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A history day?

  • Gavin Hewitt
  • 5 Nov 08, 11:54 PM GMT

Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois: The armies of the Chicago night were young, casual, diverse. Cool with sleeping out. There was the feel of a rock concert line. They enjoyed the buzz of the queue. The guitar strummers; the woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty; the Obama poodles. They were strangers but together, drawn there by history. They wanted, at some future time, to say they were in Grant Park the night the American face changed.

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There was a confidence about the crowds. They relaxed, played cards, joked. They believed they were the new American majority.

When the police lines opened for them, they ran towards the stage. The first to get there whooped and cheered. Behind them would come tens of thousands of others.

Facing them were the stage and banks of TV cameras. Occasionally, the arm of a camera would sweep across them and they would cheer and wave. It was like being at a rock festival. Their image would appear on a screen in front of them and they would cheer some more. The sound-operator who tested the microphone with the
words "Barack Obama" heard the full roar of this Chicago night.

Four years ago in Boston, there was music and entertainment and desolation. The bands played on in the rain while John Kerry's aides drifted away into the night. In Chicago there was no music. Obama was the only draw.

The crowds enjoyed the early projection that Pennsylvania had gone for Obama. They roared for Ohio too. With Virginia, they knew they had it. And then, at 10pm local time, words appeared on the screen: "Barack Obama. President-elect."

Grant Park, Chicago; image by Ian SherwoodThe whole crowd was bouncing, embracing, slapping hands with neighbours and crying. They were caught up in something bigger than themselves, a cause. This was not about one man. It went deeper than that. It was about the world they lived in.

"It means all races and creeds" can live together, shouted one man. Another woman said it meant anyone, whatever their background, could make it. "Sublime," whispered one woman, half in tears. She went on to say she hoped George W Bush would not do more damage before he left office.

They listened, mainly quietly, to John McCain's speech of concession. Some clapped him respectfully and waved American flags. Here was a different McCain to the last weeks of the campaign; generous and concerned with honour, with doing the right thing. Only when Senator McCain praised Sarah Palin was there a murmur. But the concession speech was only a passing distraction. McCain no longer mattered to them.

Then a voice announced: "The first family of the United States." The new face of America emerged into 10,000 flashes. To see the Obamas there was to understand that, after a day of polling, a nation had been rebranded. Michelle and the two girls wore new outfits. They looked like special occasion clothes. I wondered when they had dared buy them. Sasha and Malia skipped on to stage. They remain wonderfully untouched by all the attention. Whether they understand it or not, they are an important part of America's image to a watching world.

To the left of the stage was a pen. Spike Lee was there. Oprah and Jesse Jackson in tears. Director, talk show host, preacher; they had all broken through. They had pushed back the boundaries but this day was different. It took an Obama to smash the glass ceiling.

Towards the front of the pen was Obama's inner circle. David Plouffe, campaign manager, David Axelrod, chief strategist, and Robert Gibbs, the communications director. They embraced friends and checked their Blackberries, an almost nervous tic from the campaign. The success partly belonged to them. They had fought a remarkably harmonious campaign. They had sacrificed nearly two years of their lives. I thought they might talk through Obama's speech but they listened carefully. Axelrod clapped enthusiastically. To the last, he is a passionate believer in the message of change.

This was not an election night speech by Obama. It was crafted. It could have done for the inauguration. It was not knocked up overnight. Like everything about the campaign, it was planned carefully. It was a speech of big dreams and high hopes. There were conscious traces of John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King in it. Obama is not coy about following in their steps. He addressed the world - friend or foe alike. "To those who would tear the world down - we will defeat you," he said. To study his face when he said it, you could not mistake his toughness.

He spoke about civil rights through the experience of a 106-year-old woman. "She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people 'We Shall Overcome'." The settling of history matters for all the African-Americans who turned out for him, but Barack Obama does not want to be seen as a black president.

I watched him closely as the crowd rode every word with him. Afterwards, he stood alone between two bullet-proof screens. For a second, he seemed isolated and one could glimpse the loneliness of power and the burden of expectations that cannot possibly be fulfilled. It may not get any sweeter than this moment. His honeymoon will be short. The economy may splutter and the power of his words may fail.

In 1989, I was fortunate to have a front-row seat at another history day; the fall of the Berlin Wall. In that long night in East Berlin, I thought my known world as defined by the Cold War was ending. At Checkpoint Charlie, the hat of an East German border guard was removed and placed on a dancing bear and before my eyes Soviet authority slipped away. Russia is resurgent but those nations once locked behind the Iron Curtain are now part of the European home.

Looking out at Grant Park last night, I wondered whether this was another such night. America has voted for an African-American. Only a few years ago, I would have doubted it happening. Racism will not disappear but America recognised in this election that it is a rainbow nation and increasingly so. Diversity is its future. The younger generation does not fear it. I went to a Republican rally in Wilmington, Ohio. Every face was white. The party will have to broaden its appeal to stay competitive in the future.

The world is already saluting Barack Obama. The love affair won't last but, for a while, America will regain its lure. The strength and vibrancy of its democracy will be admired. To throw up a candidate like Barack Obama is testimony to the success of the American system. But will it be a history day? It could be but, in any case, to be there on that night was a privilege.

Comments

  • 1. At 03:37am on 06 Nov 2008, Gary_A_Hill wrote:

    Yes, this was a history day. Perhaps not comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall in its global significance, but certainly equal to the elections of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy.

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  • 2. At 06:00am on 06 Nov 2008, faris_jawad wrote:

    Gavin, Congratulations!!

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. You were the one who made me glued to the BBC website and screen to follow the Obama's campaign. As Obama did it successfully, you did it, too. You were lucky to be as close as you described, and we were lucky to be told by you. You and Mr Obama share one important thing: being passionate about what you do, and what you are supposed to do.

    Thanks,

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  • 3. At 08:25am on 06 Nov 2008, Forcuera wrote:

    I do not know what kind of president he will be. He faces tough challenges ahead, beyond just trying to fix the problems America faces, he now has to live up to the expectations that the world and the american public has for him.
    if you think about it practically, his challenges starts from the white house, even if he is president it does not mean that he will be able to carry out his decisions smoothly, not when having an African- american as a president is still a reality that the older generations of America is trying to accept. The white house is not filled with the idealistic youths that played a major role in getting Obama elected nor is it filled with a significant number of African Americans who threw their weight behind him. In essence, whatever support he has enjoyed thus far will not follow him into the White house.

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  • 4. At 08:29am on 06 Nov 2008, Erda_speaks wrote:

    "...American will regain its lure." WHAT??? This is the kind of thing I'm always reading from European commentators who don't have a clue what America is or how it works. First of all: the long view of history will some day completely vindicate George W. Bush. Secondly, Barack Obama has youth and charisma. So did JFK, who was a womanizer and a creature of media invention. So did Bill Clinton: ditto. You want Hollywood, go to Hollywood. You want real America, why not come and live here in an ordinary city and take part in the day to day life of a real American community. You will see far more than you see from your perch as paid observer sitting on a perch and yakking like a parrot. Barack Obama has to prove himself, despite the time being right in history for him to run for president and win. I'm as glad as the next person to see a mixed-race person win, but skin color is only on the surface. What matters is how he will prove out. Then it's time for praise. Not now.

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  • 5. At 08:34am on 06 Nov 2008, Geoff795 wrote:

    A very perceptive article, and well crafted piece of writing, worthy of the occasion. Congratulations Gavin.

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  • 6. At 09:01am on 06 Nov 2008, Sankari wrote:

    Popst #4; Erda_speaks wrote: "First of all: the long view of history will some day completely vindicate George W. Bush".

