two champions of peace over the last century, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, Obama tried to resonate with people from different parts of the world, from different generations too, trying to emphasize the need for tolerance and peace. At the same time though he defended the video's creator's rights to freely air his opinions and thoughts; the emphasis his own country places on the right to and importance of freedom of speech (pandering to his domestic electorate maybe?). It was a balanced approach to a growing problem in the world today... the desire to resort to violent protests in short order.
What was more interesting to me was that for the first time I have probably heard an American president say, "... the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue." For me, it marked an important reality and a realization. Is it a sign of the times? Was he just pandering to the audience? Or did he actually mean what he said, with the hope and aspirations for a more understanding and peaceful world? As an optimist, that believes that no human is inherently bad and everyone has some good in them, I can't help but believe that the speech was delivered with the hope (and prayer?) for a better world!
As I said in my Facebook post, I hope that people grasp the true meaning of his words and [at least try to] abide by it; they are just not words for the sake of words but powerful thoughts the transcend regions, religions, geographies and even generations. Mindless violence is not the solution to anything, today or tomorrow. It is up to us as today's inhabitants of this planet to build a better world for those that are yet to come. What kind of legacy do we want to leave our children? A world filled with hate and violence or a peaceful one with opportunities galore? If it is indeed the latter, then in Obama's words, "... Burning an American flag will do nothing to educate a child. Smashing apart a restaurant will not fill an empty stomach. Attacking an Embassy won't create a single job. That brand of politics only makes it harder to achieve what we must do together: educating our children and creating the opportunities they deserve; protecting human rights, and extending democracy's promise."