By Nazia Alam, Interfaith Connector
In the midst of all my exam anxiety last month it was incredibly exciting to find out that I had been invited by The Three Faiths Forum to watch President Obama address both Houses of Parliament on his state visit.
I had joined the Interfaith Connectors programme to bring about more dialogue and cooperation on campus and in schools – not in my wildest dreams had I imagined that it would mean that I would get to see the President of the United States speak.
I was seated two rows from the front, amongst hundreds of guests that spanned across the entire 17,000 sq. feet floor area of the hall – the view could not get any better.
To the left of the stage I could see several guests of the US embassy, including Tom Hanks (!) and his wife Rita Wilson. To the right I spotted the Archbishop of Canterbury and various members of parliament including Ed Miliband, William Hague, and David Cameron and Nick Clegg sitting with three of Britain’s former Prime Ministers.
When the President arrived, he was greeted with a thunderous standing ovation.
“I am told that the last three speakers here have been the Pope, Her Majesty the Queen, and Nelson Mandela – which is either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke,” he began before delving into the US-UK’s long-standing and historical relationship. “Our relationship is special because of the values and beliefs that have united our people through the ages.”
The president delivered a clear message of promoting togetherness and unity which would surely resonate deeply with my fellow Interfaith Connectors at 3FF:
“The example of our two nations says it is possible for people to be united by their ideals, instead of divided by their differences. It is possible for hearts to change and old hatreds to pass; It is possible for the sons and daughters of former colonies to sit here as members of this great Parliament, and for the grandson of a Kenyan who served as a cook in the British Army to stand before you as President of the United States.”
It is my belief that the continuation of our work will enable society to overcome our divisions and celebrate and embrace our differences. Who knows how many more Obamas we can create in this way?