When it comes to seeing the world change and history made one of the best seats from which to watch is the anchor chair... and this week what a view!
Wednesday night, in particular, on our program we were able to report on the election as the rest of the world sees it. Not just the headlines of international papers or a couple of MOS's (man on the street) but serious insight and discussion about what has happened and what it means for America and the world going forward. We began by talking with former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke whose name is among those being circulated for Secretary of State in the new administration. His insights were so good we doubled the time for his interview and spread it over 2 nights. We followed that with views on the election from Iraq, Pakistan, Israel, the West Bank, China, France, Russia, Africa and Latin America.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown summed up Barack Obama's election this way: "This is a moment that will live in history as long as history books are written."
The president-elect was aware the world had followed his campaign and was watching as he stood in Grant Park in the early hours of November 5th, Obama addressed part of his speech directly to those overseas. He said, "Our stories are singular, but our destinies are shared. To those who would tear the world down: we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: we support you."
In many parts of the world Obama's victory went a long way to redeeming America's image and ideals, almost overnight.
Ahmad Kamal, Pakistan's former Ambassador to the United Nations, told me that there was dancing in the streets in his country (He might be excused for being a little over the top with his description). He also described how the pressure that Pakistan's government has been feeling from the U.S. for the past several years may soon ease. He shared the information that the beginning of an effective dialogue - one which could bolster the security of the United States - had already begun, even before the election results were in.
In Israel, there was optimism but also concern over whether President-elect Obama has the strength required to be tough in the Middle East. Iraqis were hopeful that President Obama's administration would result in less of a U.S. presence going forward. Russian leaders hope for normalization of relations between their country and ours. Perhaps the extent of how far his election reached was best seen in the jubilant faces of the residents of Obama, Japan, where they proudly emblazoned their rice cakes with the image of the president-elect.
Not every nation was happy with the outcome of the election. And it would be wrong to think that those who cheered his victory in other countries understand or even know the where Obama stands on the issues. Many in other lands were happy Obama won not because of who he is... but because of what he hopefully will bring to American foreign policy.... the same thing that summarized his campaign...change.