[Student Voices]An inspiration for the worldBarack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on November 4. The recent election drew worldwide attention since it was the first time a black candidate was running for the office. In particular, people in Africa and South Asia showed unprecedented interest, breaking out in cheers for the new president-elect, who will be inaugurated on Jan. 20 next year. Now, after his dramatic victory, Obama is preparing the new government. As a Korean with a German background, I believe that this year’s U.S. presidential election has taught the Korean people two great lessons.
The first lesson was taught by Senator John McCain, who ran against Senator Obama. Although he abused and criticized his opponent during the election campaign, John McCain conceded the election clearly as the results became obvious on the evening of election day. Scattered boos were heard while he offered his congratulations to Sen. Obama during his concession speech. However, his message was clear as he accepted his defeat, and it was touching to see how much he loved his country as he said in his concession speech: “Today I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is a blessing enough for anyone.” He ended his speech with a final salute to the new president-elect, saying, “I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president.” It is difficult to imagine hearing such an impressive speech in any Korean presidential election. Instead politicians are busy muckraking against their opponents, often not in the best interest of the country. McCain’s attitude in defeat and his sincere congratulations to his opponent as a servant of his country is an example that Korean politicians should always keep in mind.
Secondly, President-elect Obama taught us the power of hope - maybe the audacity of hope, as his popular book suggests. As an African-American he brought hope to minorities, especially his country’s black population, whose ancestors first set foot on North American soil as slaves in 1619. His determination and courage showed that even an ordinary minority American could rise to the highest office in the country. Obama’s win is also a tribute to the revered leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., of the movement for racial equality.
Obama’s win was not easy; there were assassination plans during the campaign by extremists. There were also many critics who believed that America was not ready for a black president. However, Obama beat the odds and has shown the world that nothing is impossible.
He single-handedly swept away the racial barrier in American politics with his victory. It was truly something my black roommate and I at the University of Delaware, Garth Spencer, had always wished and loved to discuss with me back in 2004.
However, Obama’s victory was not expected until the final stretch, when the world could not believe it would happen until the final count. This tremendous breakthrough was an amazing experience for me as well.
“The road ahead will be long, our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there,” said Obama during his first speech as the president-elect in Chicago. He seemed to be ready for a new step forward full of hope in his heart.
As a global citizen, I would like to wish him the best as his values will have a positive effect on those who are about to lose their faith and hope in the midst of a global financial crisis. I also sincerely hope that Korean politicians would have something to learn from this election.
A dual degree student at the University of Delaware and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
by Benjamin Minsuk Kim