Today's Zaman, Turkey
Dec 31 2008

[2008 INTERNATIONAL PERSON OF THE YEAR] Barack Obama's presidency: the
beginning of a new era

Turkey, along with the rest of the world, followed the 2008 American
election like no other. The election of Barack Hussein Obama as the
next US president was met with euphoria here, just as it was in so
many other countries throughout the world.

Obama is Today's Zaman's choice for international person of the year,
not only because he represents a milestone in racial relations both in
the US and the world, but also because his election heralds the end of
the Bush era. People around the world were jubilant over the election
of Obama as the next US president. In many celebrations, the joy was
mixed with admiration.

The world after Sept. 11, 2001 saw America as a self-proclaimed
anti-terrorism juggernaut, particularly in the Middle East. Escalating
sectarian violence and more destruction in Iraq coupled with later
appeals from the US for international help in its wars in Afghanistan
and Iraq did not make the country very popular abroad. The destructive
country at war preaching and promising democracy in the countries it
invaded had always had white presidents until Obama's
election. Perhaps his election does not increase the credibility of
the US in the eyes of the world in terms of how the US sees itself --
as a perfect, genuine democracy -- but it does mitigate the apparent
hypocrisy and contradiction.

In addition to global anti-Bush sentiment, there were other obvious
reasons that make Obama the international man of the year for us.

He promises some hope in the midst of the current global financial
crisis, caused by decades of laissez-faire management of the US
economy. The situation begs for new leadership, and the US election
has given that to the world.

As the first black US president, Obama has reinstated faith in the
universal democratic ideal of equality around the world. His election
has also renewed hope for openness to dialogue in problem areas of a
world that has been wounded in the last decade by assertions of a
`clash of civilizations,' and prophecies of wars between
religions. Following years of what had, at a certain point, been
termed a `crusade' against the Muslim world and growing Islamophobia
after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the election to the White House of a
man who was believed by many to have gone to a Muslim elementary
school in Indonesia does foster a sense of hope for dialogue.

Although not every segment in Turkey was thrilled by Obama's victory -
with some alarmed by his stated willingness to recognize the mass
deportations of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as genocide and some for
other reasons -- his appeal to the man on the street was
overwhelming. In a global poll conducted online by The Economist, 85
percent of Turkish participants in the survey expressed support for
Obama. On the day he was elected, residents of a village in eastern
Turkey sacrificed 44 sheep in celebration. They held posters reading
`You are one of us' and `We love you.'

No US presidential victory has ever meant this much to the world. Only
time will tell if he is really the change we need, but he certainly
deserves the title of Today's Zaman's international person of the year
for what he has achieved with his election both for his own country
and for the world at large.

31 December 2008, Wednesday