When your grandparents reminisced about historical milestones like John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you probably hoped you would get to see history in the making sometime during your lifetime. Well, you just did. For the first time in America’s 232-year history, its people elected a black president, Barack Obama.
Besides this historic value, what makes Obama’s election even more special is the fact that so many students contributed to it. College students should take pride in the fact that they led America down a path it had never taken before. People should also be proud that they’ve injected a much-needed dose of change into the country’s highest office, a change with consequences that will be felt well beyond the shores of the United States.
It is no secret that the last eight years under George W. Bush have been a foreign policy disaster for the United States. Eight years of blatant interventionism, countless instances of hypocrisy, unwarranted economic arm-twisting and two largely aimless wars have made the United States akin to a middle school bully. It comes as no surprise then that the international community closely followed this election. A poll reported by Newsweek magazine concluded that there’s more interest in the U.S. presidential election in Japan than in the United States itself. Countries like Pakistan, Uganda, Kenya, Indonesia and numerous others have shown what international radio broadcaster Voice of America has called “unprecedented interest” in the election.
When Obama visited Germany in July, a crowd of nearly 200,000 gathered to listen to his speech in Berlin. Compare that to the largest crowds he drew at home: the 100,000 people who went to see him in St. Louis and then in Denver. This shows what kind of weight the president of the United States carries internationally. After eight years of the Bush doctrine, the world wants a president who will solve problems without creating bigger ones — a president who won’t impose U.S. military strength on smaller, less powerful nations. In the words of Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim, the world today needs to see the United States represent “a more universal political attitude.”
By electing Obama, Americans have elected a man who believes in the power of negotiation, which is wiser than unilateralism no matter what his critics say. They have elected a man who will try to transform America’s international image from a bully into a friend.
To his credit, John McCain fought a hard battle. Unfortunately, he had little success in convincing people that he was much different from Bush. What’s even more unfortunate is the fact that despite being a seasoned politician, he showed bad judgment on numerous occasions. His joke-gone-bad fiascos, his numerous on-air gaffes, his campaign suspension gimmick and most of all, his choice of an unqualified, out-of-the-blue running mate took the attention away from his glorious career and experience as a U.S. Navy officer and a senator.
With Obama at its helm, America looks prepared to head in a new direction. Even though his success as president remains to be seen, you can at least be proud of the fact that an effort to bring change has been made. America voted without prejudice to try and get the country back on track.
Americans should be proud that they did what the international community also thought was best and showed the world why the United States calls itself the greatest democracy in the world.
Satyajeet Deshmukh is an Engineering sophomore.