Sat, Nov 15, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Less change in the US than some might say

By Chang Chi-yu張其羽

Martin Luther King’s death in 1968 was not harvested as a political asset until this year’s presidential election.

The reaper, Barack Obama, has been incorrectly identified as slave offspring; his family name is unevenly homonymized with a notorious terrorist. Both could have undermined his career as a politician.

The half-Kenyan, as young and charming as former president John F. Kennedy, satisfies a nostalgic call for a vigorous and hopeful leader who has the potential to lead the country out of the woods. As diligent and confident as his fellow citizens, he is a role model that best illustrates the American Dream.

As the first black American to rise to the highest political office, he is expected to change the lone superpower in various ways. With his wit and willpower, he has not only won the hearts of the majority of Americans, but has drawn global attention.

The Economist showed that Obama was supported by more than 90 percent of respondents in a survey covering 56 countries. Quoting an Oxford professor, Newsweek interpreted the result as indicating that “a progressive leader” would be expected to “restore America’s moral leadership.” Even some Japanese who live in a small town called Obama and Kenyans in general are delighted.

An array of stories and events associated with the Obama frenzy begs the question: Will the US change? To be more specific, will it change into a more humble power?

An unspoken corollary of this question deserves clarification. It is based on the assumption that Obama as president, with an ethnic minority background, will tend to be more empathetic toward other states. Partly because of growing economic problems, the new government may not be as unilaterally tough as previous administrations when dealing with issues like nuclear weapons and terrorism that have long haunted the nation.

However, the corollary doesn’t hold if placed against the national interest and US history. The following philosophy remains deeply rooted in the American mindset and prevalent throughout the world: If nuclear weapons are secured by those with evil tendencies, then that is a threat to the US and the whole world.

Obama has always been clear on such matters. As he said in his victory speech, the American people will continue to defeat “those who would tear the world down” and support “those who seek peace and security.”

Regimes deemed unfriendly to the US, such as Venezuela, Cuba and Iran, have sent congratulations to Obama for winning the election and their unusual gesture suggested that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il did not share the sentiment.

Asked recently about future dialogue between his country and the Obama administration, a North Korean diplomat, despite being cautiously optimistic, implied that the US should change first. This does not explain why the US government would possibly yield at the negotiating table.

Obama’s succession is likely to be a more conventional transfer of power than some might think, though it will encourage and inspire people everywhere. Because belief in change is widespread and because there is considerable scope for change, many can’t wait to see the degree to which a nation in ethnic and political flux will transform itself.

But one thing will never change: America is more humble, in its own way, though not in a way that suggests cowardice or weakness. That has nothing to do with whether the president is black or white.

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