15 NOVEMBER 2008


Democracy could be the most frustrating type of government until you consider the alternatives. Besides, it works.

The historic change through the voice of the people of the United States of America was vivid proof. As the perceptive Thomas Friedman indicated in The New York Times, the racial civil war is over; now begins the real work of a new era. Expressions of joy not only by prominent African Americans, but by groups around an admiring world, gave witness to the greatness of the United States: its Constitution, its institutions, and its people.

Some of us chose to visit Lincoln's Memorial on that day. The leader who saved the American Union advocated a government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish. "Fondly we hope, fervently we pray," he led the liberation from slavery in defense of human dignity. "With malice towards none, with charity for all," he advocated not only granting God-given rights to others, but striving for it.

If the United Nations can claim a universal accomplishment, it is its central role in the struggle against Apartheid and the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples. That relentless struggle saw the tripled membership of the Organization and was crowned by the election of Nelson Mandela as the first President of a unified, tolerant South Africa. The most challenging element of that struggle was not merely consolidating support by African states but converting the industrialized world, particularly Europe and the United States. The election of the first African American to the White House and the gracious helpful manner displayed by its current incumbent, dismantled any lingering doubt.

The participatory voting in varied states was heartening proof of the resilience of America and the determination of its courageous, decent people. The world was astonished and inspired. Viewed from anywhere on planet earth, the United States shone as a beacon of hope, bastion of human dignity and home of freedom.

While so many rulers in so many countries remain forever an albatross around the necks of their own people; while some governments fake democracy by arranging for ceremonial elections with 99% vote in favour of the eternal despot; the U.S. electoral process displayed a vibrant dynamic country capable of revising and reviving itself, even re-inventing itself for an inspiring and enlightened leadership role in our shared world.