This week, President Donald Trump took his first foreign trip, beginning in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Trump's speech in Riyadh provides a clear contrast with the language and approach of President Barack Obama, who gave a speech titled "A New Beginning" in Cairo, Egypt, in 2009.
Obama, who began his speech recognizing "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," asked for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world."
Because of this speech, some labeled the tour as Obama's apology tour. The speech included what the United States could do for the Middle East. He promised to invest "$1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis." We would provide "more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans...expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships ... encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities."
The list of what America would do for others continued, and included Obama's vow to award "promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online 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." The list was long and detailed.
It could have been called the "what America can do for you" speech.
Trump's approach this week was much different from that of his predecessor. After thanking Saudi Arabia and King Salman for the warm hospitality, Trump delivered "a message of friendship and hope," with the caveat that "America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust."
Trump mentioned an agreement with Saudi Arabia "that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia ... [including] the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase." The focus on the agreement was to "help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations," rather than to infuse money into their region.
Trump stated that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization. He added that, while "our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens, we are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship."
Trump focused not on what we could do for them, but what we can do together. "We are here to offer partnership — based on shared interests and values — to pursue a better future for us all."
While reaching out in partnership, Trump was clear regarding the choice: "There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it and no ignoring it," he said. "Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith. Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death."
Making it clear that "this is a battle between Good and Evil," Trump said,
"The path to peace begins right here on this ancient soil, in this sacred land." He added that, while "America is prepared to stand with you — in pursuit of shared interests and common security...the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them."
Instead Trump raised the bar, noting that "a better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out."
He challenged more than the government leaders, noting, "Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory — piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned."
Trump closed asking them "to join together, to work together, and to fight together- because united, we will not fail."
If Obama offered an apology and laid out what American can do for you, then Trump challenged the nations of the Middle East to partner with America.
Eight years after Obama's "A New Beginning" speech, the world is a more dangerous place and terrorism has spread. It will be interesting to see in 2025 if we will have worked together to succeed.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.