It is a rare election that, by its outcome alone, achieves something so profound as the recent US presidential race. Ultimately, Barack Obama will, rightly, be judged by his accomplishments as the 44th President of the United States of America. He ascends to the presidency at a time of global economic turmoil; an era in which many scientists would have us believe our decisions and non-decisions will define the future of our planet and our place on it; and a decade that has seen the US and its allies engaged in wars on two fronts. It will not be an easy presidency.
Yet, for all that, his election in and of itself has given hope to millions of his fellow countrymen and women, and perhaps billions of people around the world who happen to share his skin colour. One gets the feeling that it is the kind of hope accompanied by equal parts relief and outright joy, particularly for those who have lived long enough to witness some of the various events in US history that each contributed to the moment of Barack Obama’s victory speech. What’s sad is that it has taken so long for this day to come. What’s sad is that the colour of someone’s skin still matters. History, too, is sure to remember him primarily as America’s first black president, regardless of what he achieves or fails to achieve over the next four or eight years.
Whether you agree with his politics or not (or, if like me, you feel there was so little depth to the presidential campaigns of both the major parties that it is nearly impossible to tell what policies will be pursued), you must admire Obama’s terrific achievement. To overcome McCain and Palin so definitively is an enormous feat; but to have first defeated the machine called Hillary and Bill Clinton is, when you think about it, incredible.
Living in a small country across the Pacific Ocean as I do, with any luck I will not be chastised for confessing that, perhaps more than anything, I look forward to being wowed by Barack Obama’s indisputably sublime oratory skills. A president with a command of the English language: how novel. Our very own prime minister might take a leaf out of the President-elect’s book, and infuse some inspiring words into his rather mundane speeches.