    May I ask - HOW?

    Two failed invasions (one of them illegal), crumbling national infrastructure, one of the world's lowest levels of social mobility, a morally bankrupt administration now infamous for its corruption, the antagonism of Islamic militants and terrorists all over the world, the complete failure to prevent America's worst terrorist attack despite clear warning signs many months in advance, 46 million Americans without health insurance, and an economy on the brink of collapse which has caused unprecedented damage to the economies of many countries worldwide.

    That is the legacy of George W Bush.

    Yet you believe he will be vindicated? I ask again: how? And for what?

    Who could defend such an abysmal track record?

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  • 7. At 09:07am on 06 Nov 2008, mancroft wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 8. At 09:22am on 06 Nov 2008, nosetam wrote:

    Barack Obama ... glory of the American people, and light of revelation to the nations ... King the 'John the Baptist', Obama the Messiah ...
    Yes, it really is thrilling that a black President has been elected, and there can be no doubt that's he's a masterful orator, but once the initial euphoria has passed and the media hype dies down, it will later or sooner dawn on everyone that he's not the Saviour of America, let alone the world.
    I hope his administration comes to earth without a bang. But, either way, I'm sure the media will oblige in the way it deems most useful to audience satisfaction!

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  • 9. At 09:35am on 06 Nov 2008, notagainagain wrote:

    It is definately a defining moment in history. But I wonder if the loneliness and isolation is to do with the realisation that people expect so much from him.

    mancroft, thanks for the link! I spent 5 minutes laughing out loud! Funniest thing I've seen in a long time! Utter twaddle!

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  • 10. At 09:55am on 06 Nov 2008, nosetam wrote:

    Erda_speaks:
    "the long view of history will some day completely vindicate George W. Bush." As a famour American tennis player was apt to respond to dubious line calls, "You can NOT be serious!"
    The longer time passes, the more Bush's presidency is already becoming synonymous with the invasion of Iraq, and the more Iraq seems to be finding itself in the same 'oh-oh' category as Vietnam, in terms of popularity, usefulness and conclusiveness. Many people still can't get their heads around why Bush opted to pursue Iraq rather than Bin Laden ...
    Despite all the jeers and mockery, I actually found something quite likeable about Bush's personality, but he leaves the Whitehouse caricatured as a fumbling communicator, with a failing economy at home and a reputation as a bull in a China shop abroad. What good things do you think history will say about him (a serious question - not rhetorical)?

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  • 11. At 09:59am on 06 Nov 2008, kbwong wrote:

    Thanks for all your work, Gavin. Your coverage has been excellent, and I'll remember it as part of this time, which is, indeed, a day that history was made. The value of having the viewpoint and comments of someone who is not an American, who is not looking at the process from the inside, has been both interesting and valuable to me.

    Regardless of whether Obama turns out to be a good or bad president (which is entirely different from him being a good or bad man), these election celebrations mark the US's ability to overcome its own faults, its own bad history, and the maturing of what is, after all, a fairly young nation. The occasion can and should be celebrated on its own merits. Lord knows we have need to celebrate what we can when we can. :)

    @ #4: Erda, whether history will vindicate GWB or not, or whether in fact Obama will be a good or bad president is not actually the point here, although I personally doubt it will manage the former and have no clue about the second until it actually happens. (You can't get away from results, in regards to judging a presidency or anything else, and as regards your run-down of "good" and "bad" in a president, well, I don't look to the President for my moral leadership, I have other people for that.)

    What I've truly appreciated about following the elections from the viewpoint of outside agencies such as the BBC is that they ARE on the outside. It's incredibly valuable to have the viewpoint of outsiders in any situation, period.

    As someone who spends a lot of time outside of the US, I think Europeans are right in a way that many Americans are provincial. (I think "provincial", however, is not necessarily the vituperative term that some people use it as.) What many don't realize, however, is that it's amazingly difficult NOT to be provincial in the US. Most Europeans are used to being able to get to another country and entirely different cultures easily and quickly and fairly cheaply.

    Regardless of our differences, Americans are more alike to each other than we are different. Our culture across our relatively physically huge topography is pretty much the same. What we're not used to in our melting pot of cultures, what we often don't have awareness of because of geography and distance, is that we ARE our own culture, and in fact others are very different from us, and that's valuable.

    The old saw, attributed to Churchill, is that the difference between an American and an Englishman is that the American thinks that one hundred years is a long time, and the Englishman thinks that one hundred miles is a long way.

    I've found this to be true, and it changes perspective in so many ways that might not strike one upon first glance. My partner is English, and every day we have reminders of the differences between our cultures. It's commonplace to live in *houses* in the UK that are older than my country.

    Does that always make outsiders more right than insiders? No. But that doesn't mean their outlooks aren't valuable to us or that they could be if we let them be.

    I'm the first-generation daughter of immigrants. My parents worked, planned, sweated, cried over becoming Americans. They sacrificed things to do it. Most US citizens like me simply just get born in the US. They don't have to work at it, they don't have to think about it.

    There's a group of people are an integral part of the American landscape whose parents didn't ask to be part of it. They were brought as slaves. They didn't have to be black-skinned, but it helped, because it meant that people could assume that they weren't actually human and so didn't have to be treated like humans. (Not that skin color necessarily stops humans from treating other humans badly, but it did help make it easier, for a given definition of "easy".)

    This particular column celebrates a nation's accomplishments and milestones in helping people within our country to feel human again, to feel that other humans know that they are also human. Gavin's remarks acknowledge that no one knows what history will ultimately regard this day as, but that this probably will go down in it as momentous is still probably a good educated guess.

    Whether you're griping from sour grapes or just gloomy Eeyore tendencies, Erda, do try to to see a larger picture. It'll make you more fun to have around, at the very least!

    Sorry I don't have time to edit this down. ;)

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  • 12. At 10:06am on 06 Nov 2008, rogenroll wrote:

    The way Gavin writes makes me feel that I want to be there celebrating with the USA.
    And it is so true the way Gavin has stated that the honeymoon could be short for Barack Obama. I really hope he does eventually bring the troops home. I do believe there was a big turn out for the Presedential polls because people voted for the man. I wish it could be thus in the UK.

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  • 13. At 10:07am on 06 Nov 2008, alphahowdy wrote:

    Of all the places to watch the Election results mine happened to be in Cambodia at the Foreign Correspondent's Club. I was taken aback by the sheer joy and genuine tears from not just the American Democrats Abroad crowd, but from the NGOs from all over the world. Young Australian, French, Spanish, British, Belgian aid workers - all to a man and a woman overjoyed. There was a unity and a world interest that I have never witnessed in any American Election before. The sense that this was more than just an Election for the US, but a new ray of hope for the world.
    It was slightly evangelical and yes... some people may have got swept up in the hype and the hollywood / almost fairy-tale side to the story. But that's understandable because this is a story that touches us all deeply. If we are human enough to admit it.

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  • 14. At 10:08am on 06 Nov 2008, atheistpolitics wrote:

    Congratulations Obama, congratulations citizens of the USA!

    And thanks Gavin for your reporting. You are quite right of course that the reality of the current situation will give the next president a very difficult task and a lot of very unpopular decisions will need to be taken. However, the US people used the full power of democracy to establish change for themselves, so I believe they are already preparing for the hardships that must come. Good luck to all of us, but I am optimistic - even if Obama isn't an atheist....

