Friday, November 14, 2008

World Response To America: What A Difference An Election Makes

These photos from, starting at the top, Kenya, Japan and Indonesia, capture the excitement, hope and relief felt around the world following Barack Obama's historic presidential campaign victory.

For the past eight years, the Bush administration has alienated the entire world. It took consistent effort after the wave of international sympathy following the 9/11 crimes against America and humanity. But the war in Iraq, the outsourcing of torture through extraordinary rendition, the rejection of diplomacy in favor of cowboy military adventurism, the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases, the withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, among other misguided actions, turned the U.S. into one of the most unpopular nations in the world.

Now the election has convinced the world of another side of America as a beacon of hope and democracy. As Obama put it in his victory speech in Chicago, If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

In Europe, the Obama victory has led to soul-searching–and a renewed focus on America as a role model. Here are several quotations:

In this election, the Americans not only chose a president, but also their identity. And now we have to think, too, about our identity in France — it’s the most challenging election ever. We realize we are late, and America has regained the torch of a moral revolution.-Dominique Moïsi, French political analyst.

...a great and concrete provocation to European society and European politics.–Jean-Léonard Touadi, the only black member of the Italian Parliament

If Barack Obama had lived here, I would be very surprised if even somebody as brilliant as him would have been able to break through the institutional stranglehold that there is on power.– Trevor Phillips, black chairman of the independent Equality and Human Rights Commission, England

The German government would not allow this to happen because it would think that a person with an immigrant background would favor the foreigners. Maybe this will change when I am 50 years old, if at all.– Ferdi Sarikurt, 22, who works in a bakery in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district

The election of Barack Obama highlights via a cruel contrast the shortcomings of the French Republic and the distance that separates us from a country whose citizens knew how to go beyond the racial question.-From a manifesto signed by numerous French politicians

If someone said two years ago that there would be a black president, most people would have laughed that person out of town. The very nature of aspiration is when barriers are broken, whether in flying to the moon or being the first black person around a cabinet table — it’s something that nobody believes will happen.– Ashok Viswanathan, assistant director of Operation Black Vote, England

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