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Savagely Stolen News: U.S. Again Hailed as “Country of Dreams”

U.S. Again Hailed as ‘Country of Dreams’
Around the World, Obama’s Victory Is Seen as a Renewal of American Ideals and Aspirations

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 6, 2008; A26

 

LONDON, Nov. 5 — Through tears and whoops of joy, in celebrations that spilled onto the streets, people around the globe called Barack Obama‘s election Tuesday a victory for the world and a renewal of America’s ability to inspire.

From Paris to New Delhi to the beaches of Brazil, revelers said that his victory made them feel more connected to America and that America seemed suddenly more connected to the rest of the world.

“As a black British woman, I can’t believe that America has voted in a black president,” said Jackie Humphries, 49, a librarian who was among 1,500 people partying at the U.S. Embassy in London on Tuesday night.

“It makes me feel like there is a future that includes all of us,” she said, wrapping her arm around a life-size cardboard likeness of the new U.S. president-elect.

“Americans overcame the racial divide and elected Obama because they wanted the real thing: a candidate who spoke from the bottom of his heart,” said Terumi Hino, a photographer and painter in Tokyo. “I think this means the United States can go back to being admired as the country of dreams.”

Kenya, where Obama’s father was raised as a goatherd, declared Thursday a national holiday, and in Obama’s ancestral village of Kogelo, people danced in the streets wrapped in the American flag.

In South Africa, Nelson Mandela, the civil rights icon who helped bring down his country’s apartheid regime, released a letter to Obama in which he said, “Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.”

Desmond Tutu, another iconic anti-apartheid leader and the retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, said Obama’s victory tells “people of color that for them, the sky is the limit.”

“We have a new spring in our walk and our shoulders are straighter,” Tutu said, echoing a sentiment heard across Africa.

The world sees Obama as more than a racial standard-bearer, of course. Many people praised his policies on matters ranging from Iraq to health care, which they appeared to know in remarkable detail.

Others expressed concerns. In China, some people worried about Obama’s positions on the delicate issues of Tibet and Taiwan. Some Indians and Egyptians said they had questions about his views on Pakistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Many people, in dozens of interviews around the world Tuesday night and Wednesday, also said they understood that no new president could immediately change the United States or the world. But many said Obama’s election was a powerful signal that the United States intended to change direction.

“For the first time I feel the phrase ‘I hereby declare that all men are created equal,’ from the U.S. Declaration of Independence, really came to life for me today,” said architect Mamdouh al-Sobaihi, a guest at a post-election reception Wednesday in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. “U.S. history has returned to its roots. The forefathers would be very pleased with today’s election,” he said.

“Today the United States said not ‘We want change’ but ‘We have changed,’ ” he added.

Saudi journalist Samir Saadi said Obama’s election means “the U.S. has won the war on terror.”

“Given Obama’s name, his background, the doubts about his religion, Americans still voted for him, and this proved that America is a democracy,” he said. “People here are starting to believe in the U.S. again.”

For many, the youthful Democratic senator’s election came with an almost visceral sense of relief at the impending end of the Bush administration. A recent BBC poll found that people in all 22 nations surveyed preferred Obama by a wide margin to Republican John McCain, who was widely identified with President Bush.

In Russia, Ilya Utekhin, an anthropologist at the European University in St. Petersburg, said Obama’s election has given the United States “a historic chance for large-scale re-branding of the image of the United States.”

“An African American president appears to have more sensitivity to the cross-cultural diversity of the world, and this is a promise of a more creative and flexible foreign policy,” he said.

Viktor Erofeyev, a prominent Russian novelist, said he believed the election signaled a new era.

“The choice of an African American president in the United States overturns the whole idea of the stiff and conservative America,” Erofeyev said. “This means that America did wake up. This means that America is again open for free and democratic values. America has once again become a good model to emulate. It has again become a great country.”

“It is almost impossible to overstate the impact of this vote on the rest of the world,” said Joichi Ito, a globe-trotting Internet entrepreneur and blogger who is based in Tokyo.

“The United States looked closed, stupid, xenophobic and aggressive” under Bush, Ito said. “By electing Obama, it looks open, diversity-embracing, humble and intelligent.”

But the overwhelming reaction among those interviewed had nothing to do with Obama’s policies. It was delight that America had produced, on a grand, global scale, inspiring and overdue proof that the American dream was still alive.

In Brazil, many people likened Obama to Brazil’s popular president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former shoe shiner and union leader.

