Mubarak steps down: Obama's a big reason why
After 18 days of protests, Hosni Mubarak has stepped down. As triumphant crowds swell the streets of Egypt, Western analysts discuss the factors the led to his ouster. But they're missing one: President Obama – his life, his family, his message.
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I think about the meaning of the professor’s words as the world watches throngs of Egyptians cheering Mr. Mubarak’s departure, while continuing their calls for a democratically-elected government. And it seems to me that the West has missed a crucial point: Obama and his family are the personification of the democracy and equality to which Egyptians aspire and, at the same time, a reminder of the limitations of the Egyptian government.Skip to next paragraph
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For people starving for democratic freedoms, Obama’s words – reinforced by his highly visible state visit to Cairo – were likely interpreted as a radical statement of the possibilities that could be real if Egyptians took matters into their own hands.
To be sure, Obama is the leader of a nation that has historically touted democracy in the Middle East while supporting regimes that undercut this ideal. Despite his administration’s initially muddled response to the crisis, the president’s repeated expressions of support for the Egyptian people – especially the youth – signal that the US may be breaking from its outdated reliance on convenient dictators. This hopeful moment in history should mark the beginning of a new era in US foreign policy, in which support for democracy is not at odds with our geopolitical interests in regional peace and stability.
When I watch the demonstrators on television, I wonder whether the professor I met is among them. Then I shake my head, because I am certain that she is. I imagine her having led protests in Tahrir Square, fearlessly standing up for the same ideals of freedom and equality that inspired the French and American revolutions, the women’s and civil rights movements in the US, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China, and other similar efforts in countries around the world. And now I imagine her among the exultant masses swelling the streets of Cairo with cries of victory and joy.
Ultimately, she and her compatriots look forward to a day when a young man or woman among them with an “unlikely story” like Obama's can rise to lead Egypt toward free and fair elections.
Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is the president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, a social-change strategy firm headquartered in Washington. She is the author of “The Political Action Handbook: A How-to Guide for the Hip Hop Generation” and co-editor of “Strengthening Communities: Social Insurance in a Diverse America.”
via The OpEd Project