"And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world..."
Editors' Note: The Independent contacted Brown students, Brown alums, and travelers abroad to ask them to report back on what they observed on Election Night. From Asia to Europe to Africa, the consensus was clear: the world watched with unblinking eyes. --MG
Jeffrey Austin, B'03
In a coastal town in southern Liberia early Wednesday morning, a group of young men gathered around a satellite television set on the grounds of the Catholic church to watch the results stream in over CNN.
Liberia may be one of the last places on Earth where President Bush remains popular. People here give Bush much of the credit for Charles Taylor's departure in 2003 from the country, and the subsequent end of the fighting, and Bush was greeted during a visit in February by cheering masses on the freeway from the airport into town.
Nevertheless, the appeal of a black president with a father from Africa became too much for most people here in recent weeks and months. The Friday before the election, at a nightclub in town, DJ Bob from Senegal led a chant of "O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" over the Akon singles. And people were never really able to form an image of the Republican contender in their minds, usually mispronouncing his name as "McLean."
Shortly after CNN called Pennsylvania for Obama, somewhere close to 2 am local time, the mood in the Catholic compound was buoyant. Solo Gaye, 35, a youth worker in the church, lifted his hands in the air. "This can give the world a new impression of black people--that they can be intelligent, and they can deliver," he explained. "And it can also change black people's opinions of themselves. Some people say that a black man cannot be ready to lead America--we argue about it at work. But this is a sign that the world has changed a lot."
New Delhi, India
Kevin Pratt, B'10
As polls closed in America's eastern states, students at St. Stephen's College in New Delhi waited for morning classes to begin in the main corridor of campus. They were holding newspapers that already proclaimed an Obama victory. The news dominated the discussions in the hallway, but voices were low.
"It's hardly a surprise," said economics student Poorvi Goel, summing up the mood of confirmed satisfaction among her peers. "It was expected."
Clustered around a television in a common room across campus, Indian students exchanged quiet applause as the results were confirmed, but they were most vocal in offering congratulations to their American peers seated next to them. Others were less moved by the victory of a campaign that centered on change.
"In India, continuation of the Bush policies is welcome," said history student Yash Gandhi, referring to the recent passage of the US-Indian nuclear deal, which has defined relations between the two countries and dominated headlines here in recent weeks. The act opens India to civilian nuclear trade after over thirty years of exclusion--'apartheid,' in New Delhi's terms--from nuclear commerce. "John McCain was more vocal about his support for the nuclear deal," said Gandhi, who also said Obama's anti-outsourcing rhetoric concerns many middle class and professional Indians. But news of the election here has generally been received as the confirmation of an obvious choice. "From any sensible world perspective," said first year student Shaman Marya, "it's a victory."
Kate Kolbert-Hyle, B'10
It was midnight in the capital city of Edinburgh before Kentucky and New Hampshire first rolled in. Everyone was bleary-eyed and lying on the floor, food and cell phones spread around.
The room was half American and half Scottish and I recognized some familiar political faces--Iain Gray the head of the Scottish Labour party, the head of Scottish European Parliament, and other various MSPs. They had handed out Obama and McCain pins at the front entrance, and the crowd was overwhelmingly made up of Obama supporters (at least half of the McCain pins were left in the bin at the end of the night). They conducted a mock vote confirming those results: 14 votes to McCain, 144 to Obama.
I had spoken with a researcher in Parliament earlier in the day (one who followed daily tracking polls more than most) and he told me he "didn't know a single McCain supporter," despite Scotland's overwhelmingly white population.
We cheered at Pennsylvania, and then at Ohio and at 3 am when John King played with his map and practically mocked the McCain camp by including nearly every state and still producing an Obama victory, the crowd cheered even louder. And then when it was clear the math would add up, we ran out the door, headed to bed so we could wake up and check the stats.
Reiko Davis, B'10
In the amphitheater of the Hellenic American Union in Athens, crowds gathered around midnight for an election show hosted by the Greek TV channel MEGA. Television crews circulated the theater interviewing Greeks, American students and diplomats as they watched the BBC's election coverage. Those in attendance were political tailgaters, prepared for a vigil as the polls began closing around 1 am Athens time.
Throughout the presidential race, Greeks have been strong Obama supporters.
"We share this pro-Obama opinion with all European countries," declared Leonidas Koskos, Executive Vice President of the Hellenic American Union. "The administration stepping down was not receptive to the perceptions, ideas and mentality of Europeans. We were not in favor of the Iraq invasion. We want peace."
Like most Americans, Greeks felt the economy must be a key factor in the election. 31-year-old graphic designer Elena Melinioti spoke of how Obama had a history of supporting Greek causes in Cyprus and Macedonia, adding, "More importantly, after eight years of Bush policies, we're ready for a change, especially when we're on the verge of a depression."
When the deciding electoral votes came in around 6 am, the crowd rejoiced but was not surprised. 58-year-old teacher Marineta Papahimona declared, "Obama is a hope. He fought step by step, and that means he knows about everyday problems. He looks human, and he is speaking to the people. We wish him to be as he looks to be."
Chris Burns, West Africa
What a historical night for not just our country, but the entire world. President-elect Obama hinted at this in his Chicago speech this morning--this election is not just about the future of the US. Rather, it is about the future of every global citizen, regardless of race, religion, background.
We're seeing such manifestations in the media reports that are coming out from all corners of the earth. But we're also experiencing it here in Niamey. My wife and I stayed up all night, with a handful of volunteers, watching history unfold. And at five am our time, as the electoral votes pushed Obama over 270, you could hear car horns blaring around town in rejoice, mixing with the morning calls to prayer from the neighborhood mosques. The sun had yet to rise. But once it did, the feeling around town was that of pure relief, hope and pride. A massive exhalation of breath held in for way too long. A big collective head-nod indicating that the Americans got it right. And for that, the world will back them up.
It seems most Nigeriens in Niamey were up all last night as well, glued to the French broadcasts of the elections on TV5 (a French cable station). Togolais, Burkinabe, Beninois and other West Africans living in Niamey were doing the same--watching, waiting, believing. From what some of our friends are telling us, they were, and still are partying too. And as we descended into town, en route to our US Ambassador's house for an election brunch, friends, colleagues and general passerby stopped to share congratulations, hand shakes and smiles. We received text messages and phone calls of similar tributes; they came not from Americans but from Africans. And our friends here were quick to praise the US for being 'a great nation indeed.' A nation that they will again look to for leadership, and change.
It is spine tingling. It is humbling. And it is revolutionary.