Obama’s Speech – A New Beginning


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 am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am 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.

Islam and the United States

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 co-existence 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 11th, 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 have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon 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.” 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 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 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. 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 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.

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. But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested 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. 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 seven million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. 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 is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hajib (sic), 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. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

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 confront together.

Major sources of tension

Violent extremism

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. 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 am aware that there are still some who 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 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.

That’s why we’re partnering with a coalition of forty-six 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 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, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. 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 is 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 have 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 upon.

Now, 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. 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. 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. That is 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. 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. 9/11 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.

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.

Israeli–Palestinian conflict

Now, 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 sixty years they have 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.

For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought 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 security. That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. 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: violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither 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. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. And Israel must also live up to its obligations 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 such progress.

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 say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. 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 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, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

Nuclear proliferation

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 hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have 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 is 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. 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 am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.


The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

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 (sic) 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. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

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 are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who 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.

Religious freedom

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 is 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. 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 is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

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 cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

In fact, faith should bring us together. That’s why we are forging service projects in America that 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.

Women’s rights

The sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.

I know, and you can tell form 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. 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 and 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. 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. 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.

Economic development and opportunity

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 of 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, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investment within my 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 engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. 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 on-line 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 will 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, and grow new crops. Today I am 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 is 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 is easier to blame others than to look inward. It is 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 is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion: that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. 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 heart 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 God.”

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.


쿠로다 카쓰히로(黒田勝弘)씨의 컬럼에서의 비빔밥 언급에 대한 우리의 편향된 시각

이번 주초에 쿠로다 카쓰히로씨의 산케이신문 고정컬럼 ‘서울로부터 여보세요’에 실린 비빔밥에 대한 글로 온 나라가 들썩하기에 컬럼내용을 한 번 뒤져봤다.


한국요리 비빔밥은 일본인에게도 인기가 있다. 한국에서는 지금, ‘한국요리의 세계화’라 하여 이 비빔밥을 세계적으로 팔아보고자 하는 캠페인이 국가적으로 전개되고 있다. 그 일환으로서 최근 미국의 신문에 비빔밥 광고가 게재됐다고 화제다.


(그 광고에 쓰인 비빔밥의) 아름다운 컬러사진이 새삼 한국신문에 소개되어, 재한일본인과의 망년회 자리에서도 화제가 됐었다. 하지만 ‘비빔밥은 겉보기에는 좋지만 먹을 때 깜짝 놀라게 되잖아’라며 세계화의 전망에 머리를 갸웃거리는 목소리가 많았다.


비빔밥은 일본의 찌라시 스시풍으로 야채나 계란등 여러가지 재료를 밥 위에 예쁘게 올려서 내온다. 하지만 이걸 먹을 때는 숫가락을 손에 쥐고 재료나 밥, 고추장 등을 맹렬히 저어 섞는다. 한국인이라면 뒤섞는 느낌이다. 때문에 당초의 아름다운 꾸밈이 사라지고 재료와 밥이 엉망진창이 되어 정체불명이 되버린 것을 숫가락으로 떠서 먹는다.


비빔밥(받침의 발음에 약한 일본어에서는 ‘비빔바’라고 표기)은 정확하게는 ‘비빔+밥’으로 ‘비빈 밥’을 말한다. 문제는 이 ‘비빔’으로, 이게 단순히 섞는다고 하기보다는 ‘저어 섞는다’는 느낌이 상당히 강하다. 한국인의 식습관의 하나로 뭐든지 비벼서 먹는 버릇이 있다.


때문에 카레라이스나 짜장면 빙수, 일본의 규동, 찌라시 스시도 모두 다짜고짜 비벼서, 뒤섞어서 먹는다. 광고사진을 보고 비빔밥을 먹으러 나온 미국인이 이 ‘양두구육‘에 놀라지 않으면 좋으련만하는 걱정이 든다. (쿠로다 카쓰히로)

내가 이 컬럼을 읽었을 때의 생각을 요약해 본다.

1. 위의 어설픈 내 번역문 가운데, 언더라인 마킹한 몇 군데를 살펴보자. 평소 우리 한국인보다 의사표현에 신중에 신중을 기하는 일본인이, ‘팔아보려는’, ‘엉망진창’, ‘양두구육’과 같은 과격한 표현을 썼다라는 점에서 이 컬럼의 시선이 삐딱한 것은 인정한다.  내가 아는 일반적인 일본인이라면, ‘팔아보려는’은 ‘확판하려는/판매를 시도해 보려는‘정도로, ‘엉망진창’은 ‘원래 모습을 찾아볼 수 없는‘정도로, ‘양두구육’은 ‘메뉴사진으로 보던 것과 다른 모습‘정도로 언어순화를 했을 것 같다. 쿠로다씨가 한국에 오래 살면서 우리 문화에 많이 동화됐는지 일본인 본연의 조심스러움을 잊어버렸나 보다.