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  • 15. At 10:09am on 06 Nov 2008, David Pritchard wrote:

    Erda_speaks: you really must be delusional (apparently, a trait shared by many Republicans) if you don't believe that the rest of the world views America much more negatively after eight years of George W. Bush. If you're honest, you can say "OK, but I don't care what the rest of the world thinks". But you really must be taking something if you think that America's image hasn't taken a pounding.

    I also notice you imitate Palin's division of America into "real" America (presumably, small-town, white, conservative) and the rest. How dismal. How you utterly fail to rise to the moment.

    Iraq may ultimately work out. We don't know. But the aftermath of the invasion was utterly chaotic, and Bush's bad leadership and poor judgement was largely responsible for it. Also, I doubt history will look kindly on a president who dug America into a 10 trillion-dollar debt hole during the good times, leaving his successor (just like Clinton) to clean up the mess, or on a president who did long-term damage to America's alliances, and helped unravel the global anti-proliferation regime. I could go on. The list is long. Pull your head out of the sand and check the damage.

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  • 16. At 10:09am on 06 Nov 2008, itzig66 wrote:



    4. At 08:29am on 06 Nov 2008, Erda_speaks wrote:

    "...the long view of history will some day completely vindicate George W. Bush..."

    Don't be silly. Only the most partisan and biased person, who chooses to completely ignore the facts and thus reality, could possibly truely believe this statement.

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  • 17. At 10:17am on 06 Nov 2008, Akil wrote:

    Frankly I'm not convinced by all this talk of history in the making. Is it really so astonishing that a "black" man can become president of the USA? In Bush's government we had Colin Powell a very capable man in a very senior position, and of course, Condoleeza Rice, arguably the most powerful woman in the world - oh and she's black as well.

    Outside of politics let's not forget Oprah a woman (and black) who has been credited with being able to turn the voting population with a few words of wisdom and Morgan Freeman, a wise man in his own right, had already set the stage long ago when he played the president in the film Deep Impact.

    The US seems obsessed with racism and probably with good reason - it appears to be a considerably more racist country than the UK for example - but they seem blinkered (some might say perversely so) to the equality that is blossoming all around them. So along comes Obama and suddenly the election is all about racial equality, Simon Schama tells us on Question Time that this could "only happen in America" (Are you sure Simon?), and Obama tells us that this sends out a message to the whole world about the validity of US democracy (so if McCain had won that would have been a fixup would it?).

    It all seems to me to be much ado about nothing. We seem to have very quickly forgotten that up until McCain made the huge error of judgment of nominating that gun-toting, "hockey mom" Palin as his VP the race was a very close thing indeed, with McCain looking increasingly likely to be the next president.

    Tell you what wake me up when the first openly gay, female atheist is running for president will you; then I'll be impressed, for now: same old, same old.

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  • 18. At 10:18am on 06 Nov 2008, Akil wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 19. At 10:22am on 06 Nov 2008, Jose Fernandez wrote:

    These elections have not done away with bigotry. 75% of Black women have voted in favor of a constitutional ban on gay marriage in California. Yes we can...indeed, but only if you are straight. Bittersweet moment if you are a democrat and gay.

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  • 20. At 10:31am on 06 Nov 2008, blairhartley wrote:

    "Michelle and the two girls wore new outfits. They looked like special occasion clothes. I wondered when they had dared buy them."

    Great stuff!

    A great article, befitting an amazing occasion.

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  • 21. At 10:43am on 06 Nov 2008, Sankari wrote:

    Post #17; Akil wrote: "Frankly I'm not convinced by all this talk of history in the making".

    The first black president of the USA. An unprecedented historical event. If that's not history in the making, what is?

    "Is it really so astonishing that a "black" man can become president of the USA?"

    Yes. Particularly considering that America's apartheid system is a living memory for many voters.

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  • 22. At 10:44am on 06 Nov 2008, Ian wrote:

    Yes is was a 'history day' - one of those rare, amazing, proud days when it felt great to be alive and part, if at a distance, of something big. If Obama can deliver on even a proportion of the hope his election has generated then the world will be a better place.

    A salutory thought, for those of us in the UK at least, is that it feels somewhat similar to 1997 when Blair got in, and sadly a lot of that hope was squandered. Yes the new government delivered on many of its more mundane if important commitments but there's hardly been a change in political culture and in many ways things are now worse than before - certainly people are no less alienated from politics.

    But in 2008 we're seeing both political change and a very symbolic cultural change, and we just have to hope that the huge impact of the latter around the world proves longer-lasting than the change in personality and party label alone.

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  • 23. At 10:54am on 06 Nov 2008, eightypercent wrote:





    First of all thank you for a lyrical post (describing a lyrical moment - we were all with you there in spirit in Grant Park).

    Secondly, to disagree with Akil # 17. Yes, this is an astonishing moment for a country that was founded on slavery and where a whol section of the community are only a couple of generations away from that burden.

    The very fact that some of the influential people mentioned - Jesse Jackson and Aprah - did not expect to see it in their lifetime was confirmation of the enormity of Obama's achievement.

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  • 24. At 11:02am on 06 Nov 2008, RichardALondon wrote:

    Great article. Great night.

    Personally, although I am really pleased to see Obama win, I am pessimistic that he can live up to half of the expectation he has built up. I really do belive that Bush's presidency will be seen by historians as the beginning of the end of the US as a global superpower. He has squandered not only international goodwill but also economic power by wasting money on pointless wars and failing to restructure the economy to cope with the challenges that lie ahead. Obama inherits a US that is both morally and economically bankrupt. While his very election goes a long way to repair the US's moral image, fixing the economy is a much greater challenge than simply getting banks to lend again. I fear that he will resort to protecting dying industries in the same way Bush has in order to cushion the downturn, since he will not have the financial resources available to spur the development of new industries and skills which is what is really needed. I also fear that his social objectives will not be achieveable given the dire fiscal situation.

    I hope I am wrong, but I fear that the US now faces economic challenges that cannot be overcome by good intentions and oratory skill. Major investment in a knowledge economy is what is needed and the piggy bank is empty. Sadly the same could be said for the UK.

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  • 25. At 11:03am on 06 Nov 2008, Nephtis wrote:

    For the first time in a long while I am proud to have an American Passport.

    There are many problems still with self styled 'greatest nation on earth' but this is a movement forward. This is only due in small part to his race, but in the main by his belief in the American Dream of Politics.

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  • 26. At 11:08am on 06 Nov 2008, nosetam wrote:

    Akil,
    You ask, "Is it really so astonishing that a "black" man can become president of the USA?"
    Yes, it is.
    Powell and Rice are not a realistic comparison. They were Whitehouse APPOINTMENTS and not elected by the American people, only 12% of whom are black.
    If you go to Capitol Hill, you find that Obama is the only black Senator out of 100, and only the fifth in history. If 1% for 12% is the height of black representation in the Senate, it should be far more unlikely for there ever to be a black President, where the entire population - 68% white, 12% black - is polled and high density black electoral areas lose whatever impact they may have had for Senate elections.

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  • 27. At 11:26am on 06 Nov 2008, AJ Fraser wrote:

    I spent 15days in the US last month,mostly in Tennessee and LA.I went with some American friends to a saloon bar where the patrons where mixed ie whites blacks and others,they where placing bets on the election,but not who was going to win but how long before Obama would be killed I was tempted to place one myself just to show it here in Paris,but I chickened out,I'm not even sure if it is legal to do this

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  • 28. At 11:29am on 06 Nov 2008, Chris Q wrote:

    Gavin, I agree with you. With this outcome in the election it is as though the United States has started a healing process for all the angst and vindictiveness it's recent administration has resided over.