“Obama is something new, something different,” said Elizabeth Soares, a lawyer from Rio de Janeiro. “The way Obama expresses himself, his charisma, the way he speaks, reminds people of a Brazilian and makes them like him more.”

The United States “is a country which has habitually, sometimes irritatingly, regarded itself as young and vibrant, the envy of the world,” veteran BBC foreign correspondent John Simpson wrote on the network’s Web site. “Often this is merely hype. But there are times when it is entirely true. With Barack Obama’s victory, one of these moments has arrived.”

David Lammy, a black member of Britain’s Parliament who has known Obama for several years, said that “America is a country that has been marked by race.”

“Now black and white can raise their shoulders high and can turn a page on issues of inequality,” he said, marveling at the “amazing image” of a black family living in the White House.

Newspaper headlines in Britain portrayed Obama’s election in soaring language. “One Giant Leap for Mankind,” said the Sun newspaper in London, which dumped its usual topless Page 3 girl in favor of a photo of Obama voting. The Times of London, which devoted its entire front page to a photo of a smiling Obama in front of an American flag, proclaimed: “The New World.”

In Germany, Benjamin Becker, 25, who studies English and history in Cologne, flew to Berlin for a party celebrating Obama’s victory, an achievement he said would brighten global perceptions of the United States.

Becker, who spent a year in Atlanta on a Fulbright scholarship, said he had been “saddened” by America’s diminished standing in the world in recent years. “I remember 10 years ago, when the United States was my absolute dreamland,” he said. “Now I still am partial to the U.S., but the Bush years were detrimental for the country. I hope it will be much different now.”

In Ukraine, where Obama will have to respond to the growing assertiveness of Russia, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko called Obama’s victory “an inspiration for us. That which appeared impossible has become possible.”

In India, political representatives of the country’s lowest caste, known as Dalits or “untouchables,” said they viewed Obama’s victory as an example in their own struggle for equal rights.

“This is America’s second revolution, and Obama’s victory will boost the esteem of the underprivileged social classes and ethnic groups the world over,” said Chandra Bhan Prasad, a prominent Dalit author. “India’s rigid caste society will come under terrific moral pressure to integrate Dalits even more.”

In Iran, strained relations with the United States colored many people’s perceptions of Obama’s win.

“If America can do away with its prejudice, maybe they will also stop thinking that all Iranians are terrorists,” said Elam Moghaddam, a homemaker shopping for shrimp in Tehran. “I hope that Iran and the United States will make diplomatic relations, now that Obama became president.”

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former Iranian vice president and opponent of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said he feared that Obama would be under “lots of pressure” to take a hard line against the Islamic world because of his Muslim roots.

“I hope he won’t feel compelled to put more pressure on the Islamic world to compensate the fact that his middle name is Hussein,” he said. “I congratulate the American people with this choice.”

Praise for the election of an African American also came from an unusual source: Abbas Abdi, one of the organizers of the 1979 hostage-taking of American diplomats at the U.S. Embassy.

“It is hard to imagine that blacks 50 years ago in some states had to sit in the back seats in public transportation,” Abdi said. “Now one of them, a member from a minority, is president.”

Many people in China appeared baffled by the idea of a black president, displaying little knowledge of American blacks beyond the official state media’s emphasis on stories about U.S. discrimination.

“Most Chinese don’t have any contact with black people in their daily life,” said Yuan Yue, founder of Horizon Research, which found in a recent poll that among Chinese respondents with a preference, Obama led McCain by almost 18 percentage points.

“Many Chinese have good feelings about the U.S. democratic system,” he said. “And this result gives Chinese a more direct understanding about American democracy. It sends the message that everyone has a chance. If you raise the right issues, even if you are black, you can win. This is the most attractive part of American democracy.”

Still, for some in China, the Obama glass remained only half-full. “Obama is half-white, half-black, so the progress in the U.S. is not that big,” said Hu Jing, 25, a paralegal. “It will take dozens of years to elect a person who is 100 percent black.”

Correspondents Edward Cody in Paris, Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran, Maureen Fan in Beijing, Blaine Harden in Tokyo, Mary Jordan in London, Philip P. Pan in Moscow, Joshua Partlow in Rio de Janeiro, Faiza Saleh Ambah in Jiddah, Mary Beth Sheridan in Baghdad and Emily Wax in New Delhi; special correspondents Karla Adam in London, Sherine el-Bayoumi in Cairo, Shannon Smiley in Berlin and Akiko Yamamoto in Tokyo; and researcher Zhang Jie in Beijing contributed to this report.

