Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cairo speech and women's rights

I thought the President's speech in Cairo was superb. I appreciated the self-awareness that recognizes the shortcomings of the U.S. as well as honestly addressing what he feels are the failings of various groups and factions within the Middle East.

One thing that really impressed me that people don't seem to be talking about much is that he addressed the issue of women's rights. It was a small section, but the fact that it was there at all I thought was worth noting. Here it is:

The sixth issue -- the sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights. (Applause.) I know –- I know -- and you can tell from 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. (Applause.) 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, 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. (Applause.) 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. And 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. (Applause.)

Applause here too.


Anonymous said...

"Was I happy with my new president?" someone asked me at the market today. "Very happy," I answered. Realized on the way home that I might more accurately have said "Radiant with joy." Thank you for blogging about this part of that great speech.

Laura Toepfer said...

My pleasure.