Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama victory sparks cheers around the globe

As a demonstration of my last post, I post the following story. The funny thing is, I can say the EXACT same thing for Chileans. Everyone is congratulating me and there is a renewed sense of appreciation for Americans and what we are doing in the world. And while this article demonstrates that we cannot please everyone, I can certainly say from here in Chile I no longer feel hated for my country's politics.

Obama victory sparks cheers around the globe
By JOHN LEICESTER, Associated Press

PARIS – Barack Obama's election as America's first black president unleashed a global tide of admiration, hopes for change and even renewed love for the United States on Wednesday.

The president of Kenya declared a public holiday in Obama's honor, and people across Africa stayed up all night or woke before dawn to watch U.S. election history being made.

In Indonesia, where Obama lived as child, hundreds of students at his former elementary school erupted in cheers when he was declared winner and poured into the courtyard where they hugged each other, danced in the rain and chanted "Obama! 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," South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, said in a letter of congratulations to Obama.

Rama Yade, France's black junior minister for human rights, told French radio: "On this morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes."

Many expressed amazement and satisfaction that the United States could overcome centuries of racial strife and elect an African-American — and one with Hussein as a middle name — as president.

"What an inspiration. He is the first truly global U.S. president the world has ever had," said Pracha Kanjananont, a 29-year-old Thai sitting at a Starbuck's in Bangkok. "He had Asian and American childhoods, African parentage and has a Middle Eastern name. He is a truly global president."

In an interconnected world where people in its farthest reaches could monitor the presidential race blow-by-blow, many observers echoed Obama's own campaign mantra as they struggled to put into words their sense that his election marked an important turning point.

"I really think this is going to change the world," gushed Akihiko Mukohama, 34, the lead singer of a band that traveled to Obama, Japan, to perform at a promotional event for the president-elect. He wore an "I Love Obama" T-shirt.

The magnitude and emotion of the world reaction illustrated the international character of the U.S. presidency. Many look to Washington as the place where the global issues of war and peace, prosperity or crisis, are decided.

"This is an enormous outcome for all of us," said John Wood, the former New Zealand ambassador to the U.S. "We have to hope and pray that President Obama can move forward in ways which are constructive and beneficial to all of us."

The Vatican said Wednesday it hoped Obama will work to promote peace and justice in the world.

Hopes were also high among those critical of President Bush's policies that an Obama victory would bring in a more inclusive, internationally cooperative U.S. approach. Many cited the Iraq war as the type of blunder Obama was unlikely to repeat.

Indeed, even as they raised expectations, many U.S.-watchers were quick to point out that Obama would have to confront enormous problems once in office: wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tenacious difficulties in the Middle East and North Korea, a world economy in turmoil.

Europe, where Obama is overwhelmingly popular, is one region that looked eagerly to an Obama administration for a revival in warm relations after the Bush government's chilly rift with the continent over the Iraq war.

"At a time when we have to confront immense challenges together, your election raises great hopes in France, in Europe and in the rest of the world," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a congratulations letter to Obama.

Some South Koreans said they hoped Obama — who has said he favors direct engagement with North Korea — would press North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on human rights issues and the alleged kidnappings of hundreds of South Koreans.

Skepticism, however, was high in the Muslim world. The Bush administration alienated those in the Middle East by mistreating prisoners at its detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison — human rights violations also condemned worldwide.

Some Iraqis, who have suffered through five years of a war ignited by the United States and its allies, said they would believe positive change when they saw it.

"Obama's victory will do nothing for the Iraqi issue nor for the Palestinian issue," said Muneer Jamal, a Baghdad resident. "I think all the promises Obama made during the campaign will remain mere promises."

In Pakistan, a country vital to the U.S.-led war on the al-Qaida terrorist network and neighbor to Afghanistan, many hoped Obama would bring some respite from rising militant violence that many blame on Bush.

Still, Mohammed Arshad, a 28-year-old schoolteacher in the capital, Islamabad, doubted Obama's ability to change U.S. foreign policy dramatically.

"It is true that Bush gave America a very bad name. He has become a symbol of hate. But I don't think the change of face will suddenly make any big difference," he said.

Still, many around the world found Obama's international roots — his father was Kenyan, and he lived four years in Indonesia as a child — compelling and attractive.

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki declared a public holiday on Thursday in honor of Obama's election victory, and people across Africa stayed up all night or woke before dawn Wednesday to watch the U.S. election results roll in.

"He's in!" said Rachel Ndimu, 23, a business student who joined hundreds of others at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Nairobi. "I think this is awesome, and the whole world is backing him."

In Jakarta, hundreds of students at his former elementary school gathered around a television set to watch as results came in, erupting in cheers when he was declared winner and then pouring into the courtyard where they hugged each other and danced in the rain.

"We're so proud!" Alsya Nadin, a spunky 10-year-old in pink-framed glasses, said as her classmates chanted "Obama! Obama!"


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