With his first trip to South America eclipsed by war and upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa, President Obama sought to connect the two in a speech here on Monday, calling Latin America a model for those trying to throw off dictatorships in favor of democracy and broadly shared economic growth.

President Barack Obama held up Latin America as a shining example for those in the Middle East fighting for democracy, while urging leaders in the region to recommit themselves to defending human rights and strengthening democratic institutions in their own countries.

Reaching out to a vast but overshadowed region, President Barack Obama on Monday called Latin America a rising giant in the world that must live up to greater responsibilities and speak up for those whose rights are crushed.

The single greatest priority for young people in the Middle East remains living in a democratic country, according to the findings of the 2010 ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, the largest study of its kind of the region’s largest demographic.

“I want to say here unequivocally - unequivocally, categorically - that Israel welcomes the democratization process in the Middle East, that if democracies arise in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, we will be the first to embrace them,” Ambassador Michael Oren said.

As revolution has spread from the Maghreb to the Gulf region and back again, President Barack Obama has stuttered and fumbled and sometimes fallen strangely silent. What can explain this from a man whose manner has always been smooth and whose oratorical gifts propelled him from utter obscurity to the White House in just four short years?

There is an old joke in the Middle East that goes like this: One of Hosni Mubarak's advisers finally gets the courage to say, "Mr. President, maybe it's time to think about your farewell address to the Egyptian people." Mubarak looks at the adviser and asks, "Why? Where are they going?" In reality, Mubarak got the message loud and clear.

Last year, early on Christmas Eve morning, representatives from the U.S., United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the European Union arrived for a meeting with Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Appointed prime minister earlier that year as part of a power-sharing agreement after the fraud- and violence-ridden 2008 presidential election, Tsvangirai and his political party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), are considered Zimbabwe's greatest hopes for unseating the country's long-time de facto dictator Robert Mugabe and bringing democratic reforms to the country.