Monday, 19 January 2009

I do solemnly swear...

So tomorrow is the big day. President-elect Barack Obama will start to recite the words of his oath, and the transition to President Obama, 44th President of the United States of America will be complete. He will enter office at a time of global upheaval, with the economic system that underpins the US's global dominance collapsing; with US military hegemony strained by the entanglement in costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; with huge challenges confronting the citizens he represents; and with a weight of expectations upon his shoulders unmatched by any other holder of the office in recent times, if indeed ever. Can he rise to these innumerable challenges?

Yeah, he probably can.

Ok, not quite as emphatic as his campaign slogan was, but that is because the campaign is over and reality starts now. It is the meeting of expectations which I think will be the hardest for him. The other issues are political issues, requiring policy decisions, some of which he'll get right and some of which he won't. However, the expectations he carriers are incredible. Not just from the colour of his skin and the hopes of an entire swathe of the US population who have long felt excluded from the corridors of power; but also from the young people motivated to use their votes and the older people inspired to believe that their country could be different. From the Republicans who crossed party lines to vote for the man they believed presented the best future for them and from devoutly religious people who ignored the proclamations of some of the church leaders which threatened them with hell if they voted for Obama and who focussed on improving life before death.

No President will be perfect, as no human being is perfect. However, Obama has served to inspire a huge number of people who had disconnected from the political process and this presents the US (and indeed beyond) with a chance to re-invigorate democracy. I think he can do this. By focussing on listening to the people, to keeping their interests at the forefront of his Presidency, he can restore faith in an institution which has lost much of its lustre over the past 8 years, and restore the world's faith in the US as a beacon of democracy and leadership.

He can be the change that he has professed to be, and the world will be watching to see if it happens. I hope that as he assumes the Presidency he believes and adheres to his own message, and that we can see the United States of America restore the respect and affection that the world has for it.

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