President-Elect Obama

Posted on Nov 5, 2008
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. We are the hope of those boys who have so little, who’ve been told that they cannot have what they dream, that they cannot be what they imagine. Yes, they can.”[1]

I shy away from discussing politics online. I’m aware how hard it can be to convey nuance, and I’m also naturally one of those infuriating people who can see good intentions an both sides of most political arguments. That’s not to say I don’t have political opinions, I just don’t like coming across closed-minded; someone who is so sure of their own opinion that they would be willing to trample those of others.

I couldn’t let today pass without saying something though. Six years living in California, and living now with an American partner, I perhaps have more invested in this election than others. I am not ashamed to say that watching Barack Obama’s victory speech brought, as I am sure it did to many, a lump to my thought and a tear to my eye.

So here’s my bold statement, of the type I never make. To those who listen to Obama and say that he is nothing but a speech maker, that his orations, full of sound, signify nothing: You are wrong.

America, at its best, is a country with a remarkable amount of self-belief. That self-belief has enabled it to do remarkable things. Recently, that belief has been, for many Americans, especially the young Americans I know, lost - with no little mourning, and quite some pent-up anger. Obama will have to do more than make fancy speeches, yes, but the simple fact that America will once again be led by someone who can inspire ideas, and not just ideas, but ideals that are so good, so powerful, in so many people, cannot fail to produce good outcomes.

An inspired America is also an inspiring America. When I was growing up in Scotland, to paraphrase Obama’s words, the fire in America’s beacon did burn bright in our minds. American ideals were uplifting ideals. The UK is hardly a poor or freedom-lacking society; I can only imagine how someone in a less fortunate corner of the world than I was felt. I might be wrong, but I don’t believe that the modern America inspires those same feelings in the children of the world. An America with a renewed sense of hope and optimism, and a less circular idea of ‘right’, has a chance of rekindling that fire.

If you’re still in doubt, listen again to some of his rhetoric. Forget for a moment your logical arguments about over-simplification, or the ‘empty’ power of words. If you can’t have an open mind about the man himself then ignore him for a second. Watch the crowd, or others around you. See how they react with hope, and confidence, with an optimistic belief in their country, and also a belief in themselves. Compare it to how you remember their belief in America, manifestations of its values, and their own self-sacrifice a few years ago. Then tell me again that nothing good is happening.

[1] From Barack Obama’s “Super Tuesday” speech, February 5th 2008, in Chicago.