By Sam Youngman - 06/03/09 04:44 PM EDT
President Obama's landmark speech to the Muslim world Thursday will be distributed in several languages and on social networking sites such as Facebook that are popular in Islamic countries.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that people can call the State Department to get text-message versions of the Cairo speech sent to their cell phones in Arabic, Persian, Urdu or English. The White House website will post a copy of the speech with links to the text in 13 languages.
"And just to give you a sense of the impact that something like Facebook can have, Facebook is the largest social network in Muslim countries, reaching close to 20 million users," Gibbs said.
Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes said the president sees the speech "as an opportunity to continue a dialogue he's had since his inauguration — you saw that in his al-Arabiya interview, in his Nowruz message, in his speech in Turkey, among other things — to really start a new chapter of engagement between the United States and Muslim world."
Rhodes said Obama will "take on directly some of the misperceptions that may have emerged as well as some of the differences that have emerged."
"I think he'll acknowledge the need for us to get to know each other better," Rhodes said. "As he has said, he'll, for instance, discuss the relationship between Islam and America within America, particularly in light of the contributions of American Muslims."
The president will also discuss the military situations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, and he will address "the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the broader Arab-Israeli issue, and acknowledg[e] the fact that this has been a very important source of tension and passion for people of all faiths within this region and around the world, and he will discuss in some detail his view of the conflict and what needs to be done to resolve it."
Rhodes warned that the speech is not in its final form, and the president will continue to tinker with it. But, Rhodes said, "the president has obviously been focused on the speech for a long time, dating back to the campaign."
Rhodes said in writing the speech, the team was instructed by Obama to talk to "a broad range of experts" both within government and outside of Washington.
"He was very adamant that that include Muslim Americans; there's a great number of Muslims who work in very important positions in the U.S. government on some of these issues," Rhodes said. "And he got engaged in this at a very early point and has basically provided all of the vision for what should be in the speech and a lot of the content. And for the last week he's really just been frequently holed up with his draft and editing it very heavily."