Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
January 29, 2011

Obama: Flashback to Cairo

With hopes for change in Cairo as high as the current tension level, I thought we’d look back at these photos from the White House Flickr stream.

If the situation in the Middle East represents a complex challenge for Obama right now, the crisis, from a visual perspective, also involves a confrontation between the hopes he raised (and the WH photos amplified) between the President’s dramatic speech at Cairo University in June of 2009 and the reality today on the ground.

A couple things to hone in on, by the way.  If you notice, of the two audience portraits offered by the White House pictures from the speech (both in our slideshow above), one shows a member of the Coptic clergy. This photo — as inspiring, even heart rending as it is — also serves as a red flag for the deep complications of a post-Mubarak Egypt.  The Copts and the Muslims might be united today against the regime, but what are the prospects of a larger brotherhood tomorrow?

Finally, before we all get our hopes up too much, it’s also worth pointing out what else was happening as a background to Obama’s Cairo speech that June 4th.  For one, a spirit of reform was rocking Iran just eight days in advance of the ultimately disputed Iranian election — the images of thousands of young people filling the streets in support of the hoped-for successor to Ahmadinejad, Mir Hussein Moussavi, now all too bittersweet.

To see Stephen Crowley’s powerful (and also heavily Coptic Christian) photo of the speech for the New York Times, check this post at our Tumblr Quick Pic site.

(photo 1: Pete Souza/White House. caption: President Barack Obama speaks at Cairo University in Cairo, Thursday, June 4, 2009. In his speech, President Obama called for a ‘new beginning between the United States and Muslims’, declaring that ‘this cycle of suspicion and discord must end’. photo 2: Chuck Kennedy/White House. caption: Pope Shenouda III, The Coptic Orthodox Christians’ Pope in Egypt, listens to President Barack Obama deliver a much anticipated speech to the Muslim world from the conference hall of Cairo University in Egypt June 4, 2009.  photo 3: Chuck Kennedy.  photo 4: Pete Souza.Students at Cairo University listen to President Barack Obama. photo 5: Chuck Kennedy.)

  • Vvoter

    Thanks BNN for doing the good work of keeping an eye on the visual dimension of this unfolding story.

  • omen

    he knew back then how oppressive mubarak was. what did he do to push for reforms? did he just show up for the applause and then washed his hands of their concerns?

  • http://english.aljazeera.net/photo_galleries/africa/2011125192646189116.html omen

    here is one promise of unity:
    demonstrator message shirt.

    Demonstartors are demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down. This man wears a T-shirt reading ‘Down With Mubarak’. It bears a cross and a crescent as a sign of unity between Christians and Muslims [AFP]

    aljazeera slideshow

  • angellight

    There seems to be a spiritual wave spreading accross the Middle East — a demand for freedom, which as Pres. Obama has stated and everyone knows, is a basic universal right. Surely, the uprising in Egypt and Tunisia can be seen as a victory for the forces of light on this planet and for humanity as a whole. For those of us who know how to work with the energy of light, love and goodwill, we must direct this energy into that region, aiding those forces of light already working for reconstruction.

  • Ozywil

    Thanks for following this. My daughter is heading there in 2 weeks from Kenya and is hoping it will have settled down by then?? No hope of that I think.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes