Just his name signals a transition in American history.
Like most other people, I'm excited. But, also like many others, I'm wary of all this excitement. After months of poetic rhetoric, the time has come to actually start getting some work done. And work takes time. That's something I'm afraid will upset some of us. People seem to think that once President Obama gets settled in office, he'll wave some sort of magic wand and solve all our problems. Well, that's not happening, and we have to keep reminding ourselves that. The President himself reminded us of it again and again in his inauguration speech.
President Obama's speech felt rather symbolic of his coming term. People had such high expectations for it, but it fell kind of flat. Not that it was a bad speech - it covered all the necessary points in clear, organized prose. It also had some poetic parts, as when President Obama described "why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."
But rather than the expected pomp and splash, the President gave a restrained, almost somber speech. Whether this was by design or a failure on the speech writers' part, I think it was pretty appropriate. It signaled a sense of maturity. The time of waving banners and speaking in slogans is over. Reality must settle in: there's a lot of work for us to do, and it'll be hard work.
But it'll be worth it.
Already we're seeing, on an international level, how President Obama is starting to usher in change. As an Arab-American, I've been keeping up with the Arab news, seeing how Arabs are gauging this Presidential transition. And the Arab World, while still struggling to recover from the horrors of the Gaza crisis, is generally optimistic about America's new president.
Al Quds Al Arabi, a relatively independent, secular, and aggressively Arab nationalist newspaper, just published an editorial about how the election of President Obama is restoring faith in the democratic system in the Middle East.
Speaking of America's democracy in light of President Obama's inauguration, Al Quds Al Arabi's editors said:
صحيح ان هذه الديمقراطية تعرضت للخطف من قبل عصابة المحافظين الجدد، ومن ثم جرى توظيفها لخوض حروب وارتكاب جرائم في حق الانسانية، مثلما حدث في العراق وافغانستان، ومساندة مجازر اسرائيلية في حق العرب في لبنان وفلسطين ومصر... ولكن الصحيح ايضا انها نجحت في ان تحول بلادها المكونة من مهاجرين من مختلف الاعراق والاديان الى الدولة الاعظم في التاريخ.
"It is true that this democracy was abducted by a gang of neoconservatives, and then used to engage in wars and commit crimes against humanity, like in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to back Israeli massacres against Arabs in Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt ... But it is also true that this democracy succeeded in transforming its country, made up of immigrants of different races and religions, into the most powerful nation in history."
This is just the beginning of what President Obama can do for America's foreign policy, as well as the country's image in the international community. Demonstrating the spirit and practical results of true democracy - not a paper maché democracy used to advance U.S. interests - is the first step towards building international relationships based on mutual trust and respect. And that is the only way towards any sort of peace and stability we hope to have in the future.
These next few days, weeks and months will show how President Obama will handle the challenges he now faces as the most powerful man in the world. They will also unveil the plans he has for the American people these next few years.
Until then, let us keep in mind the new President's words:
"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."
Lead the way, Mr. President. The world is watching.