Monday, November 17, 2008

CBS Interview with the Obamas On Their Personal Transition to the White House

The CBS News '60 Minutes' interview exclusive with the US President-elect Barack Obama and US First Lady Michelle Obama after the elections. November 16, 2008

A special treat for my 'overseas friends and readers' who may not be aware of this delightful interview conducted by one of America's favorite TV news magazines: CBS News '60 Minutes'.

More info about the program: 'The Obama's On Their Personal Transition'.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

The Obama Election Victory as Viewed from Germany: 'Mr. President, Wir Sind Überglucklich!'

Update November 17
Added new links to German news articles as well as links to the online video files for the CNN program 'Fareed Zakaria GPS - Obama: The Past as Prologue'.


How do you write about something as monumental as the election of the first African American president of the United States of America? As the noted author and biographer Robert Caro said during a roundtable discussion with Fareed Zakaria, “This is an epic moment in American history”. Ref: Fareed Zakaria GPS program Sunday November 9th ‘Obama: The Past as Prologue’.

Fareed Zakaria GPS – US Historians on Barack Obama – program video Part 1

Fareed Zakaria GPS – US Historians on Barack Obama – program video Part 2

It has taken the better part of a week to begin recovery from my overwhelming joy over this great political victory and I am not alone. Several days after the announcement to the world that Barack Obama had won the 2008 US presidential election, people here in Germany are still very excited and überglucklich (overjoyed, ecstatic) about his victory.

It makes one think that by electing a new president for our own country we the people of the United States may have also elected the ‘President of the World’ or better stated a ‘President for the World.’ Millions of people are so relieved and excited that American voters have made the right choice. Their emotions and feelings of good will toward America are genuine as far as I can determine. This is what real political capital and international goodwill is really all about and ‘We the People of the United States of America’ dare not waste it. We can build a better nation and help to build a better world upon this change in leadership. People all over the world are counting on us to work with them in a new spirit of cooperation, trust and mutual respect___ so that we may build upon this new foundation in political and world history.

Like many other blog authors and online journalists I thought I would share my personal experiences regarding this election over the past weeks and days with my readers___ for the historical record mind you because we all made history together. This is what I experienced here in Germany:

Election Day Minus 1 and Counting

I must admit that even before Election Day (November 4th) arrived I had been having uncontrollable fits of sobbing and fighting back tears as I realized the historical significance of what was about to happen___ that Barack Obama and Joe Biden had a better-than-even chance of winning this historic US election. Fortunately this was occurring while I was alone in my office or somewhere else in private where I could quickly wipe away the tears. I couldn’t believe that so much emotion and anticipation over these elections had welled-up inside of me that I could accidentally breakdown before my friends and colleagues or worse yet breakdown in public. Scared me to death; thought that I was going mad.

Now that Election Day has come and gone and the American people have chosen in such overwhelming numbers the next President of the United States of America, I am feeling much better thank you. The tears and sobs have subsided (but not entirely). I thought that I may be one of only a few people suffering with this strange pre-election day illness but learned later that this affliction has been affecting people all over the world.
Colin Powell has been crying together with his whole family, Jesse Jackson had tears running down his face while standing in a park in Chicago; here in my neighborhood people from Europe and the Middle East and Africa have come up to me full of jubilation with congratulations and best wishes to the people of America. I bet you that more than half have admitted they either broke down in tears or had to fight tears back upon learning of Obama’s great victory. Old and young people, black and white people, people from various nations and ethnic backgrounds, people who lived through terrible wars and extremely difficult circumstances which affected their lives dramatically were shedding tears of joy over the election of the first African American U.S. president. Imagine that.

It shouldn’t be surprising because for months the buzz on the streets in Germany has been about the 2008 US elections. As Election Day neared this ‘buzz’ intensified like something many of us have never witnessed. German TV networks and press deployed their best news teams all over America and in Washington D.C. in anticipation of a historical event that would shake the world: the election of the first ‘black’ President of the United States. On election night and the days following the German news media coverage was simply massive. If you have any doubts about what I am saying (writing) please have a look at the small sample of news coverage online from Germany and Europe that I have listed at the end of this post.

Election Day: November 4, 2008

On the eve of the elections I couldn’t do anything of real consequence due to a heightened sense of nervousness and fear that something would go wrong. I had spoken with several friends and acquaintances who were supporters of Obama (few of whom who could actually vote in this election) and we had reassured one another that everything was going to be O.K.; that Obama would win the US election hands down. Expert political analysis and polls available online were pointing to a solid Democratic Party victory but like many people back in the US and in other parts of the world we did not trust the information we were seeing on TV and reading online and in the newspapers. We did not fully trust our instincts and powers of reason. Some unforeseen event or person was going to spoil our hopes and dreams, dash our heartfelt wishes and prayers for a victory in these elections against the wall.

