Obama - President of the World

February 8, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

I heard that phrase – “Obama, president of the world”– on some newscast the day after the inauguration. The speaker was some ordinary person in some foreign country. Was it Nigeria, Thailand, Moldova? It could have been anywhere.

A few days later, I got an e-mail from a friend
Greetings from Borobudur. Here in Indonesia, it is once again nice to be a white face. Given our limited Bahasa Indonesian, the conversation is:
Indo: American?
Us: Yes
Indo: OBAMA!! (Big smile and a thumbs up.)
And in France – France!– Parisians demonstrating at the huge general strike last week, were carrying signs like this.

How much the image of the US has changed in such a short time. George W. Bush was probably the most disliked person in the world, Obama the most beloved. Yet both embody important aspects of American culture. Bush represented American independence and individualism, qualities that, for better or worse, also imply a disdain for external restraints like the UN or the World Court. Obama represents American openness, diversity, and mobility – the idea that the child of an immigrant can rise to the top levels of the society.

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