2. 비빔밥을 대놓고 나쁘다고 표현한 문장은 없다. 일본인들도 좋아하고, 예쁘게 내온다고 쓰고 있다.

3. 짧은 컬럼이고 삐딱한 시선이 엿보이긴 하지만, 일본인 독자들을 대상으로 양국간의 식문화차이를 환기시키는 정도이다.  한국사람들이 음식을 잘 비벼먹는 건 사실이다. 깔끔떠는 일본인들에게는 유난스럽게도 보일 수 있을 게다.

3. 인정할 것은 인정해야 한다. 비빔밥은 논외로 하고, 우리네 음식점에서 메뉴와 실제 요리가 일치하는 경우가 얼마나 있었나 묻고 싶다. 다른 나라도 비슷하지 않냐고? 비슷하면 따라할 건가? 비빔밥에 대해서 아무 것도 모르는 외국인이 이쁜 메뉴만 보고 음식을 주문했다가 먹을 때는 기대했던 것과 다른 스타일로 먹어야 한다는 것에 당황할 수도 있지 않을까.

비빔밥을 좋아하는 사람이 썼다면 단점은 단점으로서 지적하고 장점도 추켜 세웠을 것이다. ‘모양은 이래도 맛도 좋고 영양도 좋은 건강식이에요’  쯤으로 글을 마무리하며 해외고객의 특수성을 간파하여 선전하기를 바랬을 것이다. 그렇지 못한 위 컬럼은 비빔밥에 대해 심드렁한 컬럼리스트가 쓴 그저 그런 글이다.

때로는 독(毒)도 내 상처를 치유하는 약이 될 수가 있고, 남의 산의 모난 돌도 내 칼을 벼리는 데에 쓸 수 있는 법이다. 왜 저 따위 소소한 글에 여론이 충동하고 국민이 흥분하고 장안의 화제가 되야 하는지, 왜 우리가 이처럼 소심하고 심약해졌으며 그릇이 작아졌는지, 기획기사도 아니고 논문도 아닌 몇 줄 컬럼 하나  때문에 한 해를 굽어보고 새해를 기약해야 하는 엄숙한 세모의 대한민국이라는 큰 바다가 술렁거리는 까닭을 모르겠다.

우리가 우리를 향한 비판에는 열을 올리고 칭찬에 굶주려 있다면, 논어 13편 자로 24장을 읽어보자.

子貢問曰 鄕人皆好之 何如 子曰未可也 鄕人皆惡之 何如 子曰 未可也 不如鄕人之善者好之 其不善者惡之.

자공이 물었다. “마을 사람이 다 그를 좋아하면 어떻습니까?”
공자가 말했다. “아직 좋지 않다.”
자공이 물었다. “마을 사람이 다 그를 싫어하면 어떻습니까?”
공자가 말했다. “아직 좋지 않다. 마을의 착한 사람이 그를 좋아하고, 착하지 않은 사람이 그를 미워함만 못하다.”

평생에 걸쳐서 교언영색을 미워했던 공자는 자로 24장을 통해 ‘누구나가 좋아하는 사람은 좋은 사람이 아니다’라고 말하고 있다. 좋은 친구는 내 이빨에 고추가루가 꼈다고 바로 지적해 줄 수 있는 사람이다. 그게 고추가루인지 톱밥인지 제대로 집어내는 것도 중요하겠지만, 듣는 사람이 다소 무안할 것을 알고서도 말 한 번 해 주는 쪽이 듣는 이 입장에서도 자신을 돌이켜 볼 수 있기 때문에 실속이 남지 않을까.

일본인 고유의 민족적 정서로는 다른 사람의 심기를 거스르는 이야기를 직접적으로 하지 않는다. 그 좋은 예가 지한파라고 언론에서 추켜세웠던 미즈노교수다. 그가 공중파를 통해서 우리에게 보여줬던 그 많은 립서비스를 떠올려 보기 바란다. 그가 갖고 있었던 속내는 어떤 것이었는지 되새겨 보기 바란다.

우리는 우리가 ‘지한파’라고 일컫는 외국인에 대해서 한국에 대한 무한한 사랑만을 기대하고 있다면 쿠로다 카쓰히로씨는 결코 지한파가 될 수 없다. 하지만, 내가 생각하기에 쿠로다씨는 한국을 잘 알고 있고 한국에 대한 애증(愛憎)을 갖고 있는 사람이다. 애증이 없다면 공중파를 통해 한국인이 듣기에 거북한 이야기들을 쏟아내지 못한다.

