Watching the new President’s acceptance speech on Election night, one image struck me: Barack Obama is a citizen of the world. Walking down the stage with his wife and two daughters, he defies boundaries and African-American clichés. Born of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, schooled in Ivy-League Universities before settling down in the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park,the President-Elect has all of the traits of today global melting pot. This puts him in a unique position to understand the global challenges that we are facing, and to reunite the United States with the world, a world that cheered the news of his election.
I was in Hawaii when Obama visited his silent hero of grand-mother before she passed away, two days before the historic election of a grand-son she helped raise. I did not get a chance to meet him though. I wish. Journalist Pico Iyer did; he recently recounted his chance encounter with Obama in Hawaii while he was eating a burger with world traveler and novelist Paul Theroux. They both noted that “this sparkling stranger was so much like the kind of people we meet in Paris, in Hong Kong, in the Middle East: difficult to place and connected to everywhere. Like the air of his home island, he spoke for the dawning global melting pot of today.”
The economy continues to dominate the headlines but the other global challenge that the new Administration will also be judged on is how they will deal with Energy and Global Warming. The Senate finallly extended tax credits for renewable energy part of the Bailout Plan but all remains to be done for the United States to lead the fight on Global Warming and shape the future Cap&Trade system, part of the financial reforms that are necessary. Barack Obama is expected to use his executive orders to try to have an immediate impact and restore domestic confidence, yet his ability to engage foreign leaders will be put at test to find a long-term solution.
The Rudd Government in Australia released last week a model that shows that fighting global warming and rebuilding a sound economy are not at odds: over the next 15 years green commitments will only hit the GDP by 0.1 %. Worse, the countries that will wait too long to invest in clean technologies will see their attractiveness and competitiveness decline. I hope the new US administration will come to the same conclusion in the months to come and act promptly.