The election results were coming in between midnight and 6 am Cairo time – usually a time when the streets are empty, the bakeries are firing up their stoves and when the city that never sleeps lulls into a nap. But in the wee hours of the dawn on this US election night, the Arab world was watching.
Shortly after the call to prayer rang through the minarets across the Arab World, Barack Obama was making a call of his own.
The words he spoke before a throng of emotional supporters were not just aimed at the audience in Grant Park. They were meant to send a message to the world. He outlined themes and a vision that will resonate far beyond the US borders. He delivered a message of hope and change that was intended for the world to embrace.
In his enduring calm and commanding manner, he made a call for global unity and shared responsibility. Obama showed us that the power of the people is far greater than the will of the government. That it’s not the government’s role to do; it’s the people’s duty to act.
The world’s greatest challenges are not for somebody else to solve. It’s a partnership for progress that starts today on street corners in Cairo, the souks of Oman, and the cafés in Lebanon. In today’s increasingly interconnected world, we must think of the other nations of the world as our neighbors. It is both our privilege and our duty to help those as a good neighbor would, to see that they have access to health care and schooling and a chance to participate in their governments.
What Obama means for the Arab World goes beyond words of hope and change, his message drives to the core of our value system – that indeed ‘strength does not come the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals.’ By emboldening our ideals we can make a difference and rise from our challenges.
Peace in the Middle East is possible, not because Obama will save the world, but because if what we witnessed in the US is any indication of how one voice can move a population one block at a time, one internet click at a time, then hope is the most valuable resource this region can produce.
Forget about oil, and conflict, the Middle East will be rich with unwavering desire to realize its potential on its own – with its own audacious vision for global citizenship.
I stayed up all night watching the elections coverage and discovered that I wasn’t alone. Right then I knew, “agents of change were being born in living rooms across the region and even the world is breeding a new sense of common purpose, common ground and hope.
Maha Abouelenein is a Cairo-based communications strategist. She wrote this article for Daily News Egypt.