I have a friend who passed on a letter that she received from two former students in the Foreign Service in Saudi Arabia.
The following thoughts are from one of them on the election of Barack Obama:
Dear (Name withheld),
"Wow. I never thought I'd see the day that Americans would vote for a black man. I knew it would happen eventually when the minority numbers sufficiently outnumbered those of the white populace but I just couldn't believe it would happen in my lifetime.
I've never been so proud to be American. I had been awake for 32 hours planning the embassy party with 1400 invited guests from midnight our time to 9 am.
At the party, I stood around for hours with Saudi Arab men and women who've never experienced a democracy or elections because they've lived for generations with a monarchy under an authoritarian regime.
They were as glued to our giant screen televisions as the Americans and people from other countries -- Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Kenya, Egypt, Ireland, Italy, Britain, Germany...they came from everywhere.
They sat amazed when they saw so many American diplomats and business people at the party -- even traditional Republicans -- with tears in their eyes.
After McCain's gracious concession speech and Obama's acceptance speech, our Chief of Mission gave parting remarks to the crowd at our party and he just couldn't get the words out through his tears.
He may have even been Republican but he talked about how people of his generation -- 50-70 year olds -- grew up with racism and for years have witnessed the devasation it causes on a nation and the fabric of its people.
It was a very powerful moment for us diplomats who try to explain to other countries what it means to be American -- how, despite some differences, we all believe in some common values like democracy.
I don't know how this is all playing out over there in the states but over here it is very profound. We even had mock elections at our party so the Saudis could cast pretend votes to show them how its done.
They really got into it -- going into the booth, proudly wearing their I-voted stickers over their robes...the whole thing.
But they kept signing their ballots - they couldn't believe that we allowed confidential voting.
Obama won here too -- 127 to 25 before we got too wrapped up in the real vote and quit counting (Ralph Nader got 4 votes).
Incidentally, it was a little sppoky that here in the desert where it hadn't rained for two years we suddenly had ferocious thunderstorms.
What was supposed to be an outdoor garden party had to be moved (TVs, stereo speakers, computers, cabling, tables/chairs) indoors at the last minute due to the freakish rain that wouldn't let up.
The 50 carpets we had laid on the ground were soaked in puddles of water. What was even more freaky is that two minutes into Obama's acceptance speech, the sun finally came out in all its glory. It was very surreal... "
- P. (Name withheld)
This is an old map of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (above) and a vintage (c. 1885) map of Africa (below).
I really love how small the world has become!
I have a friend whose son is working in North Africa - he passed on the Saudi letter posted above and this is the reply he got:
Dear Mom and Dad,
"The international news is full of similar stories. We had dinner here last night for 12 local teammembers (11 Pakistanis and 1 Iranian) and the conversation did eventually turn to the election results.
Everyone was so positive, so happy, like a gloom had suddenly lifted. Keep in mind that these are citizens of a country Obama said he would carry out uninvited attacks on.
The people and the press here are not universally impressed with Obama and his policies, but rather with the system, with the seeming re-birth of the American Dream.
A poor person can make it to the top; millions of whites can vote for a black man.
One editorial in the local paper ended by asking the question if his readers could imagine the son of their servants become president.
Only in America, but the rest of the world wants to believe it eventually possible in their countries. The world is happy to have the hope and example that is uniquely American.
Whether you like Obama or not, it was a great feat and it makes me happy to be an American.
Love, (Name withheld)"