The Cairo Speech: Brotherhood, Reinhold Niebuhr, and President Barack Obama

In 1943, Reinhold Niebuhr wrote:

“There are no limits to be set in history for the achievement of more universal brotherhood, for the development of more perfect and more inclusive mutual relations. All the characteristic hopes and aspirations of Renaissance and Enlightenment, of both secular and Christian liberalism are right at least in this, that they understand that side of the Christian doctrine which regards the agape of the Kingdom of God as a resource for infinite development towards a more perfect brotherhood in history. . . . The freedom of man makes it impossible to set any limits of race, sex, or social condition upon the brotherhood which may be achieved in history.

Niebuhr, of course, also believed that human freedom entailed the ability to choose the opposite of brotherhood as well, which is exploitation, disrespect, hatred, demonization, and ultimately, war. But President Barack Obama, in his Cairo speech, and under the influence of Niebuhr (one of his intellectual influences), is trying to slowly steer the broad ship of humanity in the direction of greater brotherhood. Let’s not be too cynical (yet) about this audacious effort by our new and young president, and join him in the effort of turning the global ship’s wheel in the direction of understanding and peace with the Muslim world.

Here’s a video that I think captures the kind of world that Obama is trying to steer us toward, and why I voted for him:

Niebuhr quote source: The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr (introduction pg. xi).

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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