Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Great Expectations

It doesn't take much to convince a group of American students to crowd into any bar in Paris (Happy Hour goes til 10), but, around 6 pm on Tuesday night, we all gathered with common purpose: to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama. While much has been said over the past two days about the millions who filled the Mall from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, I'd like to give a few moments time to the investiture and its reception here in Paris.

Aside from the one Indian flower peddler who disliked Obama, favoring John Kerry (where has he been the last 4 years?), when anyone recognized me or my friends as Americans, their lips instantly formed the "O" of Obama with a smile. As the pictures show, Obama faces absurd expectations at home and abroad. And after the high fives and pleasantries end, the conversations inevitably shift to the challenges facing the United States and the Obama administration over the next four years. While we Americans abroad no longer have to endure the Bush test (You're American? You don't support Bush, right?), can Obama bring balance to a world seeking it? In his own words, "We are ready to lead once more," but we must ensure that this leadership is tempered with humility. We must navigate the shifting currents of a global economy in disarray and two failing wars, all under the specter of a faceless enemy, without compromising our ideals or excluding the rest of the world from the process.

I am hopeful we can, though il a beaucoup de pain sur la planche. With the task set before us, we can for the time being say Vive Obama with pride in him and our country.

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