    Being attacked as a European columnist for a European perspective kinda hints at the reason so many people around the world have hung their head in shame or disappointment with the States. It has behaved like a weird combination of ignorant child and hot-headed old loon. All self obsession and disproportionate lashing out, regardless of who got hurt.

    Maybe it can rediscover it's aspirations and be the inspirational lead it once was.

    I feel better about America today - which I am happy with. Like an old friend came back on the scene again.

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  • 29. At 11:37am on 06 Nov 2008, meltonmark wrote:

    Barak Hussein Obama is a good example of the adage: "You get the government you deserve." let's hope Middle America has its wallets ready.

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  • 30. At 11:39am on 06 Nov 2008, notlimah wrote:

    Akil, I suggest that the use of Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact was not because of some innate familiarity with the notion of an African American President, but the complete opposite. This piece of casting firmly established the movie's plot as being in the comfortable sometime-in-the-future world of "but it will never really happen". The extraordinary thing about Obama's victory is that it now has happened. I for one am glad to see fact catching up with fiction.

    In the UK we had a woman Prime Minister some decades back. That appointment did relatively little to change the largely male-dominated political system in Britain, or transform the position of women more broadly. The question in respect of Obama is whether and how his achievement will "trickle down" through the US as a whole. Only in time will we know if Obama was just an exception or the start of rewriting the rule.

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  • 31. At 11:52am on 06 Nov 2008, WarringtonSaint wrote:

    The oratory was soaring, the hope inspirational, the message for change truly infectious. To be caught in this moment is a privilige!

    And yet........

    Barak Obama is a mortal not a messiah! He will have to deal with real issues and the same suspects that still rule American Institutions using many of the same people who populated the last Democrat Administration.

    The message of "Hope" and "Change" is one that has been proffered by novice politicians since time immemorial (remember our '97 election and hopes ultimately unfilled?)and my greatest hope is that the expectations placed onto Barak Obama are ones that no mortal can achieve.

    But for today, the very warmest wishes go to a man who has already inspired.

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  • 32. At 11:57am on 06 Nov 2008, gerontosaur wrote:

    O'Bama is an old Irish name

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  • 33. At 12:02pm on 06 Nov 2008, gerontosaur wrote:

    QOUTE At 11:37am on 06 Nov 2008, meltonmark wrote:

    Barak Hussein Obama is a good example of the adage: "You get the government you deserve." UNQUOTE

    So was Saddam Hussein? Stalin? What did the US (and the rest of us) do to deserve George Bush?

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  • 34. At 12:03pm on 06 Nov 2008, Nick Ebrell wrote:

    Gushing with smug-by-association whimsy prevalent in its broadcasters, the Beeb could well do with streamlining their website by banishing this kind of waste of time.

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  • 35. At 12:16pm on 06 Nov 2008, Talleyrand wrote:

    Yes, Gavin, a history day. We all know that the road will be steep, we all know that Obama has to hit the ground running, with the debris left by the wild money-spending, army-killing party held by the neocons, whose take-no-prisoners approach to decency defies any orgiastic scene from ancient Rome.

    I believe Obama will at least try to make the best moves and the pressure is on to succeed. He will remain coolheaded, I am sure. I feel better with that hand on the wheel.

    For the first time in my voting career, I am genuinely for someone and not as a better alternative. Obama is an inspiration, and ironically perhaps, he is the first president who is younger than I am and yet I feel understood. He is also the first one I think young people can look up to as an example of decency.

    But this is all in addition to something else that we Caucasians cannot, perhaps, experience, even in our hearts, but not as viscerally. And it is good to just stand back for a moment and let Africvan Americans and Africans, too, just feel their pride. As a new-found African-American friend wrote me:
    "Even though the days look gray, the sun is shining."

    There is a time to talk and a time to be silent. I think, for a short while, we whites should choose the later.

    Cheers.

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  • 36. At 12:21pm on 06 Nov 2008, rjaggar wrote:

    These events are seismic, very media friendly.

    But Obama won't be getting everyone out of bed every morning.

    He won't be paying the monthly bills.

    And I hope for his sake that he has a really good Christmas rest before taking office.

    He's sold himself and his team to the US people.

    Now they'll find out what's inside the Christmas wrapping paper.

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  • 37. At 12:23pm on 06 Nov 2008, Wanni11 wrote:

    Your article is inspiring, but it is a shame you end it on such a cynical note. To ask the question, "Will it be a history day?" seems to indicate that you have lost the point completely. You talk about the fall of the Berlin Wall as comparable - and it certainly was an event of momentous significance. But it came at the end of less than one century of Soviet domination. The election of Barack Obama has come at the end of more than four centuries of the oppression of a massive proportion of the world's population - not just in America, but all over the world. It is only the courage of people like Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Rosa Parkes that we now see this historic election of the first African American president. Already, all over the world, black people are talking differently. "If he can do it, then so can we." If that is not a history day, I don't know what is.

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  • 38. At 12:25pm on 06 Nov 2008, ShannonMaddock wrote:

    To say that the USA is more racist than the UK is the height of absurdity and doesn't do anything to help move past prejudice in either place. I've lived in various communities in both nations and lots of other countries besides and not one can correctly claim a total presence or lack of racism and other bigotry. Maybe the major focus of discrimination in the UK isn't the black community, so I guess I'll be impressed when the British government can boast an Asian Cabinet member, let alone an Asian Prime Minister.

    President-Elect Obama is not the "Black Jesus" some have mockingly called him. He's just a man with a huge job in front of him. The US electorate have given him a mandate and I think we all hope he does right by it.

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  • 39. At 12:27pm on 06 Nov 2008, HolmanRE wrote:

    The love affair betwen Obama and America (and the world) will last longer than you think.
    You underestimate two things: first, the depth of the relief that the person in charge is not George Bush; second, the public understanding that the problems are great and the solutions are not easy. The public will be patient.
    The expectation on Obama is not that he will solve all the problems with a magic wand. It is simply that, if anyone can solve them, he can; and, in doing it, the weak won't have to carry the strong. That promise may all crumble in the end. But America (and the world) will give Obama ample time to fulfill his promise.

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  • 40. At 12:33pm on 06 Nov 2008, Jamesohida wrote:

    Garvin, thank you for the x-ray of the current state of the world or America. I can see that your pen see farther than your eyes. The power that allow the world to see the present state of the world will allow America to see better days. The level of attention given to the 2008 US election result is giving us indication that we must have faith in the good things to come. There shall be another tears of joy soon - mark it.

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  • 41. At 12:38pm on 06 Nov 2008, AJ Fraser wrote:

    Another thing to remember that he is neither black nor white,must have had some influence with some voters

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  • 42. At 12:39pm on 06 Nov 2008, Neal Richardson wrote:

    A whole lot of people are very excited about a man they really know absolutely nothing about. Hey, I really hope he's the real deal, but popping the champagne at this stage is ridiculous. So far, he is really not much more than a marketing creation and a great orator (of well-written teleprompter speeches). I truly believe that GWB will be vindicated in history, and we will all shiver at the truth about what threats were facing the West during his Presidency. I tend to think that Obama will quietly shudder when he gets his first classified intelligence briefing.

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  • 43. At 12:45pm on 06 Nov 2008, senarbass wrote:

    I'm English but I have to agree with the poster below who says Europeans have no clue about America or this election-- and are frankly outrageously condescending about the place.

    "Change"? That's just something we use to ride the bus. Obama's election was well and truly the first media putsch of modern times. He hasd $700 million to spend versus McCain's $85 million. A foregone conclusion.

    "America has voted for an African-American. Only a few years ago, I would have doubted it happening. Racism will not disappear..."

