What is it like to witness history being made? Today, the world found out when the United States of America elected Barack Obama to be its 44th President. More than just the first 'black' president, President Barack Obama (oh, I can't type that often enough!) is a citizen of the world, and as such, the world rejoiced.
From the island of Obama in Japan ('obama' is Japanese for 'little beach') where they danced the hula in honor of President Obama's Hawaiian upbringing, to the life-sized Obama cardboard posters paraded around the Philippines, the global joy over Obama's election signifies what a truly astonishing impact this election has had on not only the US, but the world.
The evidence of Obama's international upbringing was clear today, as shown in celebrations around the world. Above, a young boy in Jakarta, Indonesia holds aloft a photo of Obama in the same school that he once attended. Below, Kenyans celebrate in the western village of Kogelo, where Obama's paternal step-grandmother still lives.
It is hard to underestimate the impact Obama's victory will have on future Kenyans. President Kibaki has already declared a national holiday: “Because of his roots here in Kenya, as a country we are full of pride for his success. I therefore wish to announce that tomorrow, Thursday the sixth of November the year 2008 be observed as a public holiday to enable all Kenyans to celebrate this historic achievement for President-elect Obama.”
The dark history of slavery that has long overshadowed US relations with Africa, while still present, has been lightened by this historic day. Said 114-year-old Gertrude Baines, daughter of slaves, the world's oldest person of African descent, as she cast her vote for Barack Obama, “No, I didn't never think I'd live this long.” Many babies born today, in Africa and elsewhere, are being named Michelle and Obama.
Around the world, the election of Obama is being celebrated as a sign of peace, hope, and change. From the highest government officials, to men on the streets, the sentiment is the same. Said anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, in a letter to President Obama, “Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.” Said Hanin Abu Ayash, who works at a television station in Dubai, “I swear if he doesn’t win, I’m going to take it personally.”
Ex-patriots around the world celebrated in bars and parties from London to North Korea. There is the sense that once again, people from the United States can be proud to call themselves Americans. (No longer that lame joke about traveling, “Just tell them you're Canadian.”) An article in the UK publication The Guardian said, “They did it. They really did it. So often crudely caricatured by others, the American people yesterday stood in they eye of history and made an emphatic choice for change for themselves and the world.”
Around the world, people held faux-elections in soildarity. (Obama, naturally, tended to win.) What was the impulse? Perhaps by voting themselves for Obama, people hoped to influence the karmic mood and turn the electoral tide towards change. Around the world, signs:
From Rome, Italy…
…to the beaches of Puri, India (nifty sand sculpture courtesy of Sudarshan Pattnaik), people proudly proclaimed their support of President Elect Barack Obama. And nowhere was the support more fervent, more proud, more hopeful, more joyous, than in the United States of America. Every friend, every aquaintance, every person at the party I attended, gathered around the television, breathlessly awaiting the results that we desperately wished to be true, hoped for Barack Obama. We hoped for change. We cried. And we won.
“In the end, then,” he said, “what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand—that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.” -44th President of the United States of America. President Barack Obama. MR