The oft-described discord between many in the Muslim world and the United States has historical roots, but the White House is hoping to use 21st century tools to pierce through them during President Obama's address in Cairo Thursday.
As China cracks down on Internet access during the 20th commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters following Obama on his Middle East trip that the administration will use its technological prowess to reach as many people in the world as are willing to listen.
The State Department has set up a Web site where people can register to receive free text messages with real-time excerpts of the president's speech in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and English. Registrants can also reply to those messages. Those replies will then be posted on the Web site.
The speech will be Web cast on the White House's own Web site. There will also be links to fully-translated transcripts of the speech in 13 different languages on the White House's panoply of social-networking site accounts: YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
Gibbs noted the impact that Facebook alone can have. Facebook, he said, is the largest social-networking site in Muslim countries, reaching close to 20 million users. That includes 1.2 million in Egypt, the country in which Obama will speak.
This, of course, is in addition to the more traditional broadcasting of live events by TV networks worldwide.
This White House has already demonstrated a desire and ability to cut past the mainstream media to the American public by posting videos of the president's events on its Web site, some of which were not even open to the press.
However, this is admittedly a different beast. Gibbs said it's not only a broader effort to reach a large amount of people internationally, it's unique in its attempt to have those listeners engage in real-time discussions about what the president is saying.
This mirrors the president's stated desire as far back as the the campaign to initiate a dialogue with the Muslim world.
But Gibbs implied this isn't a gimmick designed to get attention for just one speech.
"The speech ... is important, but it's also important to realize that this is one of many events in a continuing dialogue that the president believes not only should happen, but, in all honesty, must happen to continue to make progress on many of the issues ... that the president will discuss tomorrow. This is not a one-time event," he said.