    Why's that? The US is the most racially diverse country on earth. I went to Harvard and Oxford. Harvard was full of talented African Americans in great number. Oxford's idea of diversity was a Kenyan Rhodes student.

    Perhaps Europe doesn't have a "race problem" (a phrase it cannot help but throw in every time America is mentioned) because White Europeans just seems to *know* they are better than other races. What problem?
    America is and always will be great because it constantly wrestles with these problems, knows that inequality is wrong, struggles with the solution.

    "Glass ceiling"? Rubbish. A black man in president of the US. When is that going to happen in the UK, Germany, France, Italy...?

    Jealousy and schadenfreude is no basis for foreign relations, but we need the US a lot more than they need us.

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  • 44. At 12:46pm on 06 Nov 2008, senarbass wrote:

    I'm English but I have to agree with the poster below who says Europeans have no clue about America or this election-- and are frankly outrageously condescending about the place.

    "Change"? That's just something we use to ride the bus. Obama's election was well and truly the first media putsch of modern times.

    "America has voted for an African-American. Only a few years ago, I would have doubted it happening. Racism will not disappear..."

    Why's that? The US is the most racially diverse country on earth. I went to Harvard and Oxford. Harvard was full of talented African Americans in great number. Oxford's idea of diversity was a Kenyan Rhodes student. Perhaps Europe doesn't have a "race problem" (a phrase it cannot help but throw in every time America is mentioned) because White Europeans just seems to know they are better than other races. What problem?
    America is and always will be great because it constantly wrestles with these problems, knows that inequality is wrong, struggles with the solution.

    "Glass ceiling"? Rubbish. A black man in president of the US. When is that going to happen in the UK, Germany, France, Italy...?

    Jealousy and schadenfreude is no basis for foreign relations, but we need the US a lot more than they need us.

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  • 45. At 12:50pm on 06 Nov 2008, Talleyrand wrote:

    Neal R 2000

    Maybe you should read some to find out about Obama, who has been scrutinized for over 3 years now. He is very much his own man. It was neocons like Reagan and Bush the Lesser who were totally manufactured products.

    Obama won because he is authentic.

    The moment McCain opted to become "the base", every word from his mouth sounded fake.

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  • 46. At 12:54pm on 06 Nov 2008, theorangeparty wrote:

    Yours is one of the first voices Gavin to detect and reflect a slight unease over the Obama victory and you should be congratulated for that.
    It was indeed a well-crafted, carefully planned speech of "big dreams and high hopes" to mean all things to all people.
    Obama was packaged up and sold like soap powder. And my concern for the people of America is that with false hope comes shattered dreams.
    As you point out, "the love affair won't last" and the US may be heading for a disturbing and unsettled future, for the reasons I've outlined here.

    http://theorangepartyblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/god-help-america.html

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  • 47. At 12:55pm on 06 Nov 2008, Jim1648 wrote:

    No one mentions the real change. It is the elevation of smarts over stupidity. That is the one last verboten subject in America these days, both left and right (for different reasons).

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  • 48. At 12:55pm on 06 Nov 2008, senarbass wrote:

    "Nephtis wrote:
    For the first time in a long while I am proud to have an American Passport."

    You obviously weren't one of the folks like myself-- now with dual citizenship in two great countries-- who labored, waited, struggled for many years to get that passport and the hope it represents, compared to the rest of this cynical, corrupt planet.

    As many have said here, when Obama realizes the level of insanity, religious hatred, and ignorance being directed against his country from countries with no rights and many prejudices he will shudder.

    I am no fan of Bush, but he really was a "wartime president", a role he did not choose but was thrown into by 9-11, and we all know how quickly we despise and throw out our wartime leaders. Churchill anyone?

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  • 49. At 12:59pm on 06 Nov 2008, Mainiakles wrote:

    Great piece. I do believe this is a historic moment for the county and you touched on it perfectly. Thanks for your great reporting.

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  • 50. At 1:02pm on 06 Nov 2008, purpleshomuzap wrote:

    The fact is whether Obama really gets the job done or not is to be seen. But in the era of globalization, America has responded to the call of multiculturalism.The strong white catholic male ( a war hero in this particular case) has not been enough to inspire the people of a country.The world is not going to fall for that image anymore just as America has not.It is the dawning of an age when consensus, temperance and compassion has to be the primary quality of leaders and this may actually demand a reinvention of what it means to be a conservative socially.Not the Palin type for sure, that has run its course.

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  • 51. At 1:05pm on 06 Nov 2008, MellowG wrote:

    Being an american who has lived in Europe for 30 years, I visited East Germany a month before and after the wall fell.

    For the last 8 years I always told people I am American but politically I am more Canadian. I am once again proud that Americans have finally woken up from their slumber and chosen a bi-racial president. Historic? Yes. Will Obama do well? Yes and he will do much more by contributing to the Unity of humankind. The journey won't be an easy one, but expect America to one day become known again for it's great leadership and it's destiny to give service towards the betterment of the entire world, not only a rich few in America.

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  • 52. At 1:16pm on 06 Nov 2008, Michael_DC wrote:

    Whilst I think overall your article is well balanced, I would point out that the population of Wilmington, Ohio is 90% white. I totally agree that the Republican party needs to find itself again, but I don't think that using anecdotal evidence with no context is in any way helpful.

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  • 53. At 1:22pm on 06 Nov 2008, djburrows wrote:

    I agree with kbwong's comments that Americans whether white or black or other are more alike than they perhaps perceive. This was brought home to me when I attended the NMUN (National Model United Nations) UN simulation conference at the UN in New York a few years back. I am a white South African and I got chatting with a Black Kenyan girl who was studying at a predominantly African American college in the US. We became friends and at one point she said to me that despite the fact that I am White she was able to talk to me much more easily than her African American colleagues because I am African and they are American... I discovered two things that day, that I am truly African despite my white skin and that African Americans are truly American despite being Black. Thus race is really an artificial distinction in the multicultural United States today and the Obama victory is evidence that Americans are discovering this too. Hopefully Obama will help Americans discover that what they have in common is much more important than their differences.

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  • 54. At 1:30pm on 06 Nov 2008, brucethebarbarous wrote:

    A crucial and telling difference between Bush and Obama is the purchases they have chosen to make public - Bush loved showing off his new cowboy boots with the embroidered presidential seal, Obama will buy his daughters a puppy.

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  • 55. At 1:30pm on 06 Nov 2008, vcm1967a wrote:

    RE Post #33

    "What did the US (and the rest of us) do to deserve George Bush?"

    Speaking as an American, I can only say this.

    We have no one to blame but ourselves.

    Hopefully, recent events will correct that error.

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  • 56. At 1:48pm on 06 Nov 2008, olddocrob wrote:

    Astonished at how many curmudgeons there are out there.
    I live barely 5 miles as the crow flies from the American cemetry where many of the dead of the 8th Air Force are buried and I live close to one of their old airfields. The sacrifice of those aircrew, will be remembered this Sunday on Armistice Day. But they were part of a segrated army. Now, 63 years later, a man of colour is the Commander in Chief of US forces; if the curmudgeons cannot find it in themselves to recognise that as historic they betray either their own racism or the poverty of their imagination.

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  • 57. At 2:00pm on 06 Nov 2008, kingrgs78 wrote:

    #38 "ShannonMaddock" the UK had its first Asian Minister in 1997. His name was Kieth Vaz, who did Asians in UK "a lot of proud" by being embroiled in a corruption scandal and resigning. The first Asian MP was elected to UK parliament in 1892, his name was Dadabhai Naoroji, Liberal Democrat MP for Finsbury central - this at a time when most of Asia was still a British colony. Get your facts right before ranting!

