Men make history, and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. — Harry S Truman
It is true: America, it seems, often reaches for a great man when one is needed most. The people of America, on 4th of November 2008 voted for a great man to be the 44th President of United States. The historical parallels are there for all to see: Abraham Lincoln (who was like new president-elect Barak Obama a lawyer from Illinois) taking over on the brink of Civil War, and Franklin Roosevelt taking the helm at the time of the Great Depression.
By the US electing Obama President, the world that has been waiting patiently for a different America, is happy and elated to welcome the United States back into the community of nations. It has been a very sad and troubling eight years, not only for the rest of the world, but for the US itself: two wars launched, with neither over; ecology, environment and sustainability all undermined and devalued; the worst financial calamity in a century, nourished and nurtured by “casino capitalism”; international treaties and conventions torn up; torture rationalized; detainees whose guilt and crime have not been proven, disappearing beyond judicial reach; the rule of international law weakened; enemies emboldened, while allies were undermined. At home there has been a huge rise in our collective fear of getting sick, old, homeless and jobless, with no prospect of help from our government.
Compare this state of hopelessness, despair, anger and fear with the message and the vision that Obama has been promoting and communicating with us all, inspired by Martin Luther King’s prophetic words: “I have a dream”. So much of that dream speech has been now echoed this week, not only in the US, but in many corners of the world. In contrast to hate and fear, hope is contagious, hope embraces all.
Here are the words of Obama speaking in Chicago’s Grant Park after his victory which ring so true: “a new dawn of American leadership is at hand” and that its true strength came “not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals.”
Given his landslide victory, hope has triumphed over fear; common good over individualism; dialogue over monologue; love over hate; harmony over division; peace over war; reason over force; sacrifice and volunteerism over selfishness and greed.
Today, America and the world feel much safer, more content and more at ease with each other. A new ray of hope is shining upon us all. The era of neo-conservatism; disaster capitalism; adventurism; uncalled for militarism; torture and pseudo-nationalism, God willing, will be over. It is the dawn of Globalization for the Common Good. Today is a watershed in the United States and world history.
As Obama is putting the machinery of his government together, we wish him well in healing our broken world: to fight for the environment and sustainability; to put the economy right; to stop the foreclosures; to bring to account those who turned Wall Street into Fraud Street; to adopt economic policies that recognize without humanity and justice it is only an economy as a house of cards built on shifting sands.
Economics, under Obama, should above all, be concerned with human well-being and happiness in society and with care for the Earth. This goal cannot be separated from moral and spiritual considerations. The idea of a “value-free” economics is spurious. It demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what it means to be a human being.
New president-elect Obama, given who he is and what he has experienced in his life, is in a good position to renounce the discredited George W Bush doctrine that gives America the right to secure itself from international threats through unilateralism, without any concern for the rest of the world. This doctrine, as we all know by now, has brought us a very bitter harvest, including climate change, financial meltdown, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, AIDs and other pandemic diseases. For sure, these global problems cannot be resolved by one country alone. Rather an international coalition must be formed based on dialogue, inter-faith cooperation, and mutual respect. Obama is uniquely qualified to lead such an initiative.
No one should doubt the scale of the challenge ahead. However, as Obama has reminded us on many occasions, how well we succeed in changing our world for the better depends on how well we deal with the crucial issues of our time. Together, we can build a world that is just and free and prosperous for all. Our collective capacity to mobilize interest and muster enthusiasm around our common vision and our will to join hands is the only way forward. This call to action should be heard loudly and clearly throughout the world.
Obama by recalling the true values of “I have a dream” will in due course, empower us with humanity, dignity and love. His leadership will raise us above pessimism to an ultimate optimism; turning from darkness to light; from night to day; from winter to spring. This spiritual ground for hope at this time of wanton destruction of our world can help us recognize the ultimate purpose of life and of our journey in this world.
As for change: Yes, we did! Yes, we can! And, yes, we will!
Yahya R. Kamalipour is director of the Center for Global Studies, Purdue University Calumet, and managing editor of Global Media Journal, USA. www.globalmediajournal.com.
Kamran Mofid is founder of the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative, UK. www.globalisationforthecommongood.info.