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President-Elect Barack Obama’s Victory Speech

If you missed it last night, here it is. –Ryan

 

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference. 

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled –- Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of red states and blue states: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America. 

I just received a very gracious call from Sen. McCain.  [UPDATE: Complete text of Sen. John McCain’s concession speech available here.] He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves.  He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Gov. Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke….

…for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to -– it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington –- it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. 

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.   

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -– two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. 

First lady elect Michelle Obama

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America –- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.  I promise you –- we as a people will get there. 

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. 

I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years –- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand. 

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek -– it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers -– in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House –- a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. 

Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.  As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -– I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too. 

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world –- our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down –- we will defeat you. 

To those who seek peace and security -– we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright –- tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.   

For that is the true genius of America -– that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow. 

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing –- ABarack Obama family at his Grant Park speechnn Nixon Cooper is 106 years old. 

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons –- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America –- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can. 

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can. 

When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can. 

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can. 

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes, we can. 

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.  Yes, we can. 

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves –- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made? 

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time –- to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth –- that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes, we can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

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Social Propositions Update

PROP 8 (CA): Looks like it, unfortunately, will pass, although the result has not officially been called yet. Prop 8’s passage makes California the first state to not only ban same-sex marriage, but actually rescind the right already granted by the California State Supreme Court, who determined that it was unconstitutional and discriminatory to ban gay and lesbian marriage. This is a huge blow, and to be perfectly blunt…

California, my homeland, I’m very ashamed of you. You’ve turned your back on me and millions like me. You’ve made me, in unapologetic terms, a second-class citizen. You have proven that it is still acceptable to treat gays and lesbians worse than dogs and cats. I’m so ashamed of my fellow Californians right now. I grieve, that the most prominent state in the nation cannot see that this is a matter of civil rights. We now have a black president; but two men and two women would still be the death of America.

ARIZONA & FLORIDA: Have voted to ban gay marriage. Florida, I’m especially upset with you. If it wasn’t for gays, there would be no one to work at Walt Disney World (and I used to work at Disneyland so I know that’s a fact) and without the World, Florida would shrivel away like a penis struck with leprosy.

ARKANSAS: Has voted to make it illegal for “unmarried” couples to adopt or become foster parents. And, hmm, isn’t this a coincidence, it’s also illegal for gays and lesbians to get married there. Because I’m sure roommates are rushing out to adopt.

WASHINGTON: Has voted to allow assisted suicide under medical observation.

MICHIGAN: Has voted to allow medicinal marijuana.

MASSACHUSETTS: Has decriminalized the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Now, I’m not a drug or marijuana advocate, as I still see it as harmful and the “gateway” drug. I know other bloggers on this site disagree. However, I know that we could be spending tax dollars in better ways than stopping people from doing a little 420. We’ll see how it works out.

SOUTH DAKOTA (I believe in my last post I incorrectly said South Carolina): Has defeated a measure banning abortion in all cases except rape and extreme health concerns. As I have said, pro-choice is not anti-life. Good job, South Dakota.

COLORADO: Defeats a ballot measure to define “personhood,” a term that sounds like it was made up by Stephen Colbert, as the instant of fertilization. Religious views may disagree, but this is why we have separation of church and state. Again, pro-choice is not anti-life.

SAN FRANCISCO: On the local level, Measure K was defeated, which would have decriminalized prostitution in a designated “red-light”-type district in San Francisco.

Others: Ohio defeated casinos, but Arkansas approved a state lottery. Missouri elected to make English the official language of government proceedings, but Oregon defeated a movement to limit English-as-Second-Language education to only two years. Another California measure trying to raise money for a high-speed rail between LA and San Francisco is still too close to call.

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Social Propositions

As Tom covers the incoming presidential returns, I’ll be keeping you posted on some of the social-issue propositions up for ballot, such as the California Proposition 8, limiting “marriage” to heterosexual couples. Two other states have such propositions on the ballot, and Arkansas is aiming to prevent “unmarried” couples from adopting or being foster parents, a clear swipe at gays and lesbians who want to parent children. South Carolina and Colorado are both dealing with abortion, with SC trying to ban all abortions except in severe cases, and Colorado trying to define “personhood” as the moment of fertilization. Affirmative action, assisted suicide, gambling, and prostitution also rear up as common proposition themes. Stay tuned, I’ll update in about two hours as more proposition votes start coming in.

Truly,

Ryan

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