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  • 58. At 2:01pm on 06 Nov 2008, kingrgs78 wrote:

    #37 "Wanni11" I quite agree with what you have said. But please dont place Obama in the same category as Mrs Parks, Dr King or Mandela. They took on a perverse establishment. He's part of a well oiled establishment and while Harlem & Jamaica (NY District) would have voted for him, once the realisation that their lives aren't any different for the better, I wonder how they'll think?

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  • 59. At 2:01pm on 06 Nov 2008, kingrgs78 wrote:

    #45 U565630 - Obama is very much his own "orator" but hardly very much his own man. If you suggest reading up about him, after having lapped his book "The audacity of hope" (pretty good) I also read "The case against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favourite Candidate" By David Freddoso.

    I like one particular line from that book "He's not a bad person. It's just that he's like all the rest of them. Not a reformer, not a messiah. Just like all the rest of them in Washington" and then he goes on make a fairly compelling case that this is so. Obama camp has not dared to take him court cause it makes some uncomfortable reading, including how he pulled one over fellow African-American rivals.

    And finally #4 Erda_speaks - who knows how history might judge President Bush? I wont criticise you nor hail your bold assertion. But would say one thing, when US forces surge, supported by Biden & McCain but not Obama, started working in Iraq - news of Iraq suddenly took a back seat in the Media as well as the US election, cause the news was no longer perceptive bad. Furthermore, there hasn't been a single terror attack on US soil since 9/11. The outgoingly mumbling, accident-friendly Texan must be in a way credited for that. As for Afghanistan, its not a failed cause, it was taken legally with a full UN mandate, unlike Iraq and even Obama supports it.

    Politics, just like the media is all about presentation. History....is something else, whether its for Bush, Blair or Obama. Only time will tell as Gavin says.

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  • 60. At 2:16pm on 06 Nov 2008, Guru wrote:

    ...re. the 10 trillion debt hole dug for America...
    Why do people assume that the 10 trillion didn't go exactly where it was intended to go? Excellent financial management, actually!!

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  • 61. At 2:18pm on 06 Nov 2008, srlclark wrote:

    #38 suggests that it will be a long while before there is an Asian member of the UK Cabinet.

    There is at least an Asian Parliamentary Under-secretary: Baroness Vadera, in the Cabinet Office. Another minister, Parmjit Dhanda, parliamentary undersecretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, was sacked a few weeks ago.
    And Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is in the (Tory) Shadow Cabinet. There are several candidates for office working their way up the system: some will certainly get there soon, in either of the main parties.

    #43 suggests that "Oxford's idea of diversity was a Kenyan Rhodes student". Don't be ridiculous: Oxford is full of African, Asian, and even American students.

    This is not to say that the US is *more" prejudiced than the UK or Europe in general. Different prejudices, and different histories to be worked through. And sometimes it's not the "colour" but the "culture" that gets in the way: where cultures are too different trust becomes difficult. That, after all, is why so many Democrats, Independents, outsiders and even moderate Republicans found Sarah Palin so hard to take.



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  • 62. At 2:22pm on 06 Nov 2008, j_nichelle wrote:

    All American's do not think like "Erda." And furthermore, history will never vindicate "W." Does America has a tainted past, without a doubt; but, are there pages ripped out i in the textbooks in our standardized primary/secondary schools (producing standardized children), no---though a few, I'm afraid, are (innocently) stuck together with bubblegum or paste. However, anyone alive today, walking the streets or taking their children to school or going to the grocery store, constantly feels effects of W. I still cannot grasp the extent of the damage from 8 years of "the decider." We will soon find if Barack Obama can really offer change or if it is even realistic to believe that he can reverse such damage in a four year span. But I will tell you, he is the best we've got and I am proud to have supported (for 2 years!) Obama campaign. All I can hope for is that those pages in history that slam W for all he's done will directly precede (without transition) information on Obama's win. Our old values still hold true and that allows me (and the rest of my "young voter" generation) to breath a sigh of relief. We recognize progress.

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  • 63. At 2:33pm on 06 Nov 2008, hakluytbean wrote:

    #4
    I agree with your point about JFK. Talented people graduate from U.S. universities every year. The fact that occasionally someone like Obama goes into politics and has success there should prompt an enquiry into why it doesn't happen more often, not a media love-in. But there we are, that's the media and their 24-hour vaudeville show.

    But I've learned the BBC has something for everybody; Gavin's is one of the better blogs imo, News24 is pointless unless you enjoy watching middle-brow puddings sweating under lights, but the radio output is consistently better.

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  • 64. At 2:44pm on 06 Nov 2008, Akil wrote:

    Post #38 ShannonMaddock: "To say that the USA is more racist than the UK is the height of absurdity ..."
    About 2% of UK MPs are non-white compared to 8% of the entire UK population. Oddly enough about 2% of government political roles in the US are non-white comapred to the significanty higher 25% non-white population.

    So I think I'm on reasonably safe ground arguing that point.

    However, this does not detract in any way from my point that a "black" president is nothing especially surprising. Contrary to what another poster suggest Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice are perfectly valid examples of powerful non-whites in the US government, I fail to see how being appointed and being elected makes a difference - they are non-whites chosen over white candidates hopefully for their skills and not their skin colour (which would be racism).

    Post #56 olddocrob: Less curmudgeonly, more tyically British to be underwhelmed by the over-enthusiasm elicited by this election. I wholeheartedly agree that there has been a significant shift in morals since those dark days of relatively recent US history; but the point is that the shift has already been significant, there are many non-whites in positions of power in the US, this is just another one - it really is NO surprise.
    If Martin Luther-King had een elected president in the 60s that would have been a surprise; now, it just isn't.
    What's so difficult to understand about the point I'm making?

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  • 65. At 2:51pm on 06 Nov 2008, worldfamily wrote:

    Thank you Mr. Hewitt for an inspiring article! You captured the moment, making me feel like I was there in Grant Park.

    To add perspective on your comment about the Republican need to broaden its appeal: current Secretary of State (= Foreign Secretary) Condoleeza Rice and her predecessor, Colin Powell, are black Americans and Republicans. Both have been considered serious potential presidential contenders.

    The Republican Party problem is one of narrowing appeal. That was highlighted by Colin Powell in his endorsement of Democrat Barack Obama. Mr. Powell lamented that his own Republican Party is moving too far to the right.

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  • 66. At 2:52pm on 06 Nov 2008, BillCoffin wrote:

    Gavin, thanks for your terrific column. It has been a wonderful place for thoughtful commentary during an election cycle that was mostly devoid of it.

    I am very proud to be an American, which is why the last eight years have been so painful for me. Incompetence, cronyism and wanton cruelty are not what the ideal of America is based on, yet they were the prime attributes of an administration that amazingly turned the worldwide outpouring of sympathy and support that followed 9/11 into worldwide criticism and condemnation just two years later. An administration that failed to prevent one of the world's most wonderful and unique cities from drowning. An administration that failed to see the fundamental tyranny in torturing our enemies. An administration that rewarded loyalty over intelligence, conformity over critical thought. An administration that told the world it did not need them, that it could either fill the role of subservient or rival.

    This is not America.

    Obama represents a complete opposite of that style of governance, and it is why I found it so easy to believe in him. And that is the other part of it, too, that I do not just support him, or follow him, but I believe in him. I do not consider myself a groupie of the man, nor do I think he walks on water. But he has a vision that I share for America. It is a vision I believe in, and as he becomes its chief steward in the White House, so too do I believe in Obama.

