Commentary  Life Lines: Obama’s echoes will be louder than you think

Conforming has for good reason painted an ugly picture for itself. It’s sad when the beauty of rainbow-like individuality falters into a stagnant monochrome field. How often have we celebrated the individual who questions the norms, and how often have we lamented over crowds of people that have failed to do so.

But I would like to venture into those untested waters where conforming might be seen in a positive light. I have, after much deliberation and painstaking thought, decided to join the masses of columnists around the world who write about the American election in their pieces. To those three or four readers – editors included – who have read my previous column professing an aversion to discussing this topic: je suis désolé, but times change.

And if they don’t, they should, is what Obama would say.

First, let us set some ground rules. I will not discuss the various strengths or weaknesses of the two campaigns. I barely have enough words to give you both of their names, never mind evaluate their economic plans (or lack of one), nor do I have time to determine what effect their foreign policy will have on a waiting world. This article is about the undeniable effect one of these two men will have on that world.

If – and I am tempted to say when – Barack Obama becomes the President of the United States, the news will spill across the four corners of our globe at record pace and the majority will heave a sigh of relief.

I wonder, though, if we truly realize what an effect this will have. Obama long ago paved the way for positive international echos of his probable domestic success. Even before his presidential bid, he had established favourable relationships with many of Europe’s leaders including France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, Italy’s Democratic Party leader Walter Veltroni, and Britain’s then Tony Blair.

The effect will certainly reach grassroots organizations as well. Left-of-centre university students might begin to reconsider their animosity toward the States. A reconsideration that could lead to a more understanding attitude toward American citizens and will only help international harmony. Many children too, though less concerned, are not unaware of Obama’s bid for President. Some who feel disadvantaged because of their race or having only one parent will definitely be inspired. And one should never forget the seniors of our society. The recent unexpected fame of a 106-year-old American nun living in Italy who sent her vote in for Obama shows that his effect spans across both geography and age.

Barack Obama, being where he is after all the obstacles he has faced, is himself an example of the change he so often speaks of. Not only has he fought through teenage disillusionment, Harvard Law School, the Illinois senate, and a long presidential campaign, but he has done so in such a way to earn respect from both his friends and his enemies. Not once did he resort to unscrupulous tactics to get where he is.

His race is but one of the differences he has with past presidents. His personal humility, graceful way with opponents, sincere curiosity about life, and apparent natural ability to lead his nation with intelligence and confidence are other examples. The world has noticed all this. They know that the road ahead with Obama might not be an easy one, but it will be one of change.

Johanu’s column appears every Monday. Send your 106-year-old Italian grandmothers’ meatball recipe to