And Then a Hero Comes Along

By Fazila Farouk · 7 Nov 2008

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Picture: dancy'scorner.blogspot

Every once in a while, a miracle cuts through unyielding adversity to deliver a moment of hope. Barack Obama’s ascension to America's highest office is one such momentous miracle in our world’s history.

Who would have thought that America was ready to elect a black president?

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, for one, certainly seemed overwhelmed as he stood among the Chicago victory crowd, tears streaming down his face. Like many of us who have willed Obama’s victory for so long, perhaps he too harboured fears that an electorate blinded by racial bias would betray Obama.

But, the American electorate has proven us cynics wrong. They have inspired awe and re-energised an entire planet by demonstrating to the world that anything is possible. Change has come.

Barack Hussein Obama II has won the 2008 American presidential election and what a sweet victory it’s been. His is not a victory sullied by underhandedness. His is a victory born out of pure endeavour.

It is a rare privilege to watch a presidential candidate inspire and mobilise so many people. When Obama took to the podium to make his victory speech in the late hours of the 4th of November, I was reminded of his great gift -- that innate ability to provide perspective and connect with people.

In the closing moments of his speech, Obama talked about Ann Nixon-Cooper, who at the age of 106, cast her ballot in Atlanta in this 2008 election. An orator of note, he recounted with great sensitivity the milestones, victories and failures of the last century, all of which Nixon-Cooper witnessed and experienced.

But if that wasn’t enough, one could have heard a pin drop in that audience of 70 000, as Obama talked about the meaning of building a solid foundation for the next century and beyond. Suddenly, there was a surreal awareness that dawned upon everyone, especially the parents hoisting their children up on their shoulders that night, that they have a non-negotiable stake in building a sustainable future for their own children, who could very well still be alive a hundred years from now.

Therein lies Obama's power: the ability to simplify the complexity of life’s biggest conundrums and to distil its meaning from the everyday efforts of ordinary people who are just trying to make sense of it all and get by.

Obama is not just a great orator. He has shown himself to be a person of unusual integrity who has set himself the task of reforming Washington's political system. To his credit, he refused campaign contributions from special interest lobbyists, choosing instead to build a financial base from the contributions of ordinary citizens who in some cases, pledged as little as five dollars. Signalling that it is their tune that he wishes to dance to.

This one act speaks volumes about a fundamental ideological shift in the way Washington will be conducting its business under his leadership. Obama has argued, "If you want to change politics, then you have to change the influence of money on politics".  He is doing this because as he puts it, "the system is not working for ordinary people."

Obama's victory comes at a difficult time for America and for the rest of the world. It also holds varying meaning for different people from different parts of the planet.

The world is celebrating with America this week, but the world is also watching. Will the Obama presidency just be a victory for America or will America's new leader who has always considered himself to be something of an underdog, recognise the humanity and rights of people beyond his country’s borders?

Many of us are traumatised by George Bush’s global reign of terror. And long before Bush, many of us have been dismayed by America’s foreign policy bias in the Middle East. Will Obama recognise that the mothers and fathers of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Palestine also only want nothing more than the chance to build a sustainable future for their children?

Will Obama acknowledge America’s complicity in the conflict zones of Africa?

Will America, under Obama, allow the people of Latin America the opportunity to test their socialist experiment unhindered?

Will America ratchet up its imminent cold war standoff against Russia where opinion polls have revealed an indifference to the change of guard in Washington?

It should never be forgotten that Obama was the world's choice long before Americans cast their ballots. Throughout his campaign, Obama's extraordinary conduct has been reinforced by a compelling sense of justice. Above all else, he has revealed himself to be a gentleman who is willing to dialogue rather than duel.

These qualities of Obama have fuelled hope among the many people of this troubled planet that have thus far been imperilled by Washington’s winner take all approach.

They say that miracles happen when you least expect them to. Barack Obama may yet prove himself to be the miracle that the entire world has been waiting for.

Farouk is founder and executive director of The South African Civil Society Information Service.

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Rory Short
7 Nov

Person of Integrity

Barack seems to be a person of integrity. His committment to funding his presidential campaign through the contributions of ordinary citizens speaks volumes of his integrity. It shows he is his own person and unwilling to be 'bought' by any monied special interest groups. It also shows that the ordinary people are his concern not big business.

He could be just what the people not only of America but of the world need.

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