    So there lies the strengths of Obama the candidate, which is why I voted for him. But there is also Obama the man, who is equal parts Kenyan and Kansan. A distinctly American mutt of a person, as are we all. And yet, there has lingered this ugly qualification of the American dream, that if you are of a certian heritage, the dream does not apply entirely to you. This is a hypocrisy that had undermined the very ideal my country was founded on. It is an ideal perhaps unequalled in civilization, that all may live free, pursue their dreams without interference from the many forms of tyranny. America is not perfect, nor has it removed every obstacle to delivering fully on its promise to those who call her home. But as we elected Obama, we did remove one of the biggest, one of the most glaring and hurtful. My children will grow up in a world where a man with dark skin was not only elected President, but he was done so in a landslide. They will be so much more proof against racism than my generation ever was, and that can only be a wonderful thing.

    Like I said before, I have always been proud to be an American. But on election night, I realized how proud I was of my fellow Americans, too, as together, Republican and Democrat and Indpendent, we took a step forward into a new and different future than many of our parents and grandparents could never have imagined. There are those who voted for Obama and can claim victory, but just as important, there are those who did not vote for him, and yet will accept him as their President. Once again, the mightiest nation in history has turned over its great powers by dint of a social compact without a bullet being fired or a home being burned. In so much of the world there remains such stark brutality, yet somehow, in America, despite our many, many shortcomings, we managed to resist the urge to tear ourselves down not just while handing over power, but while tearing down an age-old injustice as well.

    More than anything, that makes me proud. And come what may, it always will.

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  • 67. At 3:05pm on 06 Nov 2008, tjwhales wrote:

    Ahhh. . . . . I will quote the famous Englishman Thomas Paine, who we Americans love and cherish. Obama will no doubt help the USA

    " LEAD , FOLLOW or GET OUT OF THE WAY ! "

    Hang on to your hat ! Here we come !

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  • 68. At 3:19pm on 06 Nov 2008, Belmons wrote:

    43. At 12:45pm on 06 Nov 2008, senarbass wrote:

    "Glass ceiling"? Rubbish. A black man in president of the US. When is that going to happen in the UK, Germany, France, Italy...?
    Jealousy and schadenfreude is no basis for foreign relations, but we need the US a lot more than they need us."

    It is not valid to compare British racism with American. Until about 60 years ago there was no significant black population in the UK, and racism doesn't die in that short a period. The black Americans have been there since long before probably a majority of the white Americans' ancestors arrived at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, so modern America has had a long time to become less prejudiced.
    By the way, if you're going to decorate you prose with foreign words like schadenfreude, get the English right first. You mean "envy", not "jealousy".
    And we need the US? Why, to drag us into nonsensical military adventures?

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  • 69. At 3:24pm on 06 Nov 2008, David Pritchard wrote:

    Akil doesn't seem to be very familiar with the UK. I know of no European country, the UK included, that is close to electing the equivalent of Obama. The reason is quite simple - as Simon Schama pointed out, the USA is an immigrant democracy. In Europe, identity still remains essentially ethnic. The UK may be a less racist place than, say, Spain or Italy (not difficult), but the US, in spite of the difficult history of race relations there, finds the concept of hispanic or black leaders easier to accept.

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  • 70. At 3:43pm on 06 Nov 2008, shellywilson wrote:

    Nice article. Though we could never expect Obama to be all of the things the world hopes he will be, it is still a history day.

    And I certainly don't mean to quarrel, but to the poster Forcuera: Obama will bring his own team to the White House. All of the staff there, from the chef to the highest Cabinet members, serve at the pleasure of the president. He will certainly find no resistance there. (Though it would be in his best interest to, unlike Bush, fill the White House with more than mindless 'yes men'.) Perhaps you were thinking of Congress? Well, even then--it looks like he'll have an easy go with them. At least for the first two years.

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  • 71. At 3:49pm on 06 Nov 2008, AJ Fraser wrote:

    After reading most comments a few points,there was one politician who was as, if not more than Obama,a pop-star status,got elected with massive majority then we all know what happened,I'm talking about Tony Blair.Also Keith Vas was Muslim mp who became a minister in Blair's government,and lastly Obama's big test will be Israel,what will he do if they attack Iran,possibly using small nukes as conventional weapons will have little if any affect on the Iranian nuclear complexes.

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  • 72. At 3:59pm on 06 Nov 2008, Akil wrote:

    "Akil doesn't seem to be very familiar with the UK."

    Well obviously not, despite being a resident of that most cherished of lands for (slightly, very slightly) more than four decades.

    "The reason is quite simple - as Simon Schama pointed out, the USA is an immigrant democracy."

    So? Sorry but this flippant statement needs analysing. How is that a reason? The US was an immigrant population during the slave trade era; during the 1950s and 60s period of US apartheid; and most recently when the predominantly black New Orleans was allowed to drown and its people left for days without significant aid.

    "In Europe, identity still remains essentially ethnic. The UK may be a less racist place than, say, Spain or Italy (not difficult), but the US, in spite of the difficult history of race relations there, finds the concept of hispanic or black leaders easier to accept."

    If that's the case why the big deal? Why are we being told this is an historic day?

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  • 73. At 4:26pm on 06 Nov 2008, JuanToday wrote:

    When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging. Even if Obama accomplishes little, on Tuesday we at least quit digging.

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  • 74. At 4:29pm on 06 Nov 2008, TimothyR444 wrote:

    From quijote1303:

    "Being attacked as a European columnist for a European perspective kinda hints at the reason so many people around the world have hung their head in shame or disappointment with the States. It has behaved like a weird combination of ignorant child and hot-headed old loon. All self obsession and disproportionate lashing out, regardless of who got hurt."

    These comments are an indication that anti-Americanism is so profound and so deeply rooted that no mere change of administration will have any long-lasting effect. Insults directed at Americans will not stop.

    The only answer is for Europeans to stop projecting their bitterness and anger on to Americans and start taking responsibility for their own problems. Blaming Americans for the problems of the world is trendy and fun, but ultimately self-destructive.

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  • 75. At 4:46pm on 06 Nov 2008, ShannonMaddock wrote:

    kingrgs78 ,

    From what little I read of this at the time (seeing as I was living in another country and wasn't even old enough to vote) Vaz quite rightly never made it to serve as a senior member of the Cabinet such as the proposed appointment as Cabinet Minister, which is the type of post I meant in my earlier post. Apologies for any confusion I may have caused you or others. All the same, this isn't a competition to see who's more or less racist, which I mentioned before. My overall point is that such arguments are meaningless and pretty unhelpful, but seem to make dominant groups feel better by placing blame as far away from their own communities as possible. If you want to play the "who let in a non-white first" game, though, the USA had its first black member of congress in 1870, well before the Grand Old Man of India.
    People refusing to recognise the sea-change in US and world society and even baiting Americans about the lack of progress are pretty obviously confused or suffering from a severe case of sour grapes. People should look toward home as readily as beyond it when they seek to identify and criticise prejudice.

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  • 76. At 4:49pm on 06 Nov 2008, olddocrob wrote:

    Re Akils comment that he, being 'typically British' and not bowled over by the event, cannot see a difference between blacks being successful as appointees and being successful as elected represenatives. Precisely because the latter have had to overcome those in the electorate who are racially prejudiced their impact is surely the more noteworthy.

    If, as he seems to imply, Afro Americans have already so comprehensively bust the glass ceiling, how come Obama is the first black presidential candidate and even US commentators are moved by his election?

    I'm British, not young, pretty cynical about policians of any hue, but I was moved in exactly the same way I was moved by the sight of black South Africans queing at dawn to cast their first votes after the collapse of the white supremacist government in South Africa.