그는 지난 30년을 한국에서 살았다. 우리가 일본으로부터 듣기 싫은 이야기가 무엇인지 잘 알고 있다. 알면서도 ‘뒷다마 안까고’ 궂은 소리 대놓고 들려주는 그를 고마워하자. 우도할계(牛刀割鷄)라는데 저 정도 컬럼에 우리가 너무 요란하게 대응하고 있는 건 아닐까? 우리 옷매무새가 틀렸다는 소리가 들리면 일단 돌이켜 둘러보고, 맞다면 옷깃을 다시 여미고, 틀렸다면 싱거운 소릴 한다고 웃고 넘겨버릴 수 없을까. 우린 속 좋고 아량이 큰 ‘大’한민국인 아닌가.

누가 뭐라고 짖어도 한강은 오늘도 묵묵히 흐르고, 여의도 교보아케이드 전주종가의 비빔밥은 맛있다. 닭모가지를 비틀어도 새벽은 오는 법이고…

손정의씨 글 참 못 쓰시네요…(헐뜯는 건 아닙니다~)

건방진 생각일 수도 있겠지만, 손정의씨를 포함한 대부분의 일본분들은 *글을 참 못 쓴다*.

(개인적으로 존경하는 분이기에 헐뜯기 위한 말이 결코 아니다. 트윗을 보고 내용을 선명하게 파악하지 못한 나의 우둔함에서 오는 답답함 때문에 몇 줄 적는다. :-))

주어를 생략해도 의미전달에 큰 지장이 없고 시제의 활용이 유럽제어군에 비해 느슨한 알타이어족 교착어의 특성 때문인지, 문맥을 잘 따라가지 않으면 의미를 놓치고 만다. 심지어는 문맥을 따라가도 뜻이 애매모호할 때가 있다.

예를 들어, 손정의씨의 아래 트윗을 보자. 트윗의 특성이 가볍게 재잘대는 것이기에 자잘한 문법에 신경을 쓰지 않았을 것은 짐작이 되지만 외국인인 나에게는 의미가 모호하게만 느껴진다.


오늘, ‘비탈 위의 구름’을 읽고서 16살에 단신으로 미국에 건너갔을 때를 떠올렸습니다. 자유의 여신상을 처음 봤을 때, 그 때까지 제가 세운 뜻에 미치지 못한 것을 부끄럽게 생각했습니다.

1. 일단 주어가 없다. 그래서 16살에 도미한 사람이 사카모토 료마인지 손정의씨인지 헷갈린다. 물론 사카모토 료마에 대해 잘 알고 있는 일본인이라면 료마가 도미한 적이 없으므로 미국으로 건너간 사람이 손정의씨라는 걸 쉽게 이해할 테지만.

2. 자유의 여신상을 봤을 때 자신의 입지(立志)에 미치지 못했음을 부끄럽게 생각하는 시점이 ‘오늘’인지 ‘그 때’인지 헷갈린다. 물론 앞 절의 내용으로 미루어 보건데, 회상의 내용이 예전 자신의 모습이었으리라는 점에서 16살 때 느낀 부끄러움을 추억하고 있다는 것을 알 수는 있다.

음… 내가 공부와 수양이 부족한 건 알지만, 나만 이렇게 꼬치꼬치 따지고 드는건가? 🙂

예전 어느 프로젝트에서 내 팀장이였던 일본인 키타무라(北村)씨의 말이 기억난다.

Mr.Jeung, 내 대학전공은 불어불문학이였는데 불어를 공부하다보니 ‘일본어’라는 언어에도 문법이 있는건가 하는 생각이 들었었지.

키타무라씨가 모든 일본인을 대표하는 것도 아니고 불문학의 대가도 아닐 뿐더러 일문학의 대가도 아닐테고 대부분들의 일본인들이 어느 정도 자신이 관여된 사항에 있어서 겸손함을 표현하려는 민족이라는 사실을 감안하더라도, Native Japanese Speaker로서 위와 같은 발언을 했다라는 것은 앞서 내가 거론한 ‘일본사람들이 문장력이 약하다’ 라는 논지를 조금이나마 뒷받침해줄 수 있지 않을까 싶다.

재밌는 것은 일본인들 사이에서는 우리가 느끼는 애매모호함이 존재하지 않는다는 것이다. 그들은 컨텍스트 내의 컨텍스트를 읽어낼 줄 아는 걸까.

소프트뱅크 CEO손정의(손 마사요시)의 tweet


저는 사마모토 료마를 경애하고 있습니다만 여러분은 어떠세요?


오늘, ‘비탈 위의 구름(일본의 유명 대하역사소설 작가인 시바 료우타로의 대표작, 메이지 유신 무렵의 약동하는 일본을 시대적 배경으로 하는 작품, 사카모토 료마가 나오죠)’을 읽고서 16살에 단신으로 미국에 건너갔을 때를 떠올렸습니다. 자유의 여신상을 처음 봤을 때, 그 때까지 제가 세운 뜻에 미치지 못한 것을 부끄럽게 생각했습니다.

