The 2008 U.S. Presidential elections has shattered glass ceilings that previously seemed impenetrable.  The candidacy of Senator Hillary Clinton for president and Governor Sarah Palin for vice president, and finally, the election of Barack Obama as President, were all groundbreaking. The world’s reaction to President-elect Obama’s win proved this to be not only a historical milestone for the U.S., but one for the entire world. 

The U.S. has entered a new era and has yet again shown the beauty of democracy, where a government of the people, for the people, and by the people brings a sense of unified success and achievement.  This election has shown that in the United States anyone who has the necessary skills and ability can win our nation’s highest office, thereby turning dreams into reality for young girls and minorities.

The world saw the beauty and power of people having the right to choose their leader. The campaign was driven by thousands of volunteers who went door to door and made countless phone calls to support their candidate.  All of this electioneering was done without the fear of being persecuted.

Many consider President-elect Obama’s success as victory for African-Americans, but the world should recognize that all Americans can take pride in what this means for America as a land of opportunity.  In Obama’s victory speech, he addressed all Americans  –  “We as a people…” – reminding us and the world that we are all Americans, regardless of race, creed, religion, age,  sex, and party affiliation.  This sentiment of equality will hopefully trickle down to other nations who oppress their own people based on these factors. 

In her acceptance speech at the Independent Women’s Forum 2006 Women of Valor Award dinner, Dr. Condoleezza Rice was explicit when she said, “We understand, of course, that different peoples will build democracies that reflect their own cultures…they’ll build democracies that reflect their own traditions and their own experiences, just as we in America did.” Hopefully those nations who oppress ethnic minorities and women and who closely followed the U.S. elections will be able to see that respect for all is essential for the success and prosperity of their nation. 

Women, in particular, are left out of the democratic process in too many parts of the world.  Through our work with women in countries transitioning into democracy like Afghanistan and Iraq, IWF has witnessed the role women can play in stabilizing their nation, as women proudly walked out of polls with their index fingers marked blue, celebrating their ability to vote.  While those women faced the threat of losing their life for casting a ballot, on January 20, 2009, the international community can see the peaceful transition that will take place in the U.S. between two administrations of different political parties and we will again show the world that we are proud of our peaceful democratic system. 

One can hope that the tears of hope brought to the eyes of people in many parts of the world will translate into positive action and encourage many to challenge their own undemocratic governments.   

This election has proven to the world that American people are tolerant and beyond divisive ideology. At the same time, we can’t help but be moved by the world’s jubilation, including those people who live in oppressed nations – who have seen through teary eyes the beauty of democracy.

At day’s end, whether they voted for President-elect Obama or not, Americans will stand together behind their president with a common pride, hope, and love for their nation. The American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will continue as will pride in our democratic process.  And hopefully, as people witness how America is increasingly electing women and members of minority groups to high office, they will be inspired to embrace democratic principles. 

President-elect Obama may intend just to unify America, but he may also create a new thirst for hope and democracy throughout the world.