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Warm beer and Wolf Blitzer

6 November 2008

MRG’s intern, Marissa Burik, celebrates Obama’s victory and rediscovers the American Dream.

Americans grow up learning about the American Dream. The American Dream tells us that any person, regardless of gender, colour or creed, who works hard and fights for what they want and believe in, has the opportunity to succeed. This is one of the many reasons why millions of people from around the world chose to pull up stakes and come to a new place to begin a new life. Over the last several years, my faith in the possibility of the American Dream has been greatly reduced. It was too easy to look at all the examples of disadvantaged but hard working people failing and smug, under qualified but well connected people succeeding.

Then 2008 happened.

Watching the election results from the student quad at the London School of Economics was, if anything, anti-climatic. Though it was interesting to hear the (often wrong) interpretations of US politics from my British peers. I certainly missed the sense of unity, the movement, around this victory. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the warm American beer and Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Regardless, there was an amazing feeling in the room that we were watching history in the making.

Barack Obama made something happen this week that I didn’t think was possible. The United States of America, a nation which only gave up her slaves after a bloody Civil War and didn’t extend full racial equality until the 1960s, elected an African-American President.

Take a Deep Breath and let that sink in.

For many the American Dream seemed like a diminishing or lost opportunity. Or one which was never real in the first place. The past three decades have seen the possibility of living the American Dream shrink. But Barack Obama is the living personification of the American Dream. He was able to work his way from a poor, transient childhood to the White House. His example shows us that even in a time when no economy is certain and our nation is overstretched at war, we can still do something amazing.

His election marks the next step in the civil rights movement. This is the moment Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of. ‘Black and white’ Americans are now considered equal in competing for the highest office in the land. This represents a new, level playing field for minorities in America. In electing Mr. Obama, the American people have ensured the American Dream is still real for millions of Americans from minority backgrounds.

Without setting the bar too high, this is evidence that change is possible. Americans are not the red-necked, gun totting, Bible beaters that the world makes us all out to be. Instead, we were intelligent enough to recognize that a person’s abilities do not stem from the colour of their skin. This is a very important lesson, that I’m glad has finally sunk in.

For the first time in a long while, the US’s is an example to learn from. Now what will the rest of the world do?

This article reflects the sole opinion of its author and does not engage MRG’s responsibility.