OFTEN it takes a stranger to come among us and help us see the wood from the trees. So it was with US President Barack Obama's address to students in Belfast yesterday, as he delivered a clinical but forward-looking assessment of the North's still fragile peace.
At a time when the marching season cranks up once more ahead of July 12, it is often easy to succumb to 'a glass-half-empty' mentality. But Mr Obama's reminder to his young audience of how much things have changed helps us put things in perspective.
The youngsters in his audience at the Waterfront in Belfast rightly take for granted that daily life now is almost free from the impositions of heavy security. "These daily moments of life in a bustling city in a changing country may seem ordinary to many of you. And that's what makes it extraordinary," the President said.
Mr Obama was not wearing his rose-tinted spectacles. He directly referred to the irony of the continued need for Belfast's 'peace walls' and complimented one young woman's efforts to get a gate opened in one such wall which divides a public park.
He urged everybody in the North to tackle the clear community segregation which is the enemy of a permanent and strong peace. Mr Obama was directly speaking to the next generation in the greater Belfast area. But he was giving us all a message of hope for the future.