Toward evening I received something wholly unexpected. It was a letter from my lovely daughter who lives and works in New York City. She just wanted to make contact with her ‘old Dad’ and inform me about what was going on in her busy life and to remind me to follow the elections and to cheer Barack Obama on to victory. Anytime a parent hears from their child who is separated by miles and miles of ocean it is something special. In this case it was more than special, it was ‘a sign’ that something really big and beautiful was about to happen in our lives. You see communications between my daughter and I had unfortunately fallen silent over the years__ for far too many years. Our communication with one another was being re-established on the eve of one of the greatest historical events that we would ever witness in our lifetimes. At that point I knew that everything was going to be alright not only for Senator Obama and all of his millions of avid fans and supporters but also for Dad and his beloved daughter Dalia. I went to bed that evening assured of victory long before the polls closed and the counting of ballots had begun back in America. I knew that he would win and I knew that he was going to win BIG!

So I slept relatively well on election night having mailed my absentee ballot to the United States three weeks ahead of time. No long lines at the polls, no 5 hour+ waiting periods, no problems with names not being on registration lists, no officials telling you that you cannot vote because of your skin color or ethnicity, no growling pit bulls with lipstick and attack dogs and police beating on you with batons and knocking you down with water canons, none of that historical BS. Vote early; it is worth it, I’m telling you.

Election Day + 1: November 5, 2008
The morning news that swept the world’s breadth away

I woke up to good news on Wednesday morning. I was greeted at breakfast with fresh coffee (a good German roast), a selection of breads, German wurst and cheeses, and the news that Barack Obama had won the election. Of course the counting of ballots and reporting was not finished in all U.S. states due to the time difference between the US and Europe, but Senator Barack Obama and Senator Joe Biden had assembled enough electoral votes to declare a resounding victory.

After breakfast I received an early morning phone call from a Congolese friend who has lived in Germany for many years. She was just as ecstatic over this victory as the people dancing in the streets all across America and the world, at a time when her own country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, is suffering from a never-ending war and a humanitarian crisis that has cost the lives of more than 5 million people. It was touching to share her excitement and joy and after a brief discussion about the outcome of the elections she said the following (in German), “This was the will of God what has happened in America today. You are a blessed people and the future of Africa and the world depends on what you do.” I knew after that that this was going to be a very long day.

One of the first people that I met that morning was my good friend Reza. Reza is from Iran and worked for over 20 years in the government administration of the
late Shah of Iran. He has been living in exile together with his family in Germany for about 25 years. He fled to Germany after his release from prison in Tehran a few years after the beginning of the Iranian Revolution. Reza and I love to discuss and debate politics and history with our small circle of friends in his Kiosk (small shop). Our little group came together by mere chance and is made up of ‘old guys’ from at least 5 nations. Our old German friend and the Iranian guys have experienced terrible war and destruction in their own countries___ dating back to WWII and moving forward to the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s. We are good at world history let me tell you; we’re experts. Just ask us.

Reza has been an avid fan of Barack Obama ever since the young senator from Illinois began to gain news media attention here in Europe. All throughout the grueling 2008 US election campaign with its ups-and-downs and unrelenting bitterness, the endless waiting and uncertainty about who would emerge as the presidential candidate for the Democrats and the Republicans, my friend Reza was unshakable in his confidence of a victory for Barack Obama in November. He just knew who was going to win the election, no question in his mind.

Note: Reza likes to refer to President-elect Obama by his middle name, Hussein. He always does that with a big mischievous grin on his face. His favorite English word for the past weeks has been CHANGE. “We need change!”

It was imperative that Reza be the first friend that I greet on the morning after election night. He was waiting for me patiently while sweeping autumn leaves before his little kiosk. As I approached he displayed the widest smile that you have ever seen. We hugged one another tightly with great joy and tears in our eyes and hearty claps of congratulations on each other’s shoulder; we practically danced in the street with overwhelming happiness. Then we calmed down and discussed the outcome of the elections and what it may mean for improved relations between the U.S.A. and Iran and countries throughout the Middle East. We talked about what an Obama victory could mean for the whole world. Discussions with Reza are always interesting and he has taught me a great deal about the history and culture of his country. Reza insisted that we drink a glass or two of champagne as a toast to the victorious new president-elect. I suggested that we drink tea instead (due to his religion Islam) but he was having none of that. Champagne it is for Reza and me!

Election Day +1: From the Middle East to Africa
A stroll across the road to meet with my close friends from West Africa

I have written before (
see the introduction to my last post dated September 22nd) about my close relationship with a number of young Africans who live in my city. My favorites are three young businessmen from Togo: Justin, Vincent, and Sassou. There business (a barber shop, one of the most successful salons in the city) is located just up the street from Reza’s kiosk, so it was logical that this was to be my next stop.

