Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hail to the Chief

I wanted to be black yesterday. If I couldn't be black, it would have been good to be American. Ideally, of course a black American. I was in London - I only just resisted saying "You're black - so Obama then? What a guy, eh?" to the girl in the newsagent at King's Cross. I settled instead for: "No thanks - I'd only eat it" when she offered to sell me a brick sized bar of chocolate cheap.

The past few months have been great - a political soap opera with Clinton and McCain, the good guy winning through, and he's clever and he wants to change the world. Who could resist? We've all wanted to share in America's prize. Fair do's, we get to wallow in the pain of Iraq and financial ruin. In any event, our best and brightest new hope is Ken Clarke - so noone should begrudge us.

But, we can only share so far - all those stars and stripes, the "God Bless America", that feeling of acute discomfort when he told the world America was "ready to lead once more." Really? That's a good thing then is it? It's a bit like when your best friend gets married, or your sister. You love the guy and you really hope it's going to work out for them, but ultimately it's not your wedding. Still, he's a gem and raising a glass here, wish you all the best guys.

38 comments:

Maddie Grigg said...

It was an awe inspiring moment, even if he did fluff his initial lines. His words were magical, musical, although like you I flinched when I heard the bit about America being ready to lead the world once more. Says who? Apart from that, I enjoyed the flag waving, the spectacle and the sheer thought something like that could happen. I don't expect Obama to save the world, but he'll make a good crack of saving his country. I think. We should all give him the time he needs and not expect miracles overnight.

Lilly's Life said...

Yes as long as he doesnt hop into bed with the UK and Aussie Prime Ministers and go to war like Bush did, the marriage will work out just fine. Yes, I crinched at the same time you did but he was speaking to 'his own' even though the world was looking on. I hope it works out really well. They are a wonderful refreshing couple I have to say. I just cant get my head around the fact the President can dance better than Michael Jackson in his hey day.

family affairs said...

I agree. At least he is relevant and hopefully has the instinctive sensitivities required for our brave new world L x

Iota said...

I've read/heard Americans say that Obama has been elected "President of the free world". Is it a slip of the tongue, or do they really think that? It's a rather misguided concept, particularly from the nation that prides itself on the purity of democracy.

Part Mummy Part Me said...

..and isn't he cute?! Those ears..I could just nibble them.

Frank D. Myers said...

Some of it, i think, is a factor of the size of the U.S. --- sitting in the middle of it as I do it's not that hard to forget there's more to the world out there --- even though most of our consumer goods now are manufactured overseas. Myopia is not our unique problem, however; China and the former Soviet Union have suffered from it; even Britain when the empire still was out there (and included the colonies that became the U.S.).

So we all need to be reminded now and then that the sun also rises and sets in places other than where we sit.

kdicicco said...

Actually, it was the Chief Justice who fluffed the oath of office.
I think he was telling the world that we will rise from the mess we are in and so the rest of the free world will follow. We do get blamed when things go bad so I think he was just acknowledging that fact.

Expat mum said...

Actually, they really do mean it when they talk about the Prez as the leader of the free world. They also mention that this is the "most prosperous, most powerful nation on the planet" quite a lot!
Still, it's nice to have someone in there who thinks, reflects and discusses things with others.

mibi52 said...

He is a grown-up, as opposed to his predecessor, which is distinctly refreshing. I am hoping that the sense of "leading" is one of being a model of moral leadership (another thing which has been lacking over the past eight years). Americans can fall into the trap of exceptionalism, but somehow I think this president has a more nuanced and realistic view of the United States' place in the world, how far we have fallen in the eyes of many, and how much work is ahead. At least this Washingtonian hopes so.

Natasha said...

Want more warm fuzzy feelings? Read his books: 'Dreams from my Father' and 'The Audacity of Hope' (hope I got the titles right - both given to hubby for his birthday and not right in front of me now). I've been picking through them when I have a moment. As most of us will have guessed, he has the power of the written as well as spoken word. And, at last a politician who would appear to defy the odds - he's actually not power crazy but really does want to change the world! Refreshing is an understatement! What a dude, as you Americans would say! Natasha

lurkerfan@lj said...

Unfortunately, too many of us Americans feel that the U.S. rules the world -- greatest nation, richest nation, lone superpower -- but we are beginning to get a lesson in the limits of our power. I think President Obama (oh, how nice that sounds!) understands that a great deal more than most Americans, whether leaders or ordinary citizens.

Thanks to all you Brits for your good wishes.

