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Reports from around the globe: How does the world view Obama one year into his presidency?
BOSTON — When President Barack Obama was sworn in one year ago, the world embraced him as one of their own.
The first African-American president could claim heritage from Kenya to Kansas and from Indonesia to Ireland. He was elected on the hope of a nation, and inaugurated amid the pride of a global family.
And guess what? Now they’re all treating him like, well, family.
They expect more from him. They wonder why he never calls. He doesn't write ...
In Indonesia, their feelings are hurt that he hasn’t come to visit the place where he came of age. In Kenya, they wonder if he has forgotten the place from which his ancestors hailed. In Afghanistan, they are profoundly disappointed in his behavior. In Iraq, like all in-laws, they can’t wait to say goodbye after too long a visit. Europe, like an older brother, feels protective, and maybe a bit jealous.
And right here in the liberal bastion of Boston, the home of his closest political relatives, Obama is in a full-blown family feud. Tuesday, Obama and his policies were stunningly rebuked when Massachusetts voters elected a hard-right Republican to fill the Senate seat of the "liberal lion," Ted Kennedy.
On that cold day on Jan. 20, 2009, when Obama put his right hand on the same bible used by Abraham Lincoln, GlobalPost featured a series of essays, reports, videos and photo slideshows in a special report titled “… For Which It Stands: America and the World.” In the series, we explored how the world views America and how America views the world.
After eight years of President George W. Bush, it was a time when one poll after the next showed America’s image in the world had never been lower. And here was a new president reaching out to and engaging with the world. It seemed the beginning of a new era, a time of unbridled hope and optimism that this president would indeed bring about change.
We invite you to take a look back at last year’s stories as a metric for whether Obama has succeeded and where we are today. One year on, we asked many of those same correspondents and columnists to revisit how Obama and America are viewed today.
Now 365 days later, the world seems largely impatient with the idea that the president’s soaring rhetoric has not been matched with deeds. His public diplomacy is strong, but our correspondents are hearing from every corner of the world that to carry out the hard work of affecting change he still has a long way to go.
In Kenya, Tristan McConnell writes that Obama’s speech last July during a visit to sub-Saharan Africa resonated with Africans.
“Africa’s future is up to Africans,” Obama declared to loud applause.
But as McConnell reports from Nairobi, the administration policy on Africa still has not taken shape.
In Indonesia, Peter Gelling writes of a nation that was honored to have had a personal connection with the life of Obama, who lived in Jakarta as a boy. The word on the street was that Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, might be the first place he visited. It never happened. He went to Canada and then London and then Egypt and Africa and China and he made it to Oslo to collect his Nobel Peace Prize and then to Copenhagen for the conference on climate change.
The Indonesians even built a statue of 10-year-old Obama in shorts and a T-shirt with the Nobel Peace Prize hanging around his neck and a butterfly on his hand. A plaque reads, “The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.”
Now a Facebook page is gaining more and more members — more than 60,000 and climbing — calling for the statue to be taken down.
In Afghanistan, correspondent Jean MacKenzie writes that the thing Afghans might remember most is that the day of Obama’s inauguration was the day full electrical power came to Kabul and the lights came on — and stayed on through the night. It was a first since the fall of the Taliban.
“Now, a year later, much of the glow has dimmed, at least from the perspective of this sad and war-ravaged nation,” writes MacKenzie.
“It was inevitable, of course — no one could have lived up to the inflated expectations that Obamamania had generated. But in Afghanistan the disappointments have been especially bitter.”
In almost every corner of the world, it seems Obama has fallen short of the extraordinary faith so many were willing to put in his ability to affect change. Our columnist HDS Greenway observes that there are few foreign policy successes to highlight. And Greenway quotes former U.S. national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who said Obama “has not yet made the transition from an inspiring orator to compelling statesman. Advocating that something happen is not the same as making it happen.”
GlobalPost columnist Mohamad Bazzi agrees. Bazzi introduces an Arabic term used in the Middle East for bloated rhetoric. It is called, “haki fadi,” or “empty talk.”
As Bazzi writes, “In his appeal to the Arab world, President Barack Obama is dangerously close to being full of haki fadi.”
But not all corners of the world are expressing discontent in Obama.
In London, columnist Tom Fenton write that Obama is more popular in Europe than in his own country.
In fact, a German Marshall Fund poll released in the fall showed that support for the American president has jumped 88 points since the days of President Bush.
“You can bask in the glow of being an American in Paris these days, like you could in the good old days after World War II,” writes Fenton.
So perhaps at the end of the day, Obama is now truly part of the family, no longer an honored guest or a favorite son. And, as the saying goes, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”
Read all of GlobalPost's dispatches:
Editor's Note: This story was updated to include the election results for the Senate seat in Massachusetts