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ANKARA: Barack Obama's presidency: the beginning of a new era

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  • ANKARA: Barack Obama's presidency: the beginning of a new era

    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