From a BBC interview with our president:
Justin Webb: You’re making this speech in Cairo. Amnesty International says there are thousands of political prisoners in Egypt. How do you address that issue?
President Obama: Right. Well, look – obviously, in the Middle East, across a wide range of types of governments, there are some human rights issues. I don’t think there’s any dispute about that. The message I hope to deliver is that democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion – those are not simply principles of the west to be hoisted on these countries.
But, rather what I believe to be universal principles that they can embrace and affirm as part of their national identity, the danger, I think, is when the United States, or any country, thinks that we can simply impose these values on another country with a different history and a different culture.
And I think the thing that we can do, most importantly, is serve as a good role model. And that’s why, for example, closing Guantanamo, from my perspective, as difficult as it is, is important.
Because part of what we want to affirm to the world is that these are values that are important, even when it’s hard. Maybe especially when it’s hard. And not just when it’s easy.