Exactly a week has passed since President-Elect Barack Obama triumphed over rival John McCain. For many Americans, the outcome of the election offered the chance to be proud of their country once again, and people the world over saw a hopeful glimmer of light at the end of a seemingly infinite tunnel. Yet although a wave of the now well-known slogans of “hope” and “change” do seem to have swept the globe, I want to offer a word of cautious optimism.
As expressed in his victory speech, Obama’s promised “hope” and “change” did not automatically occur when he won the country’s vote, but will only come when he wins the country’s confidence and respect through well thought out policies that truly help to pull America up by its very tattered boot straps. Essentially, the momentum and energy that the world is feeling right now must only be the beginning of the story and not the end; now is the time to work. Obama is no saint, no savior: he is a smart and charismatic man who can campaign like no other, but he will hit many road blocks and make many mistakes along the way, perhaps more so than past presidents because of the dire situation his successor has left the country in. It is our job as citizens of the world to both continue to support him, and to hold him accountable to his uplifting rhetoric. We must tap into that incredible momentum and energy that helped him get into office and use it to ensure that he’s a president we’re proud of, not simply another politician who leaves office with a trail of pre-election promises turned into post-election failures.
For Canadians, our job is two-fold. Firstly, we need to continue to put pressure on our down-South neighbors on issues like the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as these topics will no doubt be at the forefront of American politics in the months and years to come, and Canada’s support on both issues may prove to be important within the decision making process. We must ask ourselves: if Obama truly does follow through on his campaign promise of a “surge” within Afghanistan, do we want our troops to continue to be deployed there, and even consider sending more? Secondly, we can use Obama’s momentum in the U.S. on key issues like health care and education to help support discussions and movements on these issues within Canada. We’ve spent eight years avoiding our closest ally, and now is the time to both push the U.S. to do what is right, and to bring some of that excitement to our politics up North.