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Obama at the U.N.

Herb Boyd | 4/12/2011, 4:39 p.m.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Nation of Islam, the throng gathered outside the United Nations at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Wednesday morning was alive with robust chants and cheers for the speakers, but it took the members inside the building during the General Assembly several minutes to warm to President Obama's first address at the U.N.

The first rounds of applause after his introduction came when he reminded them that one of the first things he did upon entering the White House was to end torture and to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Applause also greeted his mention that the U.S. had "joined the Human Rights Council."

But there was a thunderous reception when he discussed the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. "The time has come to re-launch negotiations--without preconditions--that address the permanent status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees and Jerusalem," Obama declared.

He promised not to "waver in his pursuit of peace," but cautioned that he was not naive and that it would be a difficult process.

Obama delivered a very firm message to the 120 heads of states and governments, insisting, "Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone."

It was time for the world to move in a new direction, he stressed. "We must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect and our work must begin now."

Muammar Qaddafi, Libya's president, was the next speaker and the massive crowd outside roared with approval each time his image flashed on the Jumbotron, and it happened only once while Obama was speaking.

Qaddafi spent a good part of his opening remarks denouncing the U.N.'s Preamble to its Charter, which "was nothing but words of contradictions." He also assailed the Security Council and its failure to admit certain member nations. "The General Assembly is the parliament, the congress of the world," he asserted, after tossing aside his copy of the U.N.'s Charter.

Rapper Kenny Muhammad, Akbar Muhammad, Minister Hafeez Muhammad, Chief Ernie Longwalker, Chuck D and members of Public Enemy were a few of the speakers and dignitaries assembled in the park, which soon gave way to a massive arrival of Iranians demanding peace and justice in their country.