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Tale of the Tape: How Trump’s First Middle East Speech Compares to Obama’s

Half as many self-references, zero Koran quotes, more focus on Islamic extremism
By Grabien Staff


President Trump's first speech in the Middle East marked a stark departure from his predecessor, most notably in his use of the term "Islamic extremism," a term President Obama avoided throughout his presidency.

Obama first addressed a Middle Eastern audience in Cairo in 2009, wherein he criticized America's foreign policy in the region and promised he was "taking concrete actions to change course."

That speech was also notable for Obama's frequent references to himself. All told he mentioned himself 76 times.

  Obama Trump
Self References 76 31
Koran Citations 3 0
Critiques of the U.S. 9 0
Islamic Extremism References 0 3
Terrorism References 0 31
Word Count 5,808 3,402
Length 55 minutes 34 minutes








"I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect," Obama said early on. "I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts."

"I am a Christian ... I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith ... As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam."

Trump, by contrast, invoked himself 31 times. And unlike Obama weaving himself into the theme of his speech, Trump's self-references almost all came during his introduction, when he thanked his hosts. 

Whereas Obama's speech was billed as an "address to the Muslim world" that called for a fresh start formed around "mutual respect," Trump's speech focused almost exclusively on combating terrorism:

Saudi Arabia also joined us this week in placing sanctions on one of the most senior leaders of Hezbollah.

Of course, there is still much work to do.

That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.

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.

And political leaders must speak out to affirm the same idea: heroes don’t kill innocents; they save them.

Obama's Cairo speech also became known among his critics as the kick-off of an "Apology Tour" – noting his propensity to critique the United States while abroad. In his almost hour-long address, Obama noted flaws in the United States nine times.  

"In the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation," Obama told his Egyptian audience in one such example. "That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat."

"The struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life," he added later.

Trump's address, by contrast, was unapologetically patriotic. Despite his audience being almost entirely members of the Saudi royal family, Trump nonetheless ended his speech with "God bless America."

Obama's speech concluded with an expression more familiar to Islamic ears, "God's peace be upon you."


Complete transcript of Obama's speech in Cairo (June 4, 2009)

Complete transcript of Trump's speech in Riyadh (May 21, 2017)

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