Watching the Obama speech in a shopping mall in Ramallah

This must be the most analyzed or over-analyzed speech in history.

Therefore, I won’t say much. My favorite line was this:
“As the Holy Quran tells us, Be conscious of God and speak always the truth”.

I watched the speech on a flat-screen TV monitor suspended over the escalators leading down to the sales floor of Best Buy in Ramallah. The positioning of the monitor made it hard to listen to more than a few lines of the speech at a time, while riding up or down the escalators. Downstairs, on the sales floor, the speech was totally inaudible — because of the position of the monitors, and because of the ambient noise, including other piped-in music. [There were not too many other shoppers, so there was no disturbance from loud crowds.] On the ground floor, I took up a position by the (unmanned) information desk, and listened to what I could from Al-Jazeera Arabic Television — and the volume wasn’t very loud, which made it even harder.

Obama’s body language was not very good at the start, but as he warmed up, it was much better, and continued to be very relaxed and rather charismatic throughout the rest of the speech. It seemed long. It took most of the hour between 1 and 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

The applause from the audience at Cairo University’s opulent auditorium — it looked like a formal theater or opera house — seemed more polite than enthusiastic.

More interesting was that the few other Ramallah shoppers going up and down the escalators paid no attention whatsoever to what Obama was saying — even when they realized that it was the BIG speech, that had all the heavy pre-speech build-up.

When it was over, I asked a store employee who had wandered over during his break to watch it from the same vantage point I had found for his opinion. He smiled and shook his head. He seemed embarrassed, and seemed not to want to speak. Then, he said: “It doesn’t matter what he says. It matters what he does”.

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