Obama takes office

Barack Obama has taken office as the 44th president of the United States. He has brought to an end the Bush era and many people around the world will be celebrating not only the election of the first ‘African American’ President, but also the demise of George Bush. Recently, I even saw a flyer advertising a party in Birmingham (UK), which is being held to celebrate the end of George Bush’s presidency.

I too am excited by the prospect of an Obama presidency and the affect this will have on not only the United States, but the world at large. He comes across as a personable, affable, eloquent, and sincere man and I very much hope he can help to heal the world.

At the same time, I am a realist. As a work colleague put it, today at 17:00 GMT was when the ‘rainbows came out and the pixies danced’. Many are placing a lot of faith in Obama’s ability to change the nature of pretty much everything. It reminds me of the hot summer of 1997 when Tony Blair and the Labour Party took power in the UK and there was a feeling of complete elation everywhere. Then reality bit.

Obama, by his own admission, is not some kind of panacea. He will meet a great deal of obstacles throughout his term(s) in office. If the hardcore anti-Bush brigade expect big changes in foreign policy, I’m afraid that they’re being just a little naive. Obama’s big impact will, I suspect, be in US domestic policy.

I must admit, I did have a little wry smile on my face as the first words Obama spoke as he swore in were fluffed (having read the oath, it was Rick Warren’s mistake and not Obama’s) and he seemed to hesitate. Not the best start, but Obama dealt with it well. Let’s see if the satirists make anything out of that little episode – they would have lapped it up if it had been Bush.

In any case, it is great to see the investiture of the first black American president. It looks like the most powerful nation on Earth has indeed moved on a great deal from the dark days of segregation. I sincerely hope that Obama can live up to the expectations. By his investiture, he has already exceeded the hopes and dreams of a generation of people brought up under segregation. Martin Luther King’s dream has finally been realised.