USD Forum: Obama Inspires International Hope By Randy Dockendorf
Yankton Media, Inc. VERMILLION â�?�? The world has shown a wave of excitement for President-elect Barack Obama, according to three foreign-born University of South Dakota staff members. Dr. Moses Ikiugu of Kenya, Marcia Oliveira of Brazil and Miglena Sternadori of Bulgaria offered their insights during Wednesdayâ�?�?s international forum on the USD campus. While they represent widely different areas of the world, the USD trio say Obamaâ�?�?s global appeal can be summed up in one word: Hope. Ikiugu, of the USD medical school, comes from the homeland of Obamaâ�?�?s father. That connection, and Obamaâ�?�?s historic role as the United Statesâ�?�? first black president, holds great meaning for Africans in general and Kenyans in particular, he said. â�?�?There are expectations that things between Kenya and the U.S. will be much better,â�? Ikiugu said. â�?�?(President) Bush has helped Africa a lot with AIDS treatment, but his policies did not do much for Africa.â�? Kenyan leaders believe Obama can bring greater benefits for their economy, Ikiugu said. â�?�?Many high-level people in Kenya are interested in an Obama presidency. They think it will get more attention for trade from the superpowers,â�? he said. â�?�?With Obama as president, they believe there will be more trade and tourism. Under Bush, there were warnings not to visit Kenya because of terrorists. (Kenyans) expect that will be changed.â�? Africans also believe that human rights will become a priority under the Obama administration, Ikiugu said. â�?�?On a wider scale, they have expected that Obama will pay attention to genocide in Darfur and also to the Congo, where there has been so much human suffering,â�? he said. â�?�?They believe that Obama will intervene to alleviate suffering for those problems.â�? Ikiugu said he personally believes that Africa suffers most from a lack of personal leadership. â�?�?Maybe now with Obama, the (American) president will be a model for leadership in Africa,â�? he said. â�?�?It may spark changes … to move Africa forward.â�? Such enthusiasm can also be found across much of Europe, Sternadori said. Reflecting her journalism teaching, Sternadori used headlines from around the world to show international opinion of Obama. She focused particularly on the front pages of foreign newspapers on the day after the U.S. presidential election. â�?�?The headlines used similar phrases, such as history and historic; we and us; new, beginning and dawn; and first black president,â�? she said. â�?�?The words were similar to U.S. newspapers.â�? One headline referred to the â�?�?Obama tsunami.â�? A British newspaper carried a full-page ad about Obama. Another paper noted Obamaâ�?�?s IQ of 142. Other coverage showed election parties held all over Europe. A German newspaper looked at the economic impact of Obamaâ�?�?s election. A number of the headlines were very dramatic, Sternadori said. One Romanian paper carried the headline â�?�?Noble Envy,â�? while another paper showed the phrase â�?�?Obama for Kanzler,â�? or â�?�?Obama For Chancellor.â�? â�?�?You read where people asked, â�?�?Why canâ�?�?t we have somebody like Obama, who is so truly exciting and a new beginning?â�?�?â�? she said. However, the pro-Obama feeling wonâ�?�?t necessarily result in the election of minorities as leaders of other Western nations, Sternadori said. Polls in France and the United Kingdom show doubt that those countries would elect a black president, and similar attitudes are found in other nations, she said. Some nations are just ready for change of any kind, Sternadori said. Russia is hoping for improved diplomatic ties. One Bulgarian newspaper declared, â�?�?We hope for an end of the tyranny of Bush.â�? Those same nations are also wary of the push to expand NATO into Eastern Europe, she said. â�?�?The Russians donâ�?�?t like American (military) bases in Eastern Europe,â�? she said. â�?�?They feel (Obama) wonâ�?�?t push as much as the present administration.â�? Many foreign newspapers compared Obamaâ�?�?s election to the Martin Luther King image, Sternadori said. â�?�?A number of papers listed Martin Luther King as an inspiration to Obama, so racial was definitely part of the story,â�? she said. Not all foreign coverage about Obama carried a positive theme, as one headline read â�?�?American rubbish,â�? she said. But based on polls, only Israel, Georgia and the Philippines favored Republican presidential candidate John McCain, she said. â�?�?Iâ�?�?m not sure why Georgia and the Philippines had reservations,â�? she said. â�?�?All over the world, including Europe, the reaction was very positive.â�? In Brazil, television stations celebrated Obamaâ�?�?s election, said USD soccer coach Oliveira. She showed Brazilian television footage, with Portuguese subtitles, featuring a number of shots during the campaign â�?�? including Obama and his family â�?�? climaxed by the Election Night celebration in Chicagoâ�?�?s Grant Park. â�?�?The (Brazilian) papers used words such as emotion, happiness and context,â�? Oliveira said. â�?�?(The word) â�?�?hopeâ�?�? keeps coming up often. Who will be the next one (to elect a black president)?â�? Brazilians look at Obamaâ�?�?s election as affecting their own nation, Oliveira said. â�?�?The new president comes with a blank slate. History is being made. In Brazil, there is a sense of hope,â�? she said. â�?�?Hope comes about with a new beginning. What is the significance and importance to the U.S., the world and Brazil?â�? Brazilians looked at Obamaâ�?�?s theme â�?�?Yes, We Can!â�? with a deeper meaning, Oliveira said. â�?�?â�?�?Yes, We Can!â�?�?â�? means you reach dreams and turn injustice to justice,â�? she said. â�?�?We hope to have a better, brighter world â�?�? the world in which we are not just all created equal, but where there is equal opportunity for all.â�? During Wednesdayâ�?�?s question-and-answer session, the panel was asked how Obamaâ�?�?s election will affect their native countries. Obamaâ�?�?s word will carry credibility among African nations, Ikiugu predicted. â�?�?(Obama) will do what he said he will do, and work with them,â�? the USD professor said. Obama will hopefully help find solutions to economic woes in Brazil and around the globe, Oliveira said. â�?�?We will come together, to try to help with the financial problems of the world,â�? she said. In Bulgaria, the stock market suffered the biggest losses of any trading in the world, Sternadori said. Major policy changes will be necessary to change the economy, she said. In addition, Bulgaria and other Warsaw Pact nations are concerned about Russia on the one side and U.S. bases on the other side. â�?�?Russia is still a military power,â�? she said. â�?�?Even without the Iron Curtain, itâ�?�?s an informal division of military power.â�? Bulgaria finds itself caught in the middle, she said. â�?�?How much power is in there in Eastern Europe, the U.S. versus Russia?â�? she asked. â�?�?For a small country such as Bulgaria, sometimes itâ�?�?s a matter of who is the biggest boss, the U.S. or Russia, and who offers the best deal.â�?