Beacon of an equal world Struggle makes victory special

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By Dr Narendra Jadhav, economist and educationist, is vice-chancellor of the University of Pune. His autobiography Outcaste is the saga of a Dalit family, and their triumphs and tribulations
  • Published 6.11.08

Barack Hussein Obama has made it. The child of a black man will enter the White House as President of the USA on January 20, 2009. This is not an ordinary event, nor is it a symbolic one. Indeed, it is an epoch-making event signifying a real change, not only for America but for the entire world, especially for the disempowered people across nations.

What does the Obama victory mean for the disempowered masses worldwide? In one word: Hope.

It was probably the first election in the history of the United States that witnessed long and winding queues of African American voters, who, until now, had felt largely disenfranchised and under-represented in the election process and to an extent, even shut out of mainstream America. It is also for the first time in American history that African American youth have an empowered leader they can look up to and strive to aspire to become.

Not since John F. Kennedy has there been such anticipation and speculation around a presidential candidate as was the case with Obama. But the comparison between Kennedy and Obama really ends with a minority background and highly energetic youthfulness which they shared.

Kennedy had a strong and wealthy family background. On the other hand, as the child of a black man and white woman, raised by a single mother and with a father having a Muslim-sounding name — Hussein — besides an extremely modest economic background, Obama had to beat many more seemingly insurmountable odds and overcome vicious personalised criticism. That is precisely why this victory is so special, and truly unprecedented.

Obama represents a beacon of hope to millions of sidelined or marginalised masses throughout the world just for who he is. As he explains his multicultural background and family structure in his book, The Audacity of Hope, “I have no choice but to believe this vision. As the child of a black man and white woman, born in the melting pot of Hawaii, with a sister who is half-Indonesian, but who is usually mistaken for Mexican, and a brother-in-law and niece of Chinese descent, with some relatives who resemble Margaret Thatcher and others who could pass for Bernine Mac, I never had the option of restricting my loyalties on the basis of race or measuring my worth on the basis of tribe.”

Obama’s wife, Michelle, also symbolises the true 21st century woman: intelligent, independent, and the pillar of strength for her husband. Women throughout the world can look up to her poise and intellect, and can have similar dreams of their own.

Needless to say that the accomplishment does not lie with the person alone and the praise must legitimately also go to the nation that elects such a leader despite racial or religious or caste barriers. This is symptomatic of the welcome maturity of the American democracy. Nevertheless, as former secretary of state Colin Powell stated while endorsing Obama’s candidature, Obama was not supported “because of his race”.

Obama studiously refrained from using the “Black Card” and charged the American public opinion by conveying a new image of American leadership and also a new vision for America’s role in the world.

“This election is not about me, it is about you,” he convinced the American people. This great contribution is entirely Obama’s own.

“President” Obama would certainly represent the “melting pot” that America has become and is hoped to be a harbinger of a change indicating that centuries of prejudice and hate that have besieged American society and culture have finally begun to end. No longer will a typical American just be thought of as a Caucasian, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant man. It could be an Indian businessman, or Chinese professional or even a Muslim woman wearing a burqa.

Rahul Gandhi recently said that in India “there are hundreds of Obamas in the making”. Well, Barack Obama’s election as the President of the US is a great source of inspiration to the thousands of Obamas in the making all over the world. Indeed, the making of the man — “President” Barack Hussein Obama — is the message!