Barack beyond US borders

Yesterday, I was invited to talk at the English club for a local high school here in Abengourou. No, I wasn’t lecturing or anything that fancy. I was merely there to talk and have the kids asks questions in order to practice their English. There is another American girl in town from Michigan who is working on English teaching and goes to the club every week.
It’s always interesting to see the perception of your country from the eyes of others who see it from an extremely distant vantage. Despite all the problems the US has, it is still, to many in the world, a mythical land of opportunity. Anyone living through the economic crisis and part of the unofficial 20% without work would probably question that at the moment, but time and again, to many people the United States is the greener grass.
Naturally, a lot of the questions revolved around visiting the US and the differences in life there vs. Côte d’Ivoire. Not easy questions to answer obviously as the US is enormous and so we tried to mainly focus on that aspect and how life in Michigan differs from life in California, which is a large topic unto itself. But eventually, the question of politics and elections came up. For those who don’t know, Côte d’Ivoire has been without official national elections for 15 years, having dealt with a number of coup d’etats and other unfortunate, power hungry lunacy. So, these kids have not actually seen an election in their life and given that Obama has been in power for only a year and is African, they’re fascinated by him.
It goes without saying that in America, the fascination exists as well. But, while we’re now starting to look at Obama’s policies and wonder what the hell he’s actually doing, the man still is an icon outside of the country. Even though he’s half white, it doesn’t matter and I doubt that it will ever matter. He could be a complete failure and serve one term, but to these kids and to a great many people, he still represents the achievement of a dream that seems impossible.
This is all incredibly on the nose and may seem obvious, but you really don’t see what mythic quality a person has until you see him/her through the eyes of others.