Change has come to America  

Posted by Laya in

barack_obama.jpgToday is one for the history books. While the world watched and waited with bated breath, America voted in its first African-American President at the end of what CNN.com said was the "longest presidential campaign season in U.S. history -- 21 months". Barack Obama has been elected the 44th President of the United States of America.

"Change has come to America", Obama told the American people in his victory speech at Chicago, Illinois. "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get there," he said.

Obama's victory has indeed been viewed by many as bringing the winds of change to the United States, especially with regard to racial prejudice in "a nation once riven by slavery and long plagued by racial strife", in the words of the Chicago Tribune. Former US President Jimmy Carter, in an earlier interview, looked at an Obama presidency as "the transforming race for the end of racism, and prejudice, and hatred between races" in America. Brandeis University Professor Peniel Joseph thought it was "a watershed event for American democracy," because African-Americans' "relationship with American democracy has always been star-crossed because of racial slavery." For African-American Johnnie Marie Ross, it was simpler: Obama's election is "like Martin Luther King's dream coming true.. we have come a loooong way for him to come this far. People have woken up," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Emphasis has been put on Obama's skin color and ancestry; controversy raged on whether he is indeed an "American" because of his Kenyan father and his Indonesian stepfather, to the point where even the authenticity of his birth certificate was questioned. Wikipedia describes him as "the first person of African American descent to be elected President of the United States of America." For others, though, Barack Obama transcends race. Barbara Ehrenreich says in the Huffington Post that "Obama is different, really different, and that in itself represents 'change.' A Kenyan-Kansan with roots in Indonesia and multiracial Hawaii, he seems to be the perfect answer to the bumper sticker that says, 'I love you America, but isn't it time to start seeing other people?' As conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan has written, Obama's election could mean the re-branding of America. An anti-war black president with an Arab-sounding name: See, we're not so bad after all, world!" Others agree. In several opinions collected by the Guardian, one person said that he viewed Obama as a "signifier" that an era markedly divided by race was over and that Obama stood for something that was bigger than race; another lauded Obama for not seeking "to invoke engagements with race other than those that have already existed." Another interviewee quipped: "It doesn't matter that Obama is black - there is only one colour that matters and that is USA."

Perhaps it simply was destiny. After all, Obama's first name, Barack, means "blessed" in Arabic. Blogger Deborah White said that ever since she first saw Obama speak at the Democratic Convention on July 27, 2004, she believed that he would become the next U.S. President. "(O)n that fateful summer evening in 2004, an unknown young African-American leader from Illinois presented exactly the right solution... exactly the right uplifting tone, moderate look and electrifying words ... exactly the right contrasting change required to lead the U.S. out of the mire and muck of the deceit, bankrupt spending, incompetence, arrogance and extraordinary greed of the Bush administration," White recalled.

At any rate, America's new president has fascinated audiences around the world. According to Times Online, Obama fans may be found anywhere around the globe. In Europe, his ratings regularly stayed in the 80s in Germany, France and the Netherlands, and matrioshka dolls bearing his face have already been made in Russia. In Africa, home of his father's family, the word "obama" has become a compliment.

In the Philippines, according to NBC correspondent Ian Williams, Obama is viewed as the "key to change." "He embodies the rise of an outsider that even Manila's poorest can identify with," Williams ruminated. "He looks Pinoy, doesn't he? He could very well be Pareng Barack," journalist Benjamin Pimentel wrote in his blog. "(F)or countries like the Philippines and people of color in the United States, his background as an African American, who has lived in Asia and a very diverse state like Hawaii, would hopefully make him more sensitive to, and perhaps even more deeply aware of the issues affecting poor countries and minorities in America," Pimentel added.

Was Barack Obama elected because of his race, or in spite of it? Or, as some will put it, beyond race? Whichever the answer, America's new president has become a symbol even before assuming office, indeed, even before his election. For South Carolina Representative James Clyburn, perhaps "the most momentous change" brought by Obama's victory "would be the ability to tell young students with conviction and certainty that they can grow up to be anything they desired." Which, come to think of it, is part of the American Dream-- now embodied in Barack Obama. Perhaps that is the best way to describe him-- not as African-American, colored, or biracial, but simply an American.

Photo "Barack Obama" by Llima on flickr; licensed under Creative Commons License BY-ND-2.0.

Original article from Philippine Online Chronicles, licensed under Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA-2.5-PH.

This entry was posted at Thursday, November 06, 2008 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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