The Obama Effect 2.0

As fascinating as the initial euphoric global reactions to Barack Obama’s election victory is the secondary wave of introspection it has provoked. Here in France, the nation’s first black prefect (the government’s regional representative) was just appointed yesterday. I’ve also seen a number of articles on the failure to keep promises in the troubled “banlieues,” and it seems you can’t open a newspaper (or click through to one) without seeing a story about the chances for a “French Obama.” Overnight, instead of pointing fingers at America for its shortcomings, the gaze has been redirected inward to examine what can be done better here.

It’s a reminder that the most powerful and effective public diplomacy campaign America can wage is to live up to its ideals. There will always be sworn enemies who will belittle it as window dressing. But for the vast majority of the world, it’s proof that while we might be capable of making big mistakes, we’re also capable of correcting them. That’s not to say the U.S. isn’t a force for good in the world. We are. But it’s often quite poignant and beautiful when we make up for past errors. Far from inciting those watching us to pile on, it often encourages them to reach higher.