Obamania checked and locked for the next city’s visit, the USA rock and roll diplomacy makeover tour left today for NATO and Strasbourg with full global marks for President Barack and Mrs. Obama. Of course there was a lukewarm US press response (probably something they ate, they are not used to foreign travel and British press food…).
Thankfully, the vast majority of the American people know how important this trip is and most were like me, unabashedly bursting with pride that we finally have a leader who is both comfortable in his own skin and standing on the world stage as a humble, gracious leader.
While the British press tried to create hug-gate with Her Majesty, she deftly slapped that one down within hours of the tabloid headlines. It was clear Elizabeth and Phillip were fans of them both. They treated the Obama’s better than their own PM’s and she has seen as many of them as US Presidents. Obama was the one man everyone at the summit came to see and be seen with and when they saw he was the real deal, no one in the world leader class (whether Jets or Sharks) wanted to disappoint the most popular kid in class.
In today’s polling, Obama pulled a 69% favorable despite the worst US job news in decades, 663,000 new unemployment claims filed last month and 8.5% of Americans out of work. And when he gets to Prague on Saturday, he can be forgiven for repeating JFK’s line, “I’m the man who accompanied Michelle Obama to Europe” as her favorables are at 72%!
It was only a few months ago Mrs. Obama was being raked over the coals for being too outspoken and her “terrorist fist jab” was cause celebre. Even before the summit the British press wondered if she was a too strong power behind the US throne. When she stood on stage in front of a room full of young ladies and said, “I wanted to get A’s, it was cool to be smart” and talked openly about the values she learned growing up in Chicago, every pair of eyes and ears in the UK was intently fixed on her.
While most in the USA saw only 10-second sound bytes, we got the ‘full FLOTUS’ from the moment she arrived at the school and it was an awe-inspiring connection she made with those young girls, many from cultures not at all known for their respect of women. If a meeting by a young high school student from Arkansas with JFK inspired that young man to go onto Yale, become Governor of his state then President of the United States (Bill Clinton), we saw the future leaders of India, Pakistan, several African and European nations in that room as they left that assembly about three feet higher off the ground than when they arrived.
And that is how I have felt, unabashedly proud to be an American as this young new American President carves a new, humble but strong role in the world for a country demoralized and left bankrupt by decades of me first, greed and stupid war footing chest thumping!
We have all becomes far too jaded, sarcastic, and cynical (and I include myself). It’s time to believe that change not only can happen but is here. It’s time to resist the urge to spar verbally (particularly with those grossly un- or under-armed intellectually) and instead figure out how WE are going to do our part to unite and get ourselves out of this huge mess.
As Charley James says in his article: It’s nice to have an adult in charge. Now we all need to behave like adults as well.
Denis Campbell is a US journalist based in the United Kingdom. He contributes to newspapers and magazines, is a BBC Radio election commentator and publishes the daily e-magazine The Vadimus Post from the Latin Quo Vadimus – where are we headed and do we know why?