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  • 77. At 4:57pm on 06 Nov 2008, olddocrob wrote:

    Timothy R444 is falling into the trap of thinking being anti the actions of the States ( ie anti the US Govt) is being anti American. Americans individually are, by and large fine, as are Iraqis, Israelis, Iranians...indeed most people in all countries. It is governments who have foreign policies, not citizens. In recent years the action of US governments has too often resulted in the worsening of situations, not their improvement. If I have one hope of Obama it is that foreign affairs will be approached with a more humane mindset

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  • 78. At 4:58pm on 06 Nov 2008, htville wrote:

    Akil, It's like you're arguing against your own position. You're really going off onto shaky ground.

    To set the record straight:

    -16% of the members of the US House are minorities.

    -Bush's appointments of Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice were groundbreaking, but there is a huge difference between being picked for a Cabinet post and being elected President of the United States.

    -If you polled the US population just a year ago, very few would have predicted the election of a black president in 2008.
    Obama's victory will be remembered as a monumental day in American political history. I think you can find about 300 million Americans right now who will attest to that!

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  • 79. At 5:31pm on 06 Nov 2008, Akil wrote:

    olddocrob: Presumably a non-white person who has attained the position of Secretary of State of the US, no small feat for anyone, from any background, has got there on pure merit - you don't appoint someone into that position to fulfill quotas (do you?). That suggests to me that racism is pretty rare at least in governmental circles.
    There seem to be a bit of doublethink going on here: on the one hand people are arguing that the US is not essentially a racist society and then on the other hand the same people are suggesting that we should be surprised that an essentially non-racist society elects a non-white president? Erm! I'm confused. Is the US racist or not? If not why the big deal?

    "..I was moved by the sight of black South Africans queing at dawn to cast their first votes after the collapse of the white supremacist government in South Africa."

    Yes you're absolutely right this was an amazing time and as you so rightly imply it was amazing BECAUSE it was a rapid, unforeseen, sea-change in that society.

    You see the difference? No, thought not!

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  • 80. At 5:35pm on 06 Nov 2008, Akil wrote:

    "Akil, It's like you're arguing against your own position. You're really going off onto shaky ground.

    To set the record straight:

    -16% of the members of the US House are minorities. "

    Then I stand corrected, but as my position is that the US is not an essentially racist society and therefore it should come as no surprise that a president should come from a significant (~10%) minority group I'm not arguing against myself at all.

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  • 81. At 8:39pm on 06 Nov 2008, mjchiu wrote:

    Dear World,

    Please get past the superficial aspects (such as race) of president-elect Obama. The question for the US and world is what sort of man/leader is Obama. Nobody really knows since he has never had a meaningful leadership position to base a prediction.

    Based upon his campaign performance, I fear he will be a relatively indecisive leader. My take on his personality is that he is eager to please all groups and anxious to avoid disappointing or angering anybody. I hope I am wrong but in a time that I consider the most challenging that a new US president has ever taken office, we have an huge unknown. Obama has to make some hard decisions soon. He has to make them right or instability and war follow (and I don't mean police actions like in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

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  • 82. At 8:43pm on 06 Nov 2008, AJ Fraser wrote:

    Vas was minister for Europe

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  • 83. At 9:20pm on 06 Nov 2008, mweller wrote:

    First off, as a moment I believe Obama's selection as president is historic. The US has obviously had racial injustice in the past, and I am sure to a degree there is still issues. But to think that 40 years after serious racial tensions in the Civil Rights era, that a man of african heritage is elected, is significant. And, unlike South Africa, the US is predominantly white, so I think it speaks well of an open-mindedness of the American electorate, and an indication of the racial situation, that he was elected.

    Many posts have also been devoted to Bush's legacy, and how history will view him. I for one can't claim to be so knowledgeable that for a certainty I can say history will judge him--and I dare say many are making such statements with no resonable ability to predict how people in 20 or 50 years will view things.

    I am not for a moment saying that I agree with all his policies, my point is that the future is unknown. Just as Chamberlin didn't realize the true gravity of the situation with Hitler, we can not with a certainty say how things will play out in the Middle East in 10 years time. Suppose--and I am not saying it is likely--that in 10 years time fundimintalist Islamist sweep through the Middle East, and with control of the countries and nuclear weopons, wage war on the West? In such a scenario, perhaps history would judge Bush rather well. Again, I am not saying that will happen, only that in the present, any thinking person cannot with a certainty say how events will play out.

    Perhaps another similar situation is I am old enough to remember how Reagan was roundly disliked in Europe--a dangerous cowboy that was going to lead the world into WWIII with his "evil empire" remarks, and building up the US's military. In hindsight, his moves do not seem as poor as they did then, and many would argue that in large part the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the USSR were facilitated by these moves.

    Anyway, my congratulation to President Elect Obama, I sincerely hope he has the knowledge and fortitude to see through his desires for his country and mankind.

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  • 84. At 9:25pm on 06 Nov 2008, AJ Fraser wrote:

    Sorry for posting again,please remember the late Ron Brown Secretary of Commerce from 1993 to 1996,when he died in a plane crash,Many considered Brown as a future presidential candidate.

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  • 85. At 09:50am on 07 Nov 2008, Rosybeeme wrote:

    'The US seems obsessed with racism and probably with good reason - it appears to be a considerably more racist country than the UK for example'

    I wonder where on earth Akil lives that s/he can make this comment? The amazing, extraordinary contradiction of Obama's election is that in a country with a deep and painful legacy of slavery, an african-american has been elected. Can you see a black or asian prime minister in this country any time soon, despite our much vaunted tolerance? How many black, working class ministers are there in Brown's government?

    If it took the credit crunch to allow this dignified inspiring man to be elected, then thank God for it ( and I speak as someone who has been significantly affected). It is simply too easy to fall back on the same weary cynicism. We all know the challenges are immense, that already the wolves are gathering and Obama cannot hope to live up to the dreams invested in him, but for a short time, at least, can we not rejoice at the best of human possibility, without mean-minded carping? We should all have the courage and audacity to hope. As someone who marched against the US involvement in Vietnam and protested with millions of others across Europe against the shameful way we were dragged into the Iraq war by Bush and Blair, I wept on Tuesday night; I never,ever thought that I would say, 'God bless America' but for a moment, I did.

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  • 86. At 2:16pm on 09 Nov 2008, yangillo wrote:

    Great article.

    Having voted for Obama, I am going to sleep better at night knowing we have a President who has brains and good judgement. By judgement, I mean the process he goes about making decisions. He also seems to have an emotional balance that has been missing from the "Baby Boomer" generation of Presidents.

    Obama also has a good eye for talent which was woefully missing from McCain. I have had enough of the hacks Bush appointed to government, especially during his first term.

    Time will tell, but I think Obama has the talent and disposition to be a great President.

    Please let me be right.

    It is going to take a great President to get us out of this mess.






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  • 87. At 09:46am on 11 Nov 2008, pluto61 wrote:

    Erda - welcome to many years in the political wilderness!! Talk to conservatives in the UK as to how it feels to be out of all power and influence since 1997, and then think that the wonderful GOP might not win an election till 2020. Hopefully you will select Sarah Painful to help you in this process of permanent opposition to make 2012 more interesting for impartial observers.

    And quite frankly you deserve no more. Your throw away comment that history will judge Dubya well. And then you give absolutely no back up.

    Strange that.....everything he has touched has been an absolute disaster, and he will go down in history as the worst president of all time.

    Welcome to the wilderness!!

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