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Following the longest, most expensive, best organized, and perhaps most bitter campaign in my lifetime, Barack Obama has been elected the 44th president of the United States.

Not only is the the first black president, he is the first president to come from any ethnic group outside of northern Europe. I believe he is the first president to have an immigrant father, a man who never even became an American citizen.

Besides his funny name, he spent years of his childhood in a foreign land, Indonesia, attending their schools and learning their language. We’ve had presidents like Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon who grew up poor, but when have we had one who grew up in a foreign city?

To me, none of this is exceptional, because it’s what America is all about. What’s exceptional is that it’s taken so long for it to happen. I think that means our image of ourselves is changing.

Except for a few of us who cling bitterly to the way things were, we no longer see ourselves in Joe the Plumber. Even if we do see ourselves in him, we are learning to accept the full diversity of the world around us, both within and outside our borders.

Borders are meaningless in a nation of immigrants. Obama represents the aspirations of all of us who believe we can rise to a position of responsiblity through talent, discipline, and an ability to bridge differences.

Americans have elected a global citizen as president. At times during the campaign, it didn’t seem possible. Obama’s middle name was hurled as an insult. He was accused of faking his birth certificate, pretending to be a Christian, using an Indonesian passport in his youth, choosing radical leftists as mentors, and having corrupt ties with his relatives in Kenya.

Some people fear what they don’t know. But rather than curing their ignorance through learning, they let their fears run away with them. Obama’s “foreign” identity was an excuse for these fears, but in American culture, simply being black can be enough to ignite them—even for people whose ancestors have been here for generations.

I’ve long felt that there are people who fear those who are unlike themselves, and others who are drawn to diversity because it gives them a chance to grow. Obama’s mother was drawn to diversity, and she imbued her son with that spirit. In turn, Obama is a symbol of diversity for the rest of us, someone we may either embrace or fear.

America as a nation is torn between these two extremes, embracing diversity in a changing world, while at the same time isolating ourselves within a shell of angry patriotism. This year’s election was a choice between those two extremes. Miraculously, fear lost.

After the election, three of my Moroccan friends wrote me notes of congratulations. They know I support Obama, but I think they were really congratulating America on being bigger than our fears.


Comment from agharass
Time: November 6, 2008, 05:42

america need the change, i hope Obama do it !!

Comment from Jillian C. York
Time: November 6, 2008, 10:50

Well put, as always.

Comment from nordin
Time: November 6, 2008, 16:23

Congratulation USA!

Now we have HOPES. It germinated and flourish upon words and promises which perhaps the only things that binds the people to overcome their fear and believe in themselves. Hopes means different things to different people. The next steps I hope that you are courage enough to brake bricks and stones to realize the hopes.

Comment from eatbees
Time: November 7, 2008, 19:50

nordin, I like your image of “breaking bricks and stones,” because it shows how serious is the work ahead. Like you, I hope it will happen.

Americans used to believe that by sacrificing today, we could build a better future. We also used to believe that the future belongs to all of humanity, not to us alone. Then we got selfish and lazy.

Change won’t come without hard work, and also a change in mentality. The change in mentality may be the hardest part. Obama’s election shows it is possible.

Comment from Hisham
Time: November 16, 2008, 12:46

Where have you been man?
Congratulations for Obama by the way.

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