Political Parties Aside

Written by admin on April 11, 2009 – 12:16 pm -

As an American whose adopted home is France, it’s so refreshing not to have to make excuses for a U.S. administration that views it as the “Old Europe.” American Expats feel a new sense of pride, even if many of them are experiencing personal financial uncertainty.  

My days of having to explain that the French like Americans, even if they don’t approve of the government’s policies, have come to an end. President Obama abandoned the previous administration’s pose of mutual (and inevitable) hostility between the French and the Americans. This seems to be part of a broader spirit of friendship and cooperation.  

The president was emphatic during the G-20 Summit meetings, which took place in London on April 1st, that the time has come for its members to form a strong alliance and work together. He said, “The U.S. can’t operate in a vacuum, politically, militarily, in the global financial markets or in the realm of terrorism.” 

It was a remarkable trip and meeting of the minds even if no country got what they wanted. But during the most difficult period the U.S. has experienced since the Depression, it’s time world leaders join forces. Clearly, everything isn’t going to be smooth sailing and there will be on-going dissention. Hopefully new and increasingly open channels of communication have been created. Obama has set a lot in motion. Now he has to see it through and it’s going to heavy lifting.  

Whether or not it’s superficial, what has so many people talking—and it’s going to be on-going—is the impact Michelle Obama had on her first official visit to Europe as the wife of the President. 

Perhaps there were a few tongues wagging (and who cares?) as to whether or not she should have returned the embrace of Queen Elizabeth. The London tabloids were fast to report it’s simply not done. Perhaps that’s “old” protocol and Michelle (or rather the Queen) broke that barrier.  

Michelle Obama is breaking a lot of barriers and doing the U.S. proud. Her style and her sense of (moderately priced) fashion are being noted. But it’s her down-to-earth honesty that’s making the real impression. She’s willing to say to a group of students in a school in the UK and the US that they are this generation of doers. And just because they’re black or didn’t come from a well-to-do families aren’t reasons not to succeed. Education is a vehicle for creating a better life and not something of which to be ashamed. The First Lady didn’t come from a privileged family—other than having parents who loved her and were supportive. 

Michele Obama, a lawyer, has shelved her profession for now to be the wife of the first black president of the United State plus a stay-at-home mother. Her daughters certainly don’t have her at their beck and call as they did before their father started running for office. But their grandmother has moved to the White House to fill in some of the obligatory gaps. 

Every news medium is filled with long commentaries about the Obama’s trip. Would France’s president Nicholas Sarkozy boycott the G-20 meeting? Why didn’t his wife, the infamous Carla Bruni, accompany him to London? She’s already met the Queen when she curtsied ever so demurely. But did she opt not to attend because she didn’t want to be compared to Michele? Was she setting herself apart from the “Wife’s Club?” 

And gossip being a fact of life, why hasn’t Carla Bruni adopted special causes? For a woman who has consistently loved the spotlight and created it, she’s stepped back and is rarely seen unless she’s accompanying her husband. And when she’s with President Sarkozy, she’s beautifully decked out in elegant haute couture French clothes.  

One thing that’s for certain is the French are “gaga” over Michele Obama. They may not approve of baring her biceps (who cares) but they are overwhelmed by her vitality and openness.  

When Obama was campaigning, he promised change. Ditto for Sarkozy. It’s going to be fascinating to see how things play out in this new environment. Is this the beginning of greater global understanding and cooperation? Has the tide turned? All we can do is hope.

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