Lori Hahn, my good friend and esteemed colleague at the new "Zine" sent me this commentary by Scott Ames, a retired Public Relations Officer (and Naval reserve guy) who recently began a journey around the world. He has a passion for the Philippines, and plans to move there in the future. This is an interesting editorial on his take on our new President.
With our new President in the White House I thought I should tell you what I have been seeing here and in Japan concerning the American Elections. For and example of the interest here, see the picture of front pages of the local newspapers.
I started my trip on October 30th with the presidential elections just around the corner and the campaigning in full swing. Since Snohomish County used “vote by mail”, I voted before leaving home. In Japan, the American elections were big news on the front page of the newspapers and on the television evening news. Where I was staying on Awaji Island they didn’t have any English language newspapers and no English TV stations so I wasn’t able to learn much other than see Barack Obama's and John McCain's picture all over the news.
November 4th, the day before I left Japan, I was able to get an English newspaper, The Japan Times. Half the paper was dedicated to the presidential election including the editorial pages. Just like the rest of the world, the Japanese have a great personal interest in US elections. US economic and military powers, along with the thirst for American culture, make the events in the United States local news items for the entire world.
I flew from Japan to the Philippines on November 5th but because of the International Date Line, it was the 4th in the United States, Election Day. As I sat in the airport the last of the campaigning was on waiting room televisions tuned to CNN International. In the Philippines later that night, the results were just coming in and a winner had not been decided by the time I went to bed. The next morning all of the English and Tagalog newspapers were filled with stories about Obama’s victory and editorials praising the historic nature of his win. Every body I spoke with asked who I had voted for and what did I think about Barack Obama's victory.
Barack Obama is seen in this part of the world as a bright light of hope not just for the United States but for the world as a whole. His childhood in Indonesia is mentioned constantly as an indication he will be sensitive to the needs and interests of Asia, and in particularly the Philippines. It was about two weeks after the election before I stopped seeing editorials containing at least some reference to Barack Obama.
While waiting to see a Doctor friend of mine later that day, I sat next to an older Filipino gentleman who quickly asked where I was from and we spoke for quite awhile about what the election would mean to the United State and the World. He was particularly well informed and articulate in English so it was a very interesting and relevant conversation. He expressed great hope for the future with Barack Obama as the President and told me how the United States could now reclaim its place as the leader of the world.
Last night I stayed up late, like many here in the Philippines, to watch the inauguration. It was carried live on all the international news channels; CNN International, BBC World and FOX as well as some local stations. Being nearly half way around the world, it was 1 AM here when he took the oath of office at 12 noon in Washington D.C.
I particularly liked watching the BBC coverage of the event with British reporters in the crowds on the National Mall giving their perspectives on what they were seeing and hearing. All of the news organizations were talking with anyone and everyone in the crowd. They had people from all over the world as well as across the United States who were interviewed. The international perspective I saw there and see everyday here in the Philippines just reinforces the impressions I had after Barack Obama’s election. I have not met one person who is sad to see President Bush leave office or wanted John McCain to win the election. For them Barrack Obama was the only possible choice we could make. At the same time, they still ask if I think he can do what he promised and if real change will occur. I can only say I hope so but any real change will be slow, and they understand that.
All in all, from all the coverage in local papers and on television, it is very clear that the election of Barack Obama and now his taking office has been not only historic because he happens to be an African American, but the man himself and his charisma are known and appreciated the world over. His election has done more to restore American prestige around the world than anything I have ever seen. The reaction to the huge crowds that watched the swearing in ceremonies live was equally impressive and only adds to the high expectations everyone has of his presidency.
Whether it is the fact that Americans elected a black man or that he is against the war in Iraq or any of many other reasons, the whole world has taken a new look at the US and much of the faith and trust that we have lost in the last 6 years has been restored. Now it is up to Mr. Obama and the American people to do the right thing with that renewed prestige.
While at home it is possible to watch the local and national news shows or read the newspapers and not know other countries even exist, here and around the world the people in nearly every country feel they have a personal stake in the American elections. There are even those who honestly feel that because of the pervasiveness of everything American, the entire world should have an opportunity to vote in the American Elections. I don’t believe many take that idea seriously, and I am sure those who do would not like the idea if Americans voting in their elections. But the fact that idea is even voiced speaks volumes about America’s place in the world. I can only hope we don’t squander this opportunity to keep and improve our image abroad and full fill the promise for a better future for ourselves and the rest of the world.
Sorry for the long winded editorial but I felt I should pass on what I have seen concerning the elections. I also want to add that the news coverage of the inauguration spoke long and in detail about the American tradition of peaceful transitions from one administration to another. What better advertisement for American democracy than hundreds of millions of people around the world watching George Bush greet Barack Obama on the steps of the White House then the inauguration in the open air with 2 million spectators. In many countries peaceful transitions of power are unknown or seldom seen.
Enjoy the Journey
Scott C. Ames
And Peace Y'all
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