They were waiting on the ‘old man’ as I expected. Again there were plenty of hugs and slaps of congratulations on shoulders and backs and exclamations of joy over the great victory of Barack Obama all around. The look on their faces of happiness, satisfaction and relief that the election was finally over is indescribable. These young men were the epitome of what was happening that day not only in the African Diaspora in Europe but all across the African continent. I didn’t need to see the video footage on CNN and BBC World from Obama’s ancestral homeland Kenya and capitals across Africa; I was witnessing it live here in Germany. Every African that I saw that day, everyone that I knew from Africa that I met on that day, was walking tall with pride and rejoicing over this great event. I left my three friends after a half hour or so of celebration and discussion. Like everyday at work they had the wall-mounted flat screen TV set tuned to the news, CNN and TV5 (France) and N-TV (Germany). These guys are not just Obama fans because he is black or of African ancestry, they are up-to-speed on the issues and the challenges facing the world. They understand that this victory is also for them and their people back in West Africa, and someday I fully expect to see them use this experience together with our many conversations about politics and world issues to bring a needed and lasting change to their own county. I am certain they will have an impact on helping to bring good governance to Togo someday. “This is your victory too, this is your time.”

Election Day +1: From Africa to Europe and America
Finishing the day with family and friends

I finished Election Day+ 1 together with a small group of American friends and our partners. We met that evening for dinner and drinks at our favorite American-style restaurant and bar. The owners are two Germans who have lived many years in California, a husband-wife team that was split right down the middle on who was the best candidate for President of the United States. Angela won of course, Chuck was crying in his beer back in Los Angeles, California.

We had a very enjoyable evening together with lots of laughs and jokes about how we each handled the enormous stress of this long campaign, and plenty of advice for the new president-elect about how to handle that snake pit called Washington D.C. and what he needs to do to help move the world forward in the right direction.

Here is my small bit of advice for the new President-elect of the United States:
Get some rest Mr. President, you are tired and you have earned a good rest. You will need all the energy and expert advice and wisdom you can assemble soon enough. For now, just rest as much as you can and reflect upon this great victory.

Coming blog posts: ‘Ein Postcard an der US Präsident’ series:
A roundup of viewpoints and analysis from Europe and Africa on the US election victory and the transition of power. Commentary about the historical implications of the US elections from leading historians and experts on politics and world affairs.

Related news articles from Germany about the 2008 US Elections

ZDF TV Network (Germany), ZDF Mediathek (online media archive)
ZDF Mediathek: US Wahl 2008 (US Elections 2008 - full coverage)

Obamas Schnappschüsse von der Wahlnacht
Video reports, election coverage and photos of the Obama family on election night

Die Deutschen: Ein Jahrtausend deutsche Geschicte (full program notes)
ZDF Mediathek:
Ein Jahrtausend deutsche Geschicte (video series)
Special 10-part TV series on German history starting on 10/24/08
Note: The 'Die Deutschen' series doesn't have anything to do with the 2008 US elections. It is a tip to my readers regarding a ZDF History TV series covering a thousand years of German history with contributions by some leading historians on the subject . (German language)

Spiegel Online - International edition
Special feature: America Has Made Its Choice

(An archive of 2008 US elections news and editorials)

Interview with British Historian Niall Ferguson on Obama and the Global Crisis: 'A World War without War', 11/11/08
The World President: Great Expectations for Project Obama, 11/11/08
What the President-Elect Wants from Germany: Obama Win Sparks Hopes and Fears, 11/10/08
Obama's Triumph: A Radical Cry for Change, 11/05/08
Interview with Obama’s Germany Advisor William Drozdiak: ‘The US is actually serious about ending unilateralism’, 11/10/08

Could It Happen Here? Where’s Europe’s Obama? 11/06/08
‘One of Us’: Africa has high hopes for Barack Obama, 11/07/08
Good Morning Mr. President: What Europe Wants from Obama, 11/05/08

Interview with Neoconservative Scholar Robert Kagan: ‘America Remains Number One’, 10/27/08 – a special report on John McCain’s foreign policy advisor
America’s New Agenda: How the US can fix its damaged reputation abroad by Strobe Talbott, 10/13/08 (IP Global – German Council on Foreign Relations)
Rise of the Rest: The challenges of the new world order by Wolfgang Nowak, 10/02/08 (IP Global - German Council on Foreign Relations)
The End of Arrogance: America loses its dominant economic role, 09/30/08 (a 5-part feature article)

Gabor Steingart’s West Wing (a weekly column about US politics)
Obama's Historic Election Victory: The Resurrection of the American Dream, 11/05/08
West Wing: America, where it pays to fail, 09/30/08

Der Spiegel's report on the Transatlantic Trends Survey 2008:
Europeans back Obama but not necessarily his policies, 09/10/08
Transatlantic relations archive
Special feature: US Election 2008

DW World - Deutsche Welle Online 2008 US Elections coverage
Europe Hails Obama Win, Calls for “New Deal”, 11/05/08
European Press Review: Welcome, Barack Obama, 11/05/08
Opinion: World Hopes for New Beginning by Peter Phillip, 11/04/08

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