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Vivian Norris Headshot

Obama is an Expat's Dream Come True: The Son of a Global Citizen

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In this globalizing world, there are those who operate in the spotlight, and those who work diligently to make it a better place, receiving next to no recognition. I work for a man, who for over thirty years, was known mostly to the poorest of the poor, and those who work to help them help themselves out of poverty. Then, at last, after ten years of being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, he won it ... and ended up on the front page of virtually every major newspaper in the world. Muhammad Yunus' work with microcredit, and now social business, has been replicated in over a hundred countries, and, according to the UN, has helped over a hundred million people out of abject poverty.

Obama's mother worked with microcredit long before it was fashionable. She also was ahead of her time in terms of encompassing what it means to be a truly global citizen. She traveled, loved and lived a life which myself, and many of my expat friends (or "family" as we think of one another, living so far from "home"). She gave a precious gift to her son, one that I feel very lucky to be able to offer to my child, the life of both an American, but also that of human being who feels at home in many different counties, and many different languages. My daughter, like Obama, has attended both local public schools, and private international ones, in cities far from U.S. shores, and, like Obama, is able to see the similarities between us all, more than what separates us.

Obama now holds the spotlight, and I want to ask him, for those of us who consider ourselves to be "global citizens", the expats who are both American in our hearts and minds and souls, but also part of something much much bigger (in an ideal world every human being would feel this way) to make us proud to be American again, and to help Americans at home become global citizens.

The interesting thing about being an expat is that one actually begins to feel more, rather than less American, over time. Perhaps it is a kind of sentimentality which comes with distance, but I found myself defending my country and its citizens more and more often these past years, as I know so many wonderful people, and institutions there, which helped make me who I am and gave me opportunities so many people do not have.

Yet I also felt that my country had become a place I no longer recognized as "home". Having grown up in Texas, I had already lived through the various Bush eras, and did not want to go through that again, especially not as a woman. And I sure as heck did not want my daughter to live through that kind of hypocritical misogyny, where true justice has become a joke, and those with the most money control the show. As someone in my family once said, "Sometimes you have to pay the judges" ... or worse yet, "I am a woman and I live in Texas ... what do you want me to do about it?"

What I want to ask Obama to do is help bring us towards an American future we can all feel proud of, uniting us along the way. I want him to be the face of a more progressive nation, without the fear of the Bush years. Bring out our deep intelligence and pioneering spirit that has made us the leader in so many areas, and the refuge for those who faced poverty and abuse abroad. Ask Hillary to join you in this effort. She has understood for so many years, what we are capable of in the United States, and as a leader of women, she does hold the respect of many. We women deeply need to feel recognized for all of the hard work we have been doing for so long, mostly out of the spotlight, the kind of work your mother did Obama, to make this world a better place.

Let's hope that Obama is truly his mother's son, in spirit, as well as body. And that as we move forward into America's future, we will find the energy and courage to undo the mess the Bush years have left us with, and we will come to forgive their short-sighted greed. Because they knew not what they did. No one taught them what it truly deeply meant to be an American, nor a global citizen. Obama was raised differently and has the tools to make an impact which can unite us and bring us towards peace.