“Who was the fat lady?” asked my mom, who had walked in near the end of my four-hour watch-snooze election marathon. I looked at her for a second and tried not to get anymore choked up than I already was.
“Well, he got Pennsylvania and Ohio, and then Virginia, but when the networks called California it was all over.” I was pleased that I managed all those words without the frog jumping out of my throat.
But really, the moment when it happened was almost unreal. One second Jeremy Thompson, the main anchor for Sky’s election coverage, was reporting on the latest results with Obama still well short of the magical 270 electoral college votes needed to win, and then he paused, listening to his earpiece.
“One of the US networks has called the election for Obama,” he announced. Then he listened some more. “And so are we” (or words to that effect). The screen exploded in a blaze of confetti-type graphics. “Barack Obama wins the Presidency!” went the caption. The polls had just closed in California (at 5am our time) and the race was already over. Obama wins!
America and the rest of the world are starting to make sense of what that means. For Africa, the symbolic value alone is huge. For a continent that has struggled under the burden of racism for centuries, it is incredibly inspiring. And for the voters who elect Africa’s leaders it means that they too can hope for leaders who embody the leadership qualities of Barack Obama. It’s a nice touch that the two women who had the most important influence in Obama’s formative years were white. In the picture below, doesn’t he remind you a bit of Mandela? I’m sure Madiba must be smiling one of his broad, hugely infectious grins today. The message to Africa should be: Yes we can!