The Peaceful Transfer of Power
It’s official: Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States of America. The first African-American president in the history of this great country was sworn in, in a lavish ceremony in front of nearly 2 million people. In his speech, he laid out his goals for the country’s next four years — but the great winner yesterday was democracy.
As one commentator mentioned while I watched the live coverage, “By the end of the day, former President Bush will become George Bush, citizen, and Barack Obama, citizen, President Obama — and all in the name of the Constitution. …” Obama himself said, three days ago, that “the transition of power is a symbol of democracy’s strength.”
It’s remarkable to me how most Americans go about their business, and take for granted what is still viewed in certain parts of the world as quite a challenge. In fact, in many third-world countries like mine, conceding power to a new, upcoming chain of command is sometimes seen as an agenda impossible to fulfill, a pure and simple utopia. It’s very common for such countries to have some political form of “dictatorship,” in which constitutions are amended, reviewed, and forged with the explicit goal of helping the current power sustain and maintain itself “for life.” Often, the only way out involves the death of the leader, or — in much more sinister cases — a coup d’etat that sometimes sheds the blood of innocent victims, as well as that of the “greedy” actors and players of the political arena.
A recent example of this type of situation can be seen in the case of Guinea last month. If the United States were like Guinea, Bush would have simply refused to step down from power on the morning of January 20, using the army to back him up, and subjecting the country and its institutions to an uncertain destiny and a level of chaos that the people here probably can’t imagine actually facing. But, luckily, American democracy is mature enough to teach their “know-how” to the rest of the world.
Hoorah for the smooth transition … regardless of your political views, that is America’s legacy to the world.