The Chance to Make Change
Commentary by Molly Mayfield Barbee
It’s finally here—the day after the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, 2008. The world has been watching the buildup to this election day, and now we can finally say that Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States.
This longest, and most expensive, presidential campaign ever had stakeholders all over the globe. Newsweek and the BBC called it the World’s Election. Al Jazeera developed one of their signature photo montages with a dramatic soundtrack to provide its viewers with regular updates. From Germany to Japan, Australia to Albania, (and, of course, Kenya), it seems we’ve all been virtually glued to our screens as the more than 19-month-long journey finally reached its conclusion. (Interestingly, Latin America stands out as a region that claims indifference to this past Tuesday’s decision.)
The Economist created a global electoral college to see who would win if all those international stakeholders had a vote. But they don’t—at least not in this election. Campaign ’08 in the United States was watched by all, and then decided by some. But each person in our global community does have a voice. And this November, the voices of the world were heard!
So what does this decision mean for all of us? Sure, the United States just elected Barack Obama to lead the country out of a period dominated by the Bush Doctrine and into years of hope, engagement, and unity. Yet in spite of his charisma, inspiring rhetoric, and wisdom, the real power for making change in this next term lies with the people. And not just the people of the United States of America, but all people: everyone who recognizes the importance of gathering, organizing, and joining together in a cause. I was just in Kenya, (where people are feeling particular pride today), and I heard this traditional saying many times: “When you take a bamboo stick by itself, you can easily snap it over your knee. But when you bind two, or three, or ten together, then you will find it very difficult to break them.”
This is what is so exciting about today, the day after election day, for me. (Well, that and the cool tools that made it possible for people around the world to connect live all at the same moment: Will.i.am was beamed via hologram into the CNN studios for an interview as the votes were being counted, several international news stations ran live video feed from Kogelo, and here in Khartoum we received emails, sms messages, and mobile phonecalls from remote areas of Darfur, from Pakistan, and from friends and family around the world—just minutes after President-elect Obama finished his acceptance speech. Talk about feeling bound together!
But the point here is: Your choice matters. In fact in these times it makes all the difference. This election is not the end. It does not bring about the change we seek, but it does give us the chance to make that change.
We want peace, and we’re the ones who have to make it happen. We choose the words that give our values and ideals meaning. We choose the people who best represent our views. And we choose the actions we take to build a better world: block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand, Peace X Peace.