Monday, February 16, 2009

Brand New Day

"Stand up, all you lovers in the world / Stand up and be counted, every boy and every girl / Stand up, all you lovers in the world / We're starting up a brand new day"

Happy President's Day, fellow Americans! President Obama has been in office for nearly a month now and he has wasted no time in bringing the change he talked so much about during his campaign. I was really impressed that in just his first week, Obama had cleared the way for advances in stem-cell research, ordered Guantanamo Bay to be closed within a year, and reversed an anti-abortion policy. Seriously, did he even stop to have lunch? I hope he at least paused for a smoothie or a SPAM musubi or something and stretched out his executive-order-signing hand. Don't get a cramp, Mr. President! You have four more years to go!

It seems like it's been forever since Obama’s acceptance speech on election night. I was foolishly trying to have a Tuesday Craft Night, but only ten minutes into it, I was done. As soon as the radio announcer said, "Barack Obama is the new President of the United States," I dropped my curling scissors and rushed upstairs. I turned the TV to CNN and called to Dusty, who brought Diana to join us on the couch. As expatriates living in Canada, Dusty and I felt a range of emotions. For the first time in a long time, we were proud to call ourselves Americans. We were thrilled to watch history unfold, and excited to hear Obama’s hopeful yet decisive speech. We were moved that a biracial African American, the child of an immigrant, had become the leader of the free world in our lifetime. But Obama was inheriting a troubled Presidency, rife with heavy economic, social, international, and environmental issues. At one point during the speech, I turned to Dusty and said, “He’s got a lot of work to do.”

On Inauguration Day, the CTV8 reporter likened the excitement Canadians were feeling on Inauguration day to the excitement they feel during Russia-Canada hockey championships. Only in Canada, eh? Obama is hugely popular here, and his election is seen by Canadians as an opportunity to start over, to get over their Dubya hang-ups. During the Bush administration, many Canadians lost their trust in the American presidency. There was a sense that Canada was being ignored as a world power, beginning when Bush visited Mexico on his first official state visit abroad. Tradition dictates that the President of the United States visits Canada first, to honor our position as America’s largest trade partner. President Obama honors that tradition this week, when he heads up to the balmy shores of Ottawa on February 19.

According to this Calgary Herald article, the economy will be the priority when President Obama meets with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, along with climate change and the ongoing NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan. Economic recovery is certainly one of the most pressing issues for us and other expat friends at BioWare, but other issues loom large, too. After Obama was elected, many of our friends in the U.S. e-mailed us with:, “It’s safe for you to come back now!” But is it? If we move back to the U.S., would we be able to find jobs in this new economy? Would we get reasonably-priced health care that's comparable to or better than the free province-wide health care we now receive? Would there be family-friendly policies in place similar to the one that has allowed me to take one year of maternity leave at half my salary? Would there be progress made in environmental safety and sustainability?

Today was Family Day for us Albertans, and the changes that Obama implements during his time in office will be of vital importance to our wee family. Already, it seems we have started a tradition of watching Obama together. I woke Diana a little earlier than usual on Inauguration day so she could watch the ceremonies with me. I suppose I could've let her sleep in; it's rare that I get a morning to myself and at eight months old, she can barely understand "No bite Mama!" much less "Yes, we can!" But I wanted to share the experience with her. After all, she is the most important reason why I vote, why I was so excited that my vote helped elect Obama, and why this Inauguration Day was so special. We were getting a President who had given us hope that he could make America a better place for her to call home.

The first part of Obama’s Inaugural speech sounded like a laundry list of the previous administration’s mistakes and I felt defeated. I even said aloud, “You’re bringing me down, man.” Then he mentioned a bitterly cold day in the year of America’s birth, a day not unlike Inauguration day [and every other day in this arctic tundra we call home], when George Washington refused to be daunted by the task before him. When Obama asked us, his fellow Americans, to come together “in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship,” I felt that same heart-skipping-a-beat elation that I did on election night. As corny as it may sound, I felt that President Obama was ready to get to work. I heard in his voice a promise that the hopes pinned on him this day would be fulfilled.

We'll be here watching how you keep that promise, Mr. President. Have another musubi. You've got a lot of work to do.


"Brand New Day" by Sting
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