Oh, and Natasha's book titles are correct, and the first one is particularly well written. I haven't read "The Audacity of Hope," but have heard it is not quite as impressive.

podpilot said...

I think Obama plans to lead more by example than any other method: he could easily have gone for an oratorical fireworks display.

Instead he took the opportunity to focus America on the extent of challenges faced--and America's historical potential to meet them.

(And, consider this for proof of his preference to lead by example: he was the first member of the new administration to receive the ethics briefing he has made mandatory for everyone at the White House.)

Parisgirl said...
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Parisgirl said...
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Parisgirl said...

I'm with you on this Wifey; it was a great, historical moment.

Americans are not the only ones who believe their president is the leader of the "free world". The French are also hailing Obama as such. Hard to credit, but they appear to be even bigger fans of the new US President than the Brtitish. As I wrote, I fear this will last until they realise that while Barack Obama knows where France is - unlike his predecessor - that does not necessarily mean he cares!

11:35 PM

Parisgirl said...

PS. Apologies for the deleted comments. For some reason the same comment came out three times.

Bumps Stump said...

Hi Northern Wife . . . (1)Yesterday was a little good and a lot bad. The usual American mix. It's great to see a Black citizen as Pres. but just a mite too bad so many people voted for him simply because he is Black. Yet his election is a step further towards a color blind society.

(2) Bad. Yes. The Obama, Pelosi, Reid types can only harm our already troubled country. Americans have voted to reduce their liberties and increase their government. We have taken another giant step down the path toward social engineering -and that is a sad spectacle.

(3) The illustrious, devine, exalted, arrogant, hypnotic, royal emminence of King Obama does indeed believe the American government can solve every problem on earth. Why not think big. It's stupid. Something like shooting yourself in the foot.

Dixon

Vargas said...

Your word, Northern Wife, is an excellent one for the 44th President of the United States of America: a gem! Yes, indeed.

And, yes, it was the Chief Justice who blew his lines giving the Oath of Office. But President Obama (for he was already President at that point) carried on with his characteristic grace.

Thank you for this post: it is great to hear what people around the world are thinking.

Pam said...

I've nearly finished "Dreams of my Father" and would recommend it to anyone who would like to know more about Obama.
My American friends didn't vote for Obama because he's black. They voted for him because he's intelligent, dynamic, believes in equal rights, communication and science. I'm also excited that he's surrounded himself with people like Hilary.
I did cringe at his "leader of the world" comment though.

Erminia said...

Mmm, seems to me he could eat himself, especially with those awesome teeth...

www.okathleen.wordpress.com

Tessa said...

Took me right back to 1994 and the wild, heady jubilation I felt when our Madiba was inaugurated as President of South Africa.

"When the music changes, so does the dance"

Two great men - one aim.

Troy said...

I found his speech most inspiring. To quote "our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred" and he wants to lead by being a beacon for US values of "hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism". I think the US is our only hope. The EU of bickering, squabbling, own-interests-first, undemocratic leaders is no role model.
God bless America!

Actually it is dull in 'ull said...

I think it will be interesting to see how the media portray the family, especially as they are so photogenic. I have seen several comments about Michelle and the daughters clothes this week on both the TV and in the press. Whilst this makes them appear more 'ordinary' than the previous occupants of the White House I hope that they are not 'celebretified' and hounded by the media.

this too will pass said...

more importantly he is very intelligent, very well-educated, very reasoned and calm... good credentials for someone with so many problems to overcome

Swearing Mother said...

.....and he is SO cool, even more sexy than Clinton.

You just would, wouldn't you?

Braja said...

Good analogy, not your wedding but raise a glass. I liked that...it works.

sunshine said...

For those of us "over here" who worked our little buns off for this moment -- for three years-- it was a moment of a lifetime. My personal grief at the handling of the last eight years has known no bounds; just as my joy, now, has no bounds.

Barack will not be perfect, and the press will try to bring him down (as they always do); but this man is "sprung steel in a chic suit" as George Will has said. I've not seen his sort of strength and purpose of mind and heart ever in my 67 years! It is a wonderful time to be an American -- at last!!!!!!

Thank you all for such warm support of this president!

Louise said...

I was at a dinner party last night (... yeh, a dinner party and not supper - nice change!) and one of the guests said that the other day he was reading an American magazine online (don't ask me which one as I can't remember after two glasses of champagne - wasn't Time or Newsweek) and there was an article saying that the Obamas were to split - the happy family thing was agreed on to get him into the White House. The dinner guest went back to look at the article again a little later, and bingo! the whole site had gone, not just the article.

