Tuesday, November 4th in Denmark, you may have thought it was New Year’s Eve. People set off to parties. Champagne bottles were on hand and ready. Televisions were tuned to the same channel. Everyone tuned in, only instead of seeing Dick Clark and the ball drop in time square, everyone here was waiting to see who would become the next President of the United States. I had no idea that the presidential election would hold so many people’s interest in Denmark, in Europe, well I guess in the world. But it did. The University of Copenhagen held a 24 viewing party. The American Embassy held a gala for everyone in Copenhagen to come and celebrate. Students and adults waited up all night watching the election coverage. It was quite impressive.
I spent the evening at Bjørn, Irena, and Jacob’s house. Bjørn and Irena had tickets to the theater so I came to their house for dinner and to watch Jacob while they enjoyed a night out on the town. Unfortunately, the play wasn’t very good, so they returned home early. We watched CNN together for a bit to see the election coverage. Although at the time there wasn’t much to cover other than the long lines people waited in to vote. (It was only 3pm on the east coast.) CNN in Europe went from coverage in London to Paris to Rome. All of these places were waiting and hoping to to celebrate a new president of the United States, hopefully one with the name Barack Obama. I returned home and settled into bed in hopes of finding something wonderful under the tree the next morning. . . I mean a democrat in the white house the next morning.
When I awoke I went to the kitchen and sat to eat breakfast. My roommate, Giulia asked me who my president would be. I looked at her in astonishment and said “oh my god I forgot to check”. I ran to my room and left my toast to burn. I sat down at my computer and was relieved to see that despite my absence, American had gone the distance and elected Barack Obama. Relieved of the news I returned to breakfast, went to the gym, and then headed off to my Global Perspectives on Leadership course.
It was in this classroom that the reality and magnitude of this day finally set in. My instructor wanted to discuss communications styles so he showed a bit of McCain’s concession speech and then Barack Obama’s entire speech from Chicago. Sitting in this dark classroom in Denmark, surrounded by students from all over the world, I watch Barack Obama address America and the world. I know I’m a bit home sick from time to time, but this can’t explain my full reaction to listening to this speech. I was so moved that my eyes began to tear up. I tried hard not to go into a full blown sob. Nobody wants to be the American girl who cried in Leadership class. I reigned in my emotions and the lights went back on at the end of the speech. We began a conversation dissecting the speech and analyzing the different theories of Leadership that could be found in the video we watched. The conversation was pretty one sided and positive until one student (non-american) raised his hand and likened the emotions of the audience to that of watching a football game. We route for our team and then go back to our lives as if nothing happened. He also made reference to politics, especially American, not being authentic. That those of us moved by this speech had “fallen for it.”
As a person who had “fallen for it” I found myself immediately angry at this person’s comments. Had I not been in an academic setting with 70 other students in the room I would have shook my angry old man fist at him. I had the urge to throw something at him. I wanted to ask him how could he not find that speech moving? I wanted to say that when a nation is looking for hope, how can you criticize that speech? I wanted to say something profound to defend all of America. . . but I was worried I would get all sappy and teary eyed again and look like a nut job. So I let the rest of the class take care of it. Eventually I did get myself back into the conversation (without seeming like a lunatic) and made some good points from an American perspective (I was the only American in the class).
I am sad that I missed the excitement at home. However, I don’t think I would have ever realized the magnitude this particular election held in the rest of the world’s eyes. It truly was amazing to see the amount of people who support our new president and the number of people who are truly proud of us as a nation. Obama made me act like a girl and get all teary eyed in a classroom. . . I think he’s going to be a fine president.