Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Sa traiasca Obama!"

“Sa traiasca Obama!” (Long live Obama!)

I heard it this morning on the way to school. Not more than an hour earlier, the election had been called in his favor, and already, one of my friends here in TulgheČ™ was congratulating me.

Four years ago, I also watched the election called for Obama from foreign soil. I was in the Auckland airport, waiting for a flight home. As I and people from all over the world gathered around the television to watch McCain’s concession speech and Obama’s victory speech, an odd thing happened: When people found out I was American, they began shaking my hand. I shook more hands than I can count that day, and I was proud to do it.

Now, I’m not writing this blog to pat America on the back for reelecting Obama, even if I did vote for him. Nor am I writing it to criticize Mitt Romney or the GOP, even if I tend to disagree with them on how our government should be run. The point I’m trying to make, as I write this from my Romanian village, is this: Whatever we do, the world is watching.

Which is why we need to be better.

This has never been more apparent to me as it’s been since I’ve moved abroad. For the last year and a half, I’ve lived as the only American in a small village in Romania, and whether I want to be or not, I’m an American ambassador by default.

I’ve listened as people talk about their frustrations with Romania and Romanian politics and clenched my teeth as I tried not to tell them how imperfect our system is: how campaign finance is completely out of control, how partisan politics and obstructionism have simply become the norm, how polarizing vitriol has turned what should be a mere disagreement into the end of friendships, and how hot-button issues have completely overshadowed the real, widespread problems plaguing our nation.

Oh, and imagine yourself trying to defend things like “Honey Boo Boo” and Snooki.

Even through all this, I’ve found that, to my friends and colleagues here, we remain an example to strive toward. Maybe it’s just because they toss on their rose-colored glasses when they look west, or perhaps it’s simply because, as Americans, our problems have nothing on the majority of the rest of the world’s. However, they still see us as an example.

Which is why, I say again, we need to be better.

To those in Washington, it’s time to do what you believe is right, not for reelection, not for special interests, but what you believe is right morally, ethically and for US, the people.

And WE need to be better people. Less division, more compromise. Less vitriol, more understanding.

If we want to continue to be a global leader, we need to look homeward and do better. We need to take a step back from the sense of entitlement previous generations earned for us, and re-earn that respect through responsible, reasonable policy and behavior.

Perhaps it’s because participating in yet another peaceful election fills me with pride, or perhaps I’m borrowing my neighbors’ rose-colored glasses, but at least today, I’m going to be hopeful that, in the coming years, we’re going to learn to stop letting ourselves be controlled by hateful soundbites and partisanship, and we’re going to learn to work together.

“I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I'm not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight.

“I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting….

“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”
– President Barack Obama