president and the world gets a new leader.
In one of the most transformational and inspiring moments in US history, the American people voted Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America — their first African-American president.
His Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, who mounted a spirited campaign, in a gracious concession speech pledged to reach out and work with the man who, he said, is now not only the President-elect of the US, but “my President as well”.
Never has an American presidential campaign caught the imagination of the world quite as has this one. Mr Obama’s meteoric rise, first on his own country’s political stage and then on even the global stage, has been, if anything, unprecedented. His personal narrative is extraordinary. It took him from virtual obscurity in less then a few years in America’s political firmament to become perhaps one of its most articulate and elegant spokespersons on burning issues, both on the domestic and international fronts.
Although President-elect Obama will not be inducted into office and move into the White House till January 20, 2009, he will be spending this time putting his cabinet together and keeping a watchful eye on world events — a process of transitional briefings that may have already begun.
In ringing tones, in his victory speech, he stated “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 question the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”
And then in a lifting of the veil on his foreign policy: “To those that would tear this world down — we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security — we support you.”
The soubriquet of the ‘most powerful man in the world’, as the US President is often referred to, may never have been more apt because the new President of the United States will have to now expand on the traditional State of the Union address he makes to his people to include the ‘State of the World’, where the rest of the people who inhabit this planet live and want to live with honour and dignity.
In a world that that had turned against America under the painfully long eight years of George W Bush, world leaders — indeed the world — will now be looking to Barack Obama and his seasoned Vice President-elect Joe Biden to put their great country into damage control mode from the minute they assumes office.
President-elect Obama has the intellectual equipment and the persona to steer his country away from the inherited maelstrom that his ship-of-state is floundering in by being the steady helmsman he has shown to be, against all odds. He now also has the mandate and the goodwill of other world leaders that will be sitting with him at some Round Table in the near future.
His victory has successfully brought together the myriad wondrous colours of the rainbow that make up the United States of America in one warm embrace. Let him now stretch out to a divided world and offer his hand of friendship in both spirit and substance.
That ‘Change’ he promised throughout his campaign may have culminated in his historic victory, but his will and ability are sure to be tested now in a time when America finds itself in an unprecedented economic downturn on its domestic front and engaged in two wars on inhospitable terrain in foreign lands.
He may be viewed as ‘the antithesis of Bush in intellect’ and ‘in terms of temperament, the antithesis of McCain’. Even so, the exigencies of holding the office of the president and being the commander-in-chief will undoubtedly put emphasis on him translating electoral promises into performance from that shining moment he takes the oath of office. That defining moment is yet to come.
I have no doubt in my mind that President-elect Barack Obama will shoulder the awesome burden of the most powerful office on the planet with grit, grace and determination.
And that belief stems from the incontrovertible truth that says: “Yes! He can!”
Mahmud Sipra is a best selling author and an independent columnist. He can be reached at
Reproduced by permission of the author and The Daily Times