NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF/New York Times – Rebranding the U.S. With Obama
I thought you might enjoy this interesting article from yesterday’s New York Times. Nicholas Kristof talks about how the world views the prospect of an African-American president.
Click here to read Kristof’s entire article.
The other day I had a conversation with a Beijing friend and I mentioned that Barack Obama was leading in the presidential race:
She: Obama? But he’s the black man, isn’t he?
Me: Yes, exactly.
She: But surely a black man couldn’t become president of the United States?
Me: It looks as if he’ll be elected.
She: But president? That’s such an important job! In America, I thought blacks were janitors and laborers.
Me: No, blacks have all kinds of jobs.
She: What do white people think about that, about getting a black president? Are they upset? Are they angry?
Me: No, of course not! If Obama is elected, it’ll be because white people voted for him.
She: Really? Unbelievable! What an amazing country!
- We’re beginning to get a sense of how Barack Obama’s political success could change global perceptions of the United States, redefining the American “brand” to be less about Guantánamo and more about equality. This change in perceptions would help rebuild American political capital in the way that the Marshall Plan did in the 1950s or that John Kennedy’s presidency did in the early 1960s.
- In his endorsement, Mr. Powell added that an Obama election “will also not only electrify our country, I think it’ll electrify the world.” You can already see that. A 22-nation survey by the BBC found that voters abroad preferred Mr. Obama to Mr. McCain in every single country — by four to one over all. Nearly half of those in the BBC poll said that the election of Mr. Obama, an African-American, would “fundamentally change” their perceptions of the United States.
- Europeans like to mock the vapidity of American politics, but they also acknowledge that it would be difficult to imagine a brown or black person leading France or Germany.
As for Africa, Mr. Obama’s Kenyan father was of the Luo tribe, a minority that has long suffered brutal discrimination in both Kenya and in Uganda (where it is known as the Acholi). The bitter joke in East Africa is that a Luo has more of a chance of becoming president in the United States than in Kenya.