January 29, 2011

Obama: Flashback to Cairo

With hopes for change in Cairo as high as the current tension level, I thought we’d look back at these photos from the White House Flickr stream.

If the situation in the Middle East represents a complex challenge for Obama right now, the crisis, from a visual perspective, also involves a confrontation between the hopes he raised (and the WH photos amplified) between the President’s dramatic speech at Cairo University in June of 2009 and the reality today on the ground.

A couple things to hone in on, by the way.  If you notice, of the two audience portraits offered by the White House pictures from the speech (both in our slideshow above), one shows a member of the Coptic clergy. This photo — as inspiring, even heart rending as it is — also serves as a red flag for the deep complications of a post-Mubarak Egypt.  The Copts and the Muslims might be united today against the regime, but what are the prospects of a larger brotherhood tomorrow?

Finally, before we all get our hopes up too much, it’s also worth pointing out what else was happening as a background to Obama’s Cairo speech that June 4th.  For one, a spirit of reform was rocking Iran just eight days in advance of the ultimately disputed Iranian election — the images of thousands of young people filling the streets in support of the hoped-for successor to Ahmadinejad, Mir Hussein Moussavi, now all too bittersweet.

To see Stephen Crowley’s powerful (and also heavily Coptic Christian) photo of the speech for the New York Times, check this post at our Tumblr Quick Pic site.

(photo 1: Pete Souza/White House. caption: President Barack Obama speaks at Cairo University in Cairo, Thursday, June 4, 2009. In his speech, President Obama called for a ‘new beginning between the United States and Muslims’, declaring that ‘this cycle of suspicion and discord must end’. photo 2: Chuck Kennedy/White House. caption: Pope Shenouda III, The Coptic Orthodox Christians’ Pope in Egypt, listens to President Barack Obama deliver a much anticipated speech to the Muslim world from the conference hall of Cairo University in Egypt June 4, 2009.  photo 3: Chuck Kennedy.  photo 4: Pete Souza.Students at Cairo University listen to President Barack Obama. photo 5: Chuck Kennedy.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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