President Obama’s Communicative Style is Fostering Dialogue in the Middle East

On October 2, 2013, I posted the following comments on Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman’s blog in response to his well-analyzed article. Below is a line from his article and my response. The link to Bookman’s article is at the end of this entry on MaryElizabethSings.  

” ‘. . . .President Obama frankly appeared to get lucky (in Syria).’


Cassius says in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar,’ ‘Our fate, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’

Yes, President Obama’s ‘policy of patience and a steady ratcheting-up of pressure’ is paying off as a win/win for all at this point. I’ll be praying that it will be successful (for all of us on Earth).

I went to see the singer and songwriter/composer Paul Simon lecture for the first time in his life at Emory about two weeks ago. As I expected, his insights are deep. He said that most people think that what a songwriter is dealing with are only two elements, (1) the lyrics and (2) the music, but that in fact there is a third (3) element in play with the songwriter and that element is the context in which both the lyrics and the music unfold.

Likewise, President Obama’s obvious two elements to make music with Iran are (1) his patience and (2) the ratcheting up of pressure, but the context in which both of those elements, interacting well with one another, is equally as important and becomes the third (3) element.  That context surrounds the other two element but interacts equally with them to make fine music. (I could go into the musical context of Simon’s thoughts more, but this is a political thread, but I will say that as Paul Simon was talking, I thought of the analogy of the Trinity, spiritually. The Holy Spirit is not as concrete in our minds as the Father and the Son, but it exists nevertheless.)

Likewise, the context in Simon’s music is something that is conscious in his mind as he composes, and I feel most certain that the surrounding context, or ambience, if you will, within poltical interaction is as important, and perhaps more important, than concrete tactics such as (1) patience and (2) pressure.

Specifically, President Obama has made a deliberate attempt since the inception of his presidency to build a context in the MIddle East based on openness to dialogue and with a deliberate attempt not to “lord it over” others, as did President Bush. People the world over are more receptive and respect on a deeper level that kind of setting and that kind of ambience within which to work and communicate. Anyone with any sensitivity can ‘feel’ the different atmospheres within different teachers’ classrooms, that the the ambience and the context in which the class operates.

So, on the surface, it would appear that President Obama simply got lucky with Syria, but it really was not luck; it was because of an offhand remark made by Vice-President Biden, which reflected the Obama style, of communication and rational dialogue in which others feel comfortable also bartering in that openness. Thus, Putin for many reasons picked up on Biden’s words, but Obama had already made the context amenable to communication because his style is not to dictate but to include.”

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