World Citizen: Obama’s Cairo Speech and the 57-State Solution

World Citizen: Obama’s Cairo Speech and the 57-State Solution

When President Barack Obama finally announced the location of his much-heralded speech to the Muslim world, the news came as a surprise. As a candidate, Obama had promised to give such an address during his first 100 days in office, as part of an urgent campaign to repair relations between the United States and Muslims.

Observers wondered where Obama would go for the potentially historic occasion. Many believed the U.S. president would choose a democratic, Muslim-majority country for the event. Favorites included Jakarta, where Obama lived as a child. Turkey, a U.S. ally, also seemed like a good choice. Even Morocco, one of the more open Arab countries, was considered a longshot.

The choice of Cairo proved controversial
, as the White House surely knew it would. When it comes to democratic values, Egypt -- America's autocratic ally -- is something of an embarrassment. Critics pounced, highlighting Egypt's dismal human rights record. Why would the Obama administration choose for its speech a country where the president has ruled for 28 years, human rights are routinely violated, and democratic ideals are regularly trampled?

The White House is giving faint hints about the reasons and the strategy behind the choice.

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