Can Obama, or Anyone, Live Up to the H(y)ope?
Brown U. senior and Darfur activist Scott Warren had a piece in Saturday’s ProJo describing his recent visit to Kenya where he saw first-hand how much the Kenyan people love the idea of one of their own–Barack Obama–on the doorstep of becoming President of the U.S. The enthusiasm in Kenya may match or even exceed that in the U.S., but in both places, while Warren doesn’t quite put it this way (heh), Obama has succeeded in becoming an empty vessel of hope and change to be filled by whatever is needed. But Warren warns that this exuberance, this dependence on a man to make it all better for each person according to their own desire, is a dangerous thing:
Obama’s Kenyan supporters, not unlike much of his domestic constituency, often carry unrealistically high expectations, thinking that he can single-handedly cure AIDS, materially improve the lot of Kenyans and end economic inequality. Kenyans may be disappointed if their lives do not significantly improve after four years of an Obama White House.
The enthusiasm for Obama’s candidacy has intrigued many Americans, who marvel that Kenyans have named beers after him. This enthusiasm, however, carries real consequences. The American president is not only held responsible for peace in his own country, but also for stability around the globe. Obama’s excitement could generate unprecedented levels of international support for American policies. Heightened expectations, however, could lead to real disappointment.