By now, most everyone in America knows that Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses with a whopping 38% of the vote. What many Americans may not realize is the extent to which the world community is watching…and hoping. Most of my readers know that a year ago I decided to quit my job and travel around the world. I did this for a number of reasons, many of which I have previously discussed on this blog. However, one of the reasons about which I have not been so forthcoming is the fact that I was totally disgusted with the United States and I thought I might find a better place to live. I was sick of our government, of politics in general, and of the corruption and dishonesty that was endemic in both. Although I fully support the concept of free speech and the accompanying rights of a free press, I believe that corruption and dishonesty pervades our media as well. Most of the time they seem more interested in scraping up the dirt on the candidates than reporting their stance on the issues. Frankly, I think everyone has a skeleton or two in the closet – I know I couldn’t stand up to the scrutiny to which the candidates are subject.
I have long felt that it would behoove candidates to honestly admit the mistakes they have made in their lives rather engage in double-talk and evasion, so when I read Obama’s first book, Dreams From My Father, I was blown away by the fact that he admitted to having been a disenfranchised young black man who was sucked into the cycle of blame, alcoholism, and drug use while attending college. He realized he had a choice to make: either continue on that track or seize the opportunity he had been given. Obviously, and thankfully, he chose the latter.
Thus, when Obama declared his intent to run for President, I was excited and encouraged, but still doubtful that he could pull it off. Nevertheless, as I traveled the world I talked about him at every opportunity. To my astonishment, I discovered that people all over the world were already aware of Obama and thought highly of him. In almost every instance, they opined that Obama, if elected, could be the savior of the United States. I agreed wholeheartedly.
The media have said that Obama is too “professorial” and criticized him for not being more aggressive with his opponents. But Obama promised not to run a negative campaign and has stayed true to that commitment. This has not been lost on the American voters, who are thoroughly disgusted with negative ads and mudslinging – a fact which has almost completely escaped the media. Obviously, Iowans appreciated Obama’s honest style. He touches something in us that has been missing in our leaders over the past couple of decades. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s something about long lost values and a return to a way of life that is just ‘right.’
I watched his acceptance speech this morning and it gave me goosebumps (if you haven’t seen it yet, see the video at the bottom of this post). Among his many comments that stirred my soul was this gem: “Hope is the bedrock of this nation, the belief that our destiny will not be written for us but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is but who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.” From the beginning, Obama has given me hope. Hope that things can change. That we can take back our country and return it to its former greatness, a greatness based on honesty, loyalty, and goodness. I believe he has an innate honesty that we desperately need in this country. I believe he is the first candidate in years who has the ability to build bridges between the parties, to create coalitions, to make the members of Congress work together to achieve good. And if the comments posted on his website today are any indication, the world is watching closely and hoping that he will be our next President. Supporters from Cambodia, Nigeria, Scotland, Spain, Australia, Italy, Germany, India, Amsterdam, Canada, Belgium, The Bahamas, France, Singapore, Sweden, The Virgin Islands, Finland, and others are consistent in their messages:
“Yet in the darkest moments, a beacon of light often guides the disillusioned towards the shores of hope.”
“Finally, America is showing the values they have long talked about.”
“Please America, please, please, please, I am crying as I write this, my son and the world need your better impulses, your time is now, stand up, and the world will stand up with you.”
I returned from my around-the-world trip with the knowledge that, although the US is not perfect, it is still the best place in the world to live. Freedom is a subjective term. No one is absolutely free; we are all subject to the rule of law and the accepted mores of society. But the mere fact that I CAN openly criticize our government on this blog is a type of freedom that much of the world does not enjoy, and I have a new found appreciation for that freedom after visiting so many other countries. Having said that, I still believe we have much to do if we are to return this nation to its former greatness. I long for the day when the U.S. is once again respected around the world; when we use our resources and influence to help others rather than for self-serving goals that benefit the rich minority; when our governmental process once again functions as our forefathers intended. And now I have hope that with Obama as President, we will be able to effect these changes.