Response to Obama in Europe and Africa

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I’ve been living in the Netherlands for the last year and a half and traveling quite a bit, including to Egypt and Tanzania. The response here to Obama has been overwhelmingly positive. People asked about Obama all the time and whether I supported him. I was not surprised when I saw Obama blankets, pictures, books, paintings, and such in both Egypt and Tanzania but I was surprised at the pure joy when people talked about Obama. Much of this is probably due to his being of African descent and also having lived in a Muslim country but after talking with people for awhile I realized it went much deeper. The idea of being treated with respect had a big impact. Also the idea of using diplomacy rather than war has great appeal. It went deeper still though. Obama’s appeal to higher ideals, to helping each other, to making the world a better place, and yes, his infusion of hope, these seemed to be the real drivers of Obama fever.
Here in the Netherlands people were almost as excited. The Dutch tend to be well-educated, well-read and very aware of international events. They tend to be generous to charities and great believers in human rights. They have been fighting and dying with us in Afghanistan. In fact, the Dutch are leading the NATO effort there currently. Comments by the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans deriding the European efforts in Afghanistan have not gone over well. Obama’s victory was widely praised and celebrated here. From local shop owners to national politicians, he was almost universally heralded.
All this praise won’t solve the difficult problems we face but a constructive, collaborative approach will get us off to a good start. I don’t expect any cries of ‘Freedom Fries’ or ‘You’re with us or against us’ from this president.

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