Show Us the E-Mail NYT


Published: December 20, 2009

WE end this extraordinary financial year with news that the Treasury is in discussions with American International Group about selling the taxpayers’ 80 percent ownership stake in that company. The government recently permitted several banks to break free of its potential oversight by repaying loans made during the rescue. But with respect to A.I.G., the Treasury should not move so fast. There is one job left to do.

A.I.G. was at the center of the web of bad business judgments, opaque financial derivatives, failed economics and questionable political relationships that set off the economic cataclysm of the past two years. When A.I.G.’s financial products division collapsed – ultimately requiring a federal bailout of $180 billion – those who had been prospering from A.I.G.’s schemes scurried for taxpayer cover. Yet, more than a year after the rescue began, crucial questions remain unanswered. Who knew what, and when? Who benefited, and by exactly how much? Would A.I.G.’s counterparties have failed without taxpayer support?

The three of us, as experienced investigators and prosecutors of financial fraud, cannot answer these questions now. But we know where the answers are. They are in the trove of e-mail messages still backed up on A.I.G. servers, as well as in the key internal accounting documents and financial models generated by A.I.G. during the past decade. Before releasing its regulatory clutches, the government should insist that the company immediately make these materials public. By putting the evidence online, the government could establish a new form of “open source” investigation.

Once the documents are available for everyone to inspect, a thousand journalistic flowers can bloom, as reporters, victims and angry citizens have a chance to piece together the story. In past cases of financial fraud – from the complex swaps that Bankers Trust sold to Procter & Gamble in the early 1990s to the I.P.O. kickback schemes of the late 1990s to the fall of Enron – e-mail messages and internal documents became the central exhibits in our collective understanding of what happened, and why.

So far, prosecutors and regulators have been unable to build such evidence into anything resembling a persuasive case against any financial institution. Most recently, a jury acquitted Bear Stearns employees of fraud related to the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, in part because available e-mail messages suggested the employees had done nothing wrong.

Perhaps A.I.G.’s employees would also be judged not guilty. But we would like to see the record to find out. As fraud investigators, we would like to examine the trading patterns of A.I.G.’s financial products division, and its communications with Goldman Sachs and other bank counterparties who benefited from the bailout. We would like to understand whether the leaders of A.I.G. understood that they were approaching a financial Armageddon, and whether they alerted their counterparties, regulators and shareholders to the impending calamity.

We would like to see how A.I.G. was able to pay huge bonuses to its officers based on the short-term income they received from counterparties for selling guarantees that, lacking adequate loss reserves, the companies would never be able to honor. We would also like to know what regulators knew, and what they did with the information they had obtained.

Congress wants answers, too. This month, during hearings on Ben Bernanke’s nomination to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve, several senators fumed about being denied access to his A.I.G.-related documents.

No doubt, some of the e-mail messages contain privileged conversations among lawyers. Others probably include private information that is irrelevant to A.I.G.’s role in the crisis. But the vast majority of these documents could be made public without legal concern. So why haven’t the Treasury and the Federal Reserve already made sure the public could see this information? Do they want to protect A.I.G., or do they worry about shining too much sunlight on their own performance leading up to and during the crisis?

A.I.G.’s board of directors, a distinguished group of senior business executives, holds the power to decide whether to publish the e-mail messages and other documents. But those directors serve at the behest of A.I.G.’s shareholders. And while small shareholders of public corporations generally do not have the right to force publication of internal documents, in this case one shareholder – the taxpayer – holds an 80 percent stake. Anyone with such substantial ownership has effective control over corporate decisions, even if the corporation is a large public one.

Our stake is held by something called the A.I.G. Credit Facility Trust, whose three trustees are Jill M. Considine, a former chairman of the Depository Trust Company and a former director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Chester B. Feldberg, a former New York Fed official who was chairman of Barclays Americas from 2000 to 2008; and Douglas L. Foshee, chief executive of the El Paso Corporation and chairman of the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Ultimately, these three trustees wield all the power at A.I.G., and have the right to vote out the 11 directors if the directors are unwilling to publish the e-mail messages. In other words, if these three people ask A.I.G.’s board to post the messages and other documents, the board will have no choice but to comply. Ms. Considine, Mr. Feldberg and Mr. Foshee have the opportunity to be among the most effective and influential investor advocates in history. Before A.I.G. escapes, they should demand the evidence.

The longer it remains hidden, the less likely we will be to answer many questions about the A.I.G. collapse and the larger economic crisis – including the most important one: how do we prevent a repeat? Time is the enemy of effective investigation; records disappear, memories fade. The documents should be released – without excuses, or delay.

Eliot Spitzer is a former attorney general and governor of New York. Frank Partnoy is a professor of law at the University of San Diego. William Black is a professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Sent from BlackBerry