Thursday, November 06, 2008

Change Has Come

It is one of the nation's most anticipated elections. It has given the ordinary man in the street reason for hope. It has roused the hearts of people, both black and white, Hispanic and Asian, men and women, rich and the poor. It has captivated global attention, throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the rest of the world. November 4th, 2008 is a day where change has come to America, and very probably the world. In a nutshell, Obama's victory speech says it all:
As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those — to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
This is one US Election that garners not only the attention of so many Americans, but world-wide interest. The Press continues to harp on the skin colour of Obama. People continue to see him as a beacon of hope in this world that does not seem to get better each day. Any references to his deep religious faith in God is merely given a passing mention. The smoke of hype and elevated ecstasy can unwittingly cloud the real-time struggle for hope amid the despair that is falling upon Wall Street and Main Street. Some observe that Obama inherits a world that is more problematic than any US President has ever faced. Others have doubts about his ability to lead, due to his youthfulness. I think there are many reasons for hope rather than gloom.

Obama epitomizes a unique unity never seen before in the history of America. Son of a black father and a white mother, he grew up in a multicultural era in the 60s-70s in Hawaii and Indonesia. He is conscious of the struggles of the black people in America, and appreciates the opportunities given him to rise up the ranks of the mostly white aristocracy. He appeals to the young and old, and in his speech is able to galvanize all people to one cause and purpose. If America wants to unite the world, it must first go through a process of healing. The American novelist, Don Williams Jr in 1968 said:
“World unity is the wish of the hopeful, the goal of the idealist and the dream of the romantic. Yet it is folly to the realist and a lie to the innocent.”
Yes. We need to pepper any thoughts of world unity with some reality check. We can however confidently say that as long as we maintain that hope for world unity, we have a chance.

Yet the challenges to establish unity is formidable. One politician who enters American politics with high ideals and left with some despair is Joe Scarborough. In his memoir in “Rome wasn’t burned in a day.” (Harper Collins, 2004) he argues that politicians in Washington are typically more loyal to their party than taxpayers. He adds that these politicians own selfish acts have contributed largely to the bankruptcy of America. His journey into Congress began in 1995, ending in 2001. Let us hope that at the end of Obama's presidency, he will not experience similar sentiments of anguish.

Both candidates have extended grace and gratitude to each other despite a bitterly fought campaign. That alone teaches us what we need to do as people living in a competitive environment. In sports, we sometimes extol winning to the point of cheating and preying on the weaknesses of the opponents rather than playing up our strengths and integrity. Sportsmanship is seriously needed in order to play well and compete well. John McCain has been very gracious in his concession speech, and in the words of Obama, 'extraordinary.' We can learn to do the same to one another, to be gracious with our words and actions. Emotionally speaking, I think it is even more difficult for McCain to give that concession message, than for Obama to deliver his victory speech. One must learn to win gratefully, and when the time comes, lose graciously as well. Kudos to McCain for his exemplary leadership.

Both candidates exhibit a level of care and love for the country they serve. This is consistently portrayed by both candidates and that makes unity and healing possible. Fighting for a single cause, for one people and nation is a symbol of leadership and example. "A nation we both love," is a stirring statement of intent and common goal of both candidates.

Be Witherington III points us to an amazing reminder of what we should all stand for, even if we are not from America. The commentary by his friend James Howell ought to help us restore sanity amid the euphoria.

My Comments On Why Obama Won
Firstly, he had to. Wall Street (rich-upper middle class) has fallen to financial disarray. Main Street (the average middle-lower income people) continues to struggle with bread and butter issues daily. McCain appears too identical (even if he is not) to the Bush era. The 'Republican' name has somewhat become a liability for him, due to the association with right-wing policies, which has not helped improved the lot of the common people. The people needed something new and radically different.Non-Americans have even become more interested in the US Elections than their own. One even campaigned for Obama.

Secondly, the closely watched Primary elections between Hilary Clinton and Obama has sharpened his campaigning skills. The main difference is that elections is no longer limited to the 'white-causian-male' category but is open to black, female and others as well. That is certainly what true democracy is about, an election that is open to all. This has created some excitement among Canadians as well, so much so that some Canadians are even willing to trade their voting rights in exchange for the chance to vote in an American election! Obama clearly has a heart for the people at large. I like the way that he tells the story of Ann Nixon Cooper (106 years old) who queued up to vote. In one story, Obama demonstrates the importance of history, of a person who lived through two world wars, depressions, struggles, victories and many events. By stringing them together, he weaves multiple generations together to hope as one people that they will be a better tomorrow, if every person unites. The backgrounds and histories are shared realities of life.

Thirdly, the US has been prepared for a black president, thanks to Hollywood. From Morgan Freeman's role in "Deep Impact" to Dennis Haysbert's character, David Palmer in the hit TV series "24." In the latter, the President is handsome, solidly decisive and demonstrates a character of integrity that many admire. Together with the Oprah endorsement and many Hollywood supporters (California is largely Democratic), Obama's victory is only a matter of time.

Fourthly, the time is ripe for change. People have seen 8 years of a Republican-style Presidency and politics dominated by the same party in both Senate and House of Representatives, and they do not want a repeat of the same. What is more interesting is the increase in the younger voter turnout. The youths desire to be heard, and be different. Moderation, not radicalism is the key to future expectations in society. McCain is not exactly an alternative for an influential undecided bloc.

Fifthly, the world in general has hoped for an Obama victory. This is largely reflective of the desire for a more inclusive, balanced and fair international relations, which Bush's 'cowboy-style' policies fail to adequately provide. The world has changed. The trouble is that Washington has not kept pace, and it is hope that a youthful Obama will help bring change. Elsewhere, the change America is looking for, reflects the change that many people outside the USA harbours deep in their hearts. There is a coalition called "The World wants Obama." For example, multi-cultural Canada sees Obama as a reflection of their culture. An Australian press survey indicates a preference for Obama, so that the mess created by the past administration can be better addressed . Some Singaporeans see an Obama victory as a possibility of the Singapore political environment to change.

Sixthly, this election is something that is reflective of an emerging world. A new generation is sprouting out, that is brave enough to question the presuppositions of the past, of tradition and of old institutions. People are generally more willing to embrace new changes. Socially conditioned by an atmosphere of openness and greater tolerance, technologically spurred by constant introduction of the latest-and-the-greatest gadgets, coupled with an accelerating thrust toward self-expression and fulfillment of dreams, the stage is set for a new beginning. The start of a brave new world, at least mentally speaking.

Seventh, the Republican factor. Bush, despite being an honest disposition, fails to give America something to cheer about. His security policies have ushered in a climate of fear and brash challenge to those who disagree. The Iraq war and failure to locate any cache of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) mixes unfavourably with the confrontational foreign policies. For some, anything will do, as long as it is NOT Republican.

Finally, one will need to observe not only an Obama victory but the MARGIN of victory, which is unlike the previous elections between Bush and Al Gore where recount is the order of the day. The American people has delivered a clear and unambiguous message on who they want to lead the country. We need to respect that and tell ourselves, change will come. What matters now is to what, where and how?


Useful Links
(1) Obama's Victory Speech (video - part 1; part 2)
(2) Obama's Nov 4th, 2008 Victory Speech (Full Text)
(3) John McCain's Concession Speech (video)
(4) John McCain's Concession Speech (full text)

No comments:

Latest Posts