Barak Obama’s victory is historic for America, but also for the world. It is quite simply astonishing that the USA — the last major Western nation to abolish slavery, and a nation which has been traditionally the slowest to recognise and address its problems of racial segregation — has become the first major white-majority nation to elect a black president.
This is clearly historic for black Americans, and historic for everyone who has worked to combat racism where ever they are. The implications for the future cultural identity of the USA are profound. But the implications for the wider world are perhaps even greater. Obama’s presence in the White House has the potential to settle many of the fears of developing nations, and also of the Middle-East. Statesmen who have interpreted America’s every move as an attempt to re-establish white colonial power will look again. Even Obama’s middle-name, which was used so shamefully (and yet so ineffectively) against him during the campaign, will create bridges to communities which would have given no time to another white man in the White House.
In these days of polarisation, and ‘war on terror’, we might have expected the American people to choose the candidate who claimed to be toughest. This is, after all, how George W Bush got his second term. By some strange and wonderful metamorphosis, they have instead chosen the man most likely to work for peace, and most able to accomplish it.
Obama has a lot of work to do in this troubled world, but the American people have laid down a challenge to the rest of us: it is possible to choose change, it is possible to set aside long-held prejudice, it is possible to vote for the good of all.
Congratulations Barak. May your presidency spread peace across the world.