It’s official now that Barack Obama has won the presidency. In fact, it has been official for the last 24 hours, which have been surreal. Obama is the first presidential candidate that I’ve voted for who has also won. We all saw the pictures of last night’s celebrations, if not witness them firsthand.
So I want to take the time to write why I voted for Barack Obama, and why I am happy that he will be the next president. I am doing this mostly to provide something by which to remind myself in the coming months and years as Obama actually acts as president, and some of his shiny polish inevitably dulls, that that’s OK, and in fact, it’s normal. So, here is why I voted for Barack Obama.
I am a World History teacher. I used to teach American history, but have abandoned that topic to instead educate students about the history of our world. I have chosen to do so because I felt like I wasn’t doing my job by focusing solely on America, and singling us out as some isolated force unshaped by or unshaping the rest of the world. I feel that such ideas are false, and America’s global connectedness can be traced all the way back to the inception of this country, and even before that to the indigenous people who lived here. If I had to say the one over-arching theme of my world history class, I’d have to quote a Ben Lee song, “We’re all in this together.”
The last 8 years under George Bush have been very frustrating for me, because I feel that amidst his many inadequacies, Bush and his administration viewed the world through the lens of American exceptionalism. This country is perfectable, our people are better than any others in any part of the world, and help us out our prepare to be hurt or completely ignored. That sort of stubborn ignorance of the global world in which we live has been maddening, and I think has caused rifts with other countries that will take years to mend.
I felt from my first several impressions of Barack Obama that his view of the United States and the role it plays in the world is much more in tune with my view of the world. His discussions of foreign policy mirror my understanding that the problems facing Americans are not unique to Americans. It’s not called American warming, but global warming. Although we were attacked on September 11th, countless other countries have to confront global terrorism on a daily basis. Nor is this financial crisis solely American. The 21st century pushes all human beings closer and closer to each other with each day, which is no hyperbole given the rate at which technology changes. I have supported President Elect Obama for the last year and a half for this exact reason. I am impressed with him on many levels, but this is his trump card. The president of the United States is the world’s most powerful person, and Barack Obama sees the 21st century world in a way that Bush was unable to, and John McCain equally seemed to struggle with. I think that with our long road ahead, and the many compromises he will have to make, President Obama will never abandon his world view that it takes all of us to solve these problems that effect all of us, and therefore we can’t bully anyone into submission or ignore their dissatisfactions.
I have two anecdotes from last night that underscore this point to me. My wife is not an American citizen. She was born in Italy and moved here with her family when she was 7, and has a green card. It was only recently that she applied to be an American citizen, after years of me urging her to do so, mostly in an effort to vote in this election. Unfortunately for her, she passed her citizenship test on October 31st and will not be sworn in until December, thus making it impossible for her to vote. Last night we went to a restaurant to celebrate the results, and both hugged with enthusiasm when Obama won. On the walk back to the car, after hearing Obama’s amazing speech, she started crying in the parking lot. She cried because she was sad that she couldn’t vote for this man to be her president. My wife, who dragged her feet for years to be an American citizen, shed tears over not getting to vote as an American.
The second anecdote is also in the family and relates to my father-in-law. When we got home we went on Skype to chat with him, since he had called us after Obama’s speech and we had missed the call. He lives in Austria now, and holds typical European political views. He was born after Mussolini and regrets his country’s foray into fascism, and he holds liberal economic and social views like many moderate/liberal Europeans do, along with a rather noticeable penchant for criticizing Bush. I have only known him in the context of existing in Bush’s America. Throughout these 8 years I have taken jabs and also dished my own jabs at this country and the reckless way that we conducted ourselves in the world. But this was different now.
We got on Skype and all celebrated together, and then the tone got serious. My Italian father-in-law, echoing his daughter from only 30 minutes before, found himself getting choked up as he told us that he was proud to say that his daughter lives in America, and that his grandchildren, whenever they are born, will be American. He felt secure in the future life that my wife and I will have, and our future children, because he thinks Obama is going to help make this place a respected place in the world. If that isn’t evidence of a global president, I don’t know what is.
Barack Obama is not superman, although depictions of him like to set him up that way. He will make mistakes, he will disappoint us, he will not solve all of our problems. However, he will lead this country with humility in a way that will once again restore prestige. I will for the first time travel proudly as an American abroad with reverence to my president, unafraid to show my support for President Obama.
I voted for Barack Obama because he makes me feel proud to be an American in the 21st century world.