He’s waking up this morning to discover he’s President! How must Barack Obama feel this morning?
OK, everyone’s said it, so I might as well. This is history making. At first, I tried to ignore all the chatter, wondering why everyone was talking about a foregone conclusion. First, it was the run-off between him and Hilary. That was close, but it’s America, why should I bother? Whatever happened, it would make history. It would either be the first woman president or the first black one. When Barack won, we all knew he’d be president, but that didn’t stop all the heated discussion.
And then, I was awake at about 4 AM British time one November morning, listening first to the gracious speeches of the republican contender, and then his acceptance speech. And on and on, I heard the refrain, “yes we can”. By the end of that speech, I was no longer sleepy; I was probably shouting with the rest of them, “Yes we can!” A sign of my deliberate lack of interest, (or should I say ignorance) is that I’d never heard that before, nor experienced the thrill of the congregational respons.
It was then that I somehow moved from being the intellectual observer to the convert. But convert to what? As you might have gathered, I’m one of the few who didn’t know enough about him. It’s a part of my rebellious nature that when everyone is talking about something, I don’t.
When we say with our new American president “yes we can!” what are we subscribing to? He certainly talks a good talk. You only need to hear him speak. And I really believe that that’s half of any battle. You don’t have to do much if you can persuade everyone else to do it. But you need to have clear ideas. We all chanted loftily because we were told about an election that was fought and won on totally different rules to the norm. So, we know that he’d like to lift the poor, the unappreciated, those who wouldn’t normally have the chance. Where did all that come from?
OK, I confess I haven’t read his book; and it’s a great achievement that AMerica now has a president who wrote a bestseller before he became president. But I have heard things; I have heard that he’s the first black president of America. That’s interesting. His father is Kenyan, his mother white. He was raised by his grandma, who by all accounts was a middle class white woman. You see, I’m not so ignorant as to have missed her sad death, just before the elections. She would have been so proud. But why do we all think he’s black then? I would have called him mixed race, but my sister (who lives in America and knows about these things) says that once you have a drop of black in you, you’re considered black. In my intellectual way, I’d thought, if he was raised by his grandmother, he’d have been taught to be white. Remember I haven’t read the book. If my sister is right, then the race debate in America is more clear-cut than here. Here, people would be talking about how he’d be trying to find his identity in mixed cultures.
But surely he’s not as black as that, or even as African, or is he? We keep hearing of Kenyan villagers who are sure that development is coming to their country because our president’s dad is one of them. It must be great that he didn’t change his name. Nobody who hears that name will think he’s white. But this man is surely American, despite his name. I hear he is a technology loving man with a wife who bears the unKenyan name of Michelle and that they have two children with cool American names. In fact, I just learned that he’s a true American president, following on a line since Bill Clinton, who have brought only daughters to the Whitehouse. And did I hear the name Harvard mentioned in connection with him?
Now that I have to admit that he’s probably black after all, it may even follow that he is likely to care for the downtrodden. He’s already making the right noises. But how much will he change Africa. We know he says he’ll change things in Iraq, perhaps the middle East. But his father is from Kenya. And in any case, in those areas where I’m not so sure, will he leave matters to mrs Clinton? Now, there’s someone who fought the elections in the conventional way, and most people say that with her, it’ll be just like politics was always conducted in Washington.
I confess I’m now looking forward to 8 years of the Obama presidency. And I do think that a man with his intellect and oratory will certainly get things done, or persuade people to do the things he wants done. I’m even thinking that some of the things I know he wants to do are great. Actually, I’ve become part of the 80% approval rating for Obama. It’s so refreshing, after the past 8 years. I never thought I’d get there. But now, I join with you all over the world and wish Barack Obama very well indeed. I used to wonder why we all got so excited about the American presidency, but today, I’ll be glued to the radio or telly, listening with some friends to him swear his oath, and looking forward to another stirring speech.
And after that? well, what you feel for anyone is less intellectual and more emotional. I think I’m going to enjoy liking this president for the next 8 years, unless he does something spectacularly bad. And from first impressions, that looks unlikely.
“Yes we can!” Actually, “Yes I can!” I can look forward to a different American presidecy. And maybe his success can encourage me too in my own quests.