The pictures from around the world in recent days have been interesting, even stunning in a way. The American election results are less than 72 hours old and already we hear of a national holiday being declared in Kenya and school children cheering at an elementary school in Indonesia. Sure, the french are all excited but don't they care more about the quality of the food than the leader of the free world? What difference does ANY of this make and, if it does, aren't the downsides of a global infatuation with PEBO (President-Elect Barack Obama) at least as great as the upsides?
We saw during the campaign wild crowds in Berlin chanting, "Yes We Can!" and, only a moment later, heard crowds in this country shouting about elitism and unamerican-ism. Which is it - is this a rock-star ego trip or something with real benefit to regular Americans.
Listening to "The World" this week on NPR, I heard a cogent explanation about why this matters and why this is profoundly helpful to Americans. The adoring crowds are almost certainly setting themselves up for disappointment, it's true. But political leaders around the world will, for at least a time, be powerfully drawn by the enthusiasm of their own people to be seen as cooperative with the new American President -- to "get some of that Obama dust on me", if you will.
What other tool has the strength without the accompanying collateral damage that global goodwill has? How much good in the world could be done by harnessing a new spirit of desire for cooperation with the United States? Just remember the position we held in the world on September 12 and think about what we could have done with that global approval rating.
Does potential count on the scoreboard? No. Will the score in 2012 reflect the potential of this moment? Maybe. Can we use the power of a global motivational seminar called the 2008 Presidential Election to get some important stuff done?
Yes we can.