The day is here. We all have our own reasons for supporting Barack Obama.
It’s true that Obama’s message of “hope and change” has an emotive appeal for many.
But I think the most important thing for me was that I could identify with his narrative, although I grew up and spent much of my adult life in Asia.
The first thing is that I grew up as a minority in an Asian country. I think you have to live life as a member of a minority ethnic group to understand what is required of you to deal with inbuilt perceptions and racism .
We know how much it takes to be successful. I want to go back to history, as I was reminded by presidential historian Douglas Brinkley on the Larry King show that the world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali played a role in opening the door for global recognition for an African American.
I’m old enough to remember what Muhammad Ali meant to the world in the 1970s and 80s. At that time, there was no non-white role model for such huge success. He represented this shining, brave example all over the world. People everywhere would cut work and skipped school whenever his matches were televised. From the metropolis to the smallest village in Africa, for a long time, Muhammad Ali was the most recognized name in the world.
Today, we jumped to Obama. Whether one admires the United States or not, almost everybody agrees that to be the president of the US is to reach the pinnacle of success, and to helm the most powerful position in the world.
And we want to claim Obama as a part of our identity or as part of our dream, as we did with Muhammad Ali.
Obama also seems to embody or symbolize many of qualities that I identify with or admire. He is biracial, and having lived in different countries, is comfortable with many cultures. He is certainly not xenophobic, and we see in him in him someone who will not see any one people or race as being “lesser” than the other.
He is inclusive; always classy in his bearing and refused to play dirty politics or say nasty things about his opponents in the presidential race, though they threw all kinds of stones at him.
At the same time, in the back of our minds, we also know that to get this far in American politics, you have to have a measure of “killer instincts”. But for a while, it is good to know that a nice guy can still win.
We want to believe that the Obama administration heralds a post-racial era, a new foreign policy that will be fairer to countries and people that the Bush administration have labeled as “evil” and “rogue”.
But we know that there are tough task ahead for the new president. Criticism of his policies and management style is already forming a line in some people’s heads. And we know that oftentimes the position can change the man.
But for now, we bask in the glow of this historic inauguration. It’s incredible when you think that three years ago, nobody thought that a biracial, African-American man would be the President of the United States. Obama’s election says a lot not only about him, but also about all the people who voted for him.
Thank you, Obama, for giving us the belief that despite all the ugliness in the world, there is still enough idealism to try to change the status quo for the better. The world wants you to succeed.