I read that Barack Obama was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on nuclear proliferation and Muslim relations with the Western world. It’s amazing to think that he would be considered for such an honor after being President for less than a year, but that he actually won is unbelievable. After all this time it’s still hard to believe that Barack Hussein Obama was indeed elected 44th President of our United States of America. But it happened, and the fact that it did is not only a testament to Barack Obama and his accomplishments, but also to how far we’ve come as a country. I was speaking to my language teacher and we got into a discussion about it. It’s one thing to personally believe the world’s perception of the US changed virtually over night but it’s another to hear it from someone in a small town in Africa. According to my teacher many Malians had a negative perception of the US, mostly because of Bush. Bush’s war-mongering and divisive policies, especially on religion made him particularly unpopular around these parts. But with the election of Barack Obama a new day dawned, one in which Africans had one of their sons popularly elected to the most powerful office in the world. A country they despised for its isolationist became a country each African had a personal stake in (since of course Obama is everyone’s brother). In fact I can, with great certainty, say that if Barack Obama were not elected I wouldn’t be here writing from Africa today. His election served as confirmation of my desire to join The Peace Corps.
Republicans and critics will argue that Barack Obama hasn’t done enough to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But what he’s done is given us a tangible HOPE. Despite how his presidency turns out his story will be told for generations to come. What he’s done is given us a sense of “we.” Alone America can’t solve all its problems, and neither can Mali. But together maybe, just maybe, WE CAN. Barack Obama has shown the world that “Yes we can” and that with some hard work, determination, and a little bit of luck anything is possible.
As Peace Corps volunteers we’re also allotted a blank slate. If I had been a volunteer a year ago I would have received the scorn of many Africans (thanks to Bush) but now everywhere I go I either see Obama-ware in the form of sandals and t-shirts. If I even mention his name people are instantly turned on. With all this goodwill it will be interesting to see what I accomplish over the next two years. Perhaps I’ll use Obama as a way to motivate the people at my services. I know that people may criticize him, but the fact of the matter is that the US is still here, the economy is starting to recover, and there have been no terrorist attacks on US soil. So I believe that President Obama has been successful. If there was anything I’d ask him, it would be to continue to spread more goodwill. The Peace Corps is a powerful instrument of peace such that even though people here may hear of Obama we’re here to reinforce the positive image of America and provide many with a concrete example of how many Americans are making a difference in the lives of people all around the world.