Anyone else hear this?

This comment is pretty dumb as I can't remember the name of the magazine! But it's Sunday and I'm feeling a teeny weeny bit fragile ...

Fin Keegan said...

Er, Louise, have you ever seen any pictures of Barack and Michelle together? Pictures of W and his Mrs?

I think, in your cups, you may have got your first couples mixed up...

sunshine said...

Warning to all: Michelle and Barack and the girls are going to drive the press berserk! They are trying so very, very hard to pick them apart, and because they can't find anything to get their teeth into, they're making it up!

Remember the "fist bump" that they labeled a "terrorist fist bump"??? It'll be one thing after another until Barack truly does make a mistake of some proportion!

As an American, I wake up every day so thankful for the new administration!!!

Susan said...

It is really interesting to see the overseas opinions of the inauguration, the new president, the egocentric view we have in America.
It's true - it's such a big country that many people think it must be the center of the world. And that patriotic chest beating has been pounded into our heads from elementary school on.
Not all of us buy it, particularly those who have been lucky enough to travel beyond our borders.
But if we can lead by example, by living up to our highest ideals, by creating working diplomatic relationships, by becoming, essentially, the kid in school that everyone likes and everyone trusts, that seems to me to be a worthy goal. That's leadership without ego or grasping for power - just showing the other kids that it can be done.
All the kids in the class are pretty immature right now, and America's been one of the worst bullies for eight years. Maybe now we can grow up a little.

Tismee2 said...

Good luck to him. Of course things will not suddenly improve, and then people will start to doubt and criticise. Even the perfect politician can't please all of the folk all of the time.

I'd like to see more Union and St George flags flying in this country, but I forget - they would probably offend someone who isn't British!

mutleythedog said...

I have been wondering if he is secretly gay like Dave Cameron....

Natasha said...

A friend told me today that her husband was taking credit for her son's good progress in maths: "He's got my genes!" Indignant, she told us: "who does he think helps him with his homework day in day out, feeds him and has always got up at night when he wakes?! what credit do Mums get?! Why do men always think it's about them?!" I mentioned that I felt the same way about the way Obama's 'ethnicity' is dealt with... everyone seems to have forgotten it's a white woman (and her white parents) who brought him up, helped him with his homework, etc etc... I have gorgeous black friends and I agree that having an African American (literally in this case) as President is a momentuous occasion. But it will be more so when a future black president has been brought up by a single, impoverished black woman in Harlem or Brooklyn...no doubt having a white mother must have helped somewhat knowing how the world works? discuss!

LifeBehindTheCoach.com said...

Have you seen Frog in the fields blog about Obama and his childhood? What a guy - let's hope he lives up to our huge expectations! No pressure then!!!

Rebecca Goodwin said...

It's not intended as a slight on any other nation, but it is the United States that wields the most economic and political power in the world. It's a blessing, I think, to have a president who sees that as a responsibility rather than as a blank check.

aims said...

Having just come back from New Orleans - unfortunately just before the inaugauration - we discovered a shocking bit of news there.

Barack Obama only got 38% of the vote in Louisiana! I found that incredible!

That being said - the people who wore Obama shirts - wore them with pride! and they strutted!

We sat watching the New Orleans Hornets playing a basketball game and I said "great shirt" to the huge black man who was wearing an Obama shirt and making his way across the seats to the aisle.

I almost laughed in the face of the 'white man' who sat beside me and actually leaned away from me after that.

Politics!

actualry said...

As an American, and one who supported Obama's candidacy with my best efforts, I also cringed at the "lead the world once more" statement. Here's what I hope it was meant to address (my wishful thinking for the new administration) - after 9/11 Bush re-defined America's place in the world. That place was equally about US exceptionalism, but a whiny, bullying, craven place it turned out to be, coming from the point of view that America was wounded by its enemies and for that reason alone we were released from all requirements as a nation (including decency and respect for human dignity, re: torture) and we were able to use our power without constraint or consideration for the rest of the world's interests. That's the "lead the world" of the previous 8 years. It made me ashamed and angry at what was being done by my country (and to its traditions) in the name of "the war on terror." So here's a new President who addresses us as fellow citizens (not the part-jingoist "fellow Americans") and reminds us that democracy isn't the easy cowboy thing that GW claimed to be promoting around the world. I think we will be self-obsessed under Obama as we've always been, but reality is sinking in fast about the limits of our power at home, let alone around the world.