What the world needs from President Obama



Abdulrahman Al-Zuhayyan

Published — Saturday 10 November 2012

Last update 10 November 2012 4:01 am

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The US election has come to an end. The American people have elected Barack Obama as their president for the next four years. The world was not as much surprised as when he was elected for his first term in office as the first African-American president of the United States. The American people have taught the world a lesson. And the lesson has a lasting message — the way ought to be cleared for the right person to lead, regardless of the socio-economic considerations.
It is believed, however, that the American people have realized the seriousness of their country’s economic and military situation, which has put it at a crossroads.
Consequently, the policy adopted by the US government during the next four years will determine the US’ future as a leading superpower. The US scientific advancement and technological innovations, and above all its human values have contributed significantly to raising the standard of living of people across the world. As a result, people across the world try to emulate the US model for progress and advancement and implement it in their local communities.
Nonetheless, successful progress is guided by a set of positive human values that enable the people to shape their destiny and ultimately that of their country. American people cherish these values and that is how they have contributed to their country’s admirable progress and a respectable position in the world. America has become a symbol of human success.
Ever since my childhood, I remember America occupying a special position among the countries of the world.
I still remember when our community held a welcome-home dinner for the first engineer graduated from the US (a former Aramco executive, may Allah bless his soul). That evening everyone was in overwhelmed. The audience listened to him while he spoke about the US and its people, their manners and scientific advancements they have achieved. He also talked about the qualities of the American people — fairness, honesty, hard work, work ethics, their love for knowledge and respect for law.
He told us that honesty was a distinct character of most American people whether in personal interaction or business transactions. They hardly lie, even if it goes against themselves. He mentioned about a refund check that he unexpectedly found in his mailbox. He discovered that it was a portion of a fee he had paid for a service he didn’t fully avail of. Another refund check he received was for his apartment's deposit, which he had vacated.
The guest talked about his classmates and how hardworking they were. He said his classmates were doing job and at the same time studying and getting good grades.
He also spoke about US industry and its emphasis on excellence, and how workers were punctual and attentive. They manufactured most of the consumer goods and equipment sold at the local markets, and one could rarely find a foreign product, and if so, it was expensive.
People present at the dinner were overwhelmed by the stories, especially children. Since that evening most of us used to talk about America and its people in classrooms while wishing to study or visit this fabulous country. Few decades passed, and some of us were studying in the US.
My first experience was that of a cultural shock when I was taken from John F. Kennedy Airport to the little town where my brother was studying — Champaign, Illinois. I was very much impressed by the highways, bridges, houses, university facilities and other structures. Everything seemed to be in perfect order. Many of us were impressed with the planning and the available civic services that made life very easy and comfortable. By a phone call, one could get a service without any bureaucratic hurdles.
We were very impressed by the people. They weren't much different from what that man had told us during that dinner party. They believed almost everything we told them.
A lady was told that her daughter looked like her, but she replied that she was her adopted daughter and the girl confirmed that without a second thought or any hesitation. We may not have openly admitted so had it been the case of adoption, may be because of cultural differences, but it wasn’t the case with them. They always answered our questions honestly and genuinely offered their assistance when needed.
With time, we have realized that those qualities of honesty and compassion were not due to naiveté as some might think rather it was a manifestation of confidence. They have nothing to hide, so they tell the truth.
The aforementioned qualities were exhibited by students pursuing higher education. A student is supposed to attend classes and work for excellence. Work of students are evaluated on the basis of its worth and grades are given on the basis of merit. Hard work is always appreciated and respected.
The values held by Americans are what made their country excel in almost every field of human endeavor, specifically in science and technology, which in turn brought with it economic strength and military power. Overall, it is the people who can make the difference in any society with their values and education. In his speech after the victory, President Obama stressed the importance of these values and education rather than military power that made America the undisputed world power. Indeed, this is the truth.
The world may disagree with some aspects of US foreign policy, but still needs US progressive values to achieve peace and progress. The invention of Internet has changed our lives. The US has changed in many vital aspects, and one just wonders whether Americans would come up with a similar invention with such powerful changing effects on our lives.

Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Zuhayyan is a Saudi academician based in Riyadh. This article is exclusive to Arab News.

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