Friday, May 29, 2009

Sasha's Dad Speaking

What was so impressive about the video President Barack Obama sent to the Iranians was not the medium he used — even though it was the first time it was used in international relations. Television, since CNN appeared on the scene, has often been used as a means of communication for diplomatic initiatives, a kind of instantaneous diplomacy.
The dramatic change in relation to Iran was more impressive, but still not what drew the most attention, at least my attention. What was absolutely new was the tone.
Obama spoke with a humility and respect unheard of in American presidents. It is understandable that he would speak of a "new beginning" with the "Islamic Republic," using name and surname, instead of the "axis of evil," as Bush used to say. Obama was elected to invert the rhetoric he inherited from the previous administration.
But he, at least in this video, inverted the usual discourse of all recent U.S. leaders. His tone was not imperial, it was colloquial, as if he were recording a home video on a trip to send to friends back home.
It was more a video by Malia and Sasha's Dad than by the all-powerful occupant of the Oval Office.
Sure, speeches are speeches, sure, they need to be accompanied by actions to effect the changes implied in the tone adopted in the video, sure, there are immense difficulties ahead in Iran/U.S. relations (not to mention the global crisis and all the other problems that make President Lula say he prays more for Obama than for himself).
But for a U.S. president to abandon the preaching tone his predecessors have usually used towards the world may open avenues whose dimensions and consequences are difficult to anticipate. That that is something worth experiencing is beyond doubt.
Clóvis Rossi, Folha de São Paulo, March 22, 2009

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