In Berlin, Obama looks towards new walls to pull down

Obama's remarkable speach in Berlin is just over. He sets the tone at the start: "I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world." He proceeds to issue a collective challenge to end division and inequalities and work together on global challenges: "People of the world - look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one… The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers - dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean… As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya… The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all… The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down." (Full transcript)

Send message of solidarity to Obama with Avaaz, the global advocacy group, which gives expression to global public opinion on issues ranging from climate change to Darfur, is inviting us to send messages to Senator Obama. They write:

"The world can't vote in the US elections, nor will it help to preach to those who can. But Americans themselves say they want their next President to be someone who is respected around the world, so our voice counts this time -- and as Obama tours the world, our best chance to be heard may be now. We're running this global petition as a gesture of worldwide friendship and solidarity with Obama. We will deliver this petition to the Obama campaign, the US media, and the blogosphere to show that his message of change inspires global respect, and to emphasise those issues on which his boldness is most needed:

Senator Obama, we send you this gesture of respect and sign of hope from all around the world. Let's work together to stop climate change, protect human rights and prevent war, and help make the US a responsible and respected member of the global community again."
Sign petition and send a personal message

Does it matter how Obama is received in Europe?

British journalist Jonathan Freedland writes in the Guardian "if Europeans really want to help Obama they should repress their enthusiasm and stay home. Ensure those crowds are thin and lethargic; maybe even offer the odd heckle... Let the travelling US press report that Obama is not so popular with foreigners after all: nothing will endear him more to the American public." He explains his contrarian argument: "There will be much jostling for position in the chancelleries of Europe and the Middle East this week, as political types from London to Jerusalem compete for the hottest ticket of 2008: the chance to sit down with Barack Obama... The US media is assuming that we'll be turning out in massive numbers, all but throwing street parades for the new American saviour... Obviously a warm reception can only be good for the Illinois senator. But maybe not that warm. After all, one of the hoariest Republican attack lines deployed against Democratic opponents is that they are vaguely foreign, somehow more comfortable abroad."

There is a grain of truth in this opinion, but here at TWWO we have a more optimistic view about American voters. A few may indeed delight in asserting their seperateness by voting against a Presidential candidate who has the overwhelming international backing, but most of those people would never have voted for Obama anyway, for other reasons. Instead, we believe the majority of Americans recognise that the Bush years have badly damaged the US' reputation and its international relationships, even with traditional allies. They know it needs a President who can undo the damage and engage in the kind of positive international collaboration that is desperately needed to tackle the global economic, political and environmental challenges that we all face together.

Gary Younge adds, in an oped in the same paper, "Obama's arrival gives Europeans a chance to be passionate about politics - a feeling they have not had for a long time. In Obama, they pine for something they have singularly failed to produce - a politician who inspires them and a politics of hope.... Most Europeans see him not just as Bush's likely successor but as his absolute negation - the anti-Bush. Where the current president is belligerent, parochial, indifferent and oafish, Obama is conciliatory, worldly, curious and refined."

Obama abroad

Senator Obama is making his first proper trip abroad in 18 months. He'll be in Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Germany, France and Britain. Let us know if you happen to spot him, or at least let us know what people are saying in your country about his trip! Newsweek has a cover feature article about his trip and an interactive graphic on international perspectives.

Global voices, Amerian choices

"The world's mind is made up, will the US agree?" Alan Stoga continues, in FlyP Issue 9, "If the rest of the world could vote, then the election would be already be over, and Barack Obama would have won by a landslide... The overwhelmingly dominant view is that Obama will win, and that his victory will bring dramatic, positive change to US domestic and foreign policies... Anders Wijkman, a Swedish member of the European Parliament summarised what much of the world is saying 'I think Obama represents what the world needs right now. McCain would be very much more of the same, and we don't need much more of the same.'"

FlyP is a remarkable multimedia e-zine which has produced an excellent feature piece on world opinions about the election, including interviews from people from 16 countries who were attending the Tällberg Forum on globalisation. There is also an excellent graphic visualising the astounding outcome of the Pew Global Attitude survey back in April showing how much greater confidence people in almost every country have in Obama over McCain (not to mention Bush). Go have a look!