Obama and the Hope of the World
Trip Start Sep 21, 2008
122Trip End Jun 19, 2009
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Since our world tour began, a lot have people from around the world have shared their opinions with us about the US elections. We have heard so many positive comments and so much hope everywhere. We had conversations in South America about who might win the election, we heard the reaction in New Zealand when the results were announced, we saw the Australian coverage of the inauguration and the warm response they had for President Obama and we have heard the optimism of taxi drivers in Singapore and shop keepers in Kuala Lumpur during Obama's first days in office.
It is clear, based on the unsolicited comments we get about Obama as President that we are a global society and what happens in America matters around the world. There is a genuine sense that somehow with Obama in office, America and the world will be different.
This morning, while sitting in our hostel in Kuala Lumpur, I opened the paper and found the article below. I found it very moving, and it made me realize what big expectations the world has for Obama. It's not about Democrat or Republican, its not even just about America. It's about the world's hope that in the future America can be different as a world citizen. It's something for us all to think about and I thought it was worth passing on.
From The Malaysian Star Newspaper, January 30, 2009
Be the man, Obama WHY NOT?
By WONG SAI WAN
Much has been written about the 44th US President, Barack Obama, but this is an open letter to the American leader to warn him of what the rest of the world expects from him.
Dear President Obama,
Firstly, allow me to add my personal congratulations to the millions you must have received on being elected the 44th President of the United States of America.
Just like millions in Asia, my son and I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to watch your inauguration on Jan 20.
We giggled and laughed when you and Chief Justice John Roberts fumbled through the swearing-in, but we also fell silent as we listened to you deliver your first speech as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.
I admired the words you spoke - it sounded so different from your predecessor's - when you offered your understanding and friendship to the rest of the world, but at the same time assuring your countrymen that you will still be their leader.
Many cited that part of your speech when you addressed people of all faiths, and then directly to the Muslim world, as sure signs of your sincerity.
But, for me, the address to your own people caught my attention.
"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned," you told your fellow Americans.
I appreciate that you realise that the grand ole US of A does not have the inherent right to be the "leader of the free world", as in the past 40 years your country had failed time and again to live up to that title.
The US has been living too long on past glories - like the first and second world wars. You and I, and billions of others, were not even born when the second, and final, Atomic bomb was used to end the second world war.
The US has fumbled from one conflict to another - Korea, Indo-China, Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq - since 1945. No other country has been engaged in more wars than the US in the whole of the 20th century, and going into the 21st.
Many of us, citizens of the world regardless of our political leanings, do not remember the US for much. Most of us remember the US for losing these wars, or at best being unable to win them.
Mr President, painful as it may sound, this is the view of many world citizens, especially those born after the 1960s on the poorer side of the globe.
Ironically, these same people, who see the US as losers in terms of conflicts, are the same people who see your country as the land of milk and honey.
There are very few people in Asia, Africa and the Middle East who do not know someone - a neighbour or relative - who has settled in your country and hope to achieve their American Dream.
In the indoctrination of the world, the US film and TV industries have been your country's best weapon. Where nuclear might has failed, Hollywood has succeeded.
But today, the US is at the crossroads, as you yourself readily admit in your speech:
"But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."
I am sure you were not just talking about re-building the US economy, but also its global role - both as citizen and leader of the whole world.
Yes, Mr President, the time has come for America to make a choice to either re-join the rest of the world or to continue with its present path of forcing others to follow its route to self-destruction.
I will not dwell on the evils and good of the US but rather on the personal route you seem to have chosen in wanting to lead your country.
Mr Barack Hussein Obama, whether you like it or not, you have become the world's greatest hope in these dark hours of conflict and economic turmoil. So much expectation has been placed on your wide shoulders.
Much of these have been because of the slogan of change you adopted during your election campaign but, sadly, even more responsibility has been heaped upon you because of the colour of your skin.
Being the first coloured person to lead the US, it has become incumbent upon you to prove that you are more than capable of being a great leader. Because of the dark skin that you have, you cannot afford to fail.
I do apologise for the reference to the colour of your skin but the millions, if not billions, of people around the world looked upon your election as the 44th President of the United States of America as the ultimate vindication of their opposition against what they see as Caucasian-led imperialism.
They see you as the key in unlocking the chains that had bound them for centuries because of white imperialism. They clapped and cheered when you were sworn in because of the colour of your skin.
Fortunately (or is that unfortunately?) I do not share their view. For me, I hold a cautious hope be- cause you seem willing to listen to the rest of the world regardless of their strength and colour. You have lived in many places in your life and you seem to have relatives popping up all over the world.
You are the first truly world citizen to become the US president.
However, I pray (although I am one of those whom you addressed as non-believers) that you will not stray from your path of wanting to right what has been wronged and to put straight what has been turned crooked.
But I hope that in your effort to do that you will not adopt a mindless Machiavellian attitude of the means justifying the end and forget your duty as a human being.
We in Asia know only too well Machiavellian leaders, as we have had more than our fair share of such people. While they brought us progress, we all lost our souls in the process and gave up many things, which we now sorely miss.
Mr President, talk is cheap. We in Asia also have had our fair share of leaders who have made the correct sound bites as well as all sorts of promises. Again, these leaders failed us, their promises remaining just lip service. I hope that you will not fall into this category.
The final pitfall that you should avoid is to try to win over all sides all the time whenever you have to do something difficult. It would be nice to have unanimous support, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet.
On behalf of the people of Malay- sia, I would like to offer our congratulations and also an invitation for you, Michelle and your two beautiful daughters to visit our humble country.
A fellow world citizen,
Wong Sai Wan
Wong Sai Wan, a Deputy Executive Editor with The Star, wrote this letter as his daughter was watching the American TV series 'Greys Anatomy'.