The O’Bamas of Ireland

Yesterday evening my Irish facebook friends were swooning over President Obama’s visit and speech in Dublin. So of course I had to go read it. Like most Obama speeches, it was a masterpiece: eloquent without loquaciousness, inspiring without mawkishness, and peppered throughout with his own charming brand of self-deprecating humor. He complimented the Guinness, invoked George Washington, Fredrick Douglass, and John F. Kennedy, and prophesied a grand future for both nations.

And get this: he was in Ireland in the first place to rediscover his Irish roots. A great-great-great grandfather emigrated to the United States when the potato famine hit his tiny town of Moneygall. This connection was only recently unearthed (he joked that it would have helped him a lot had it been discovered before a certain St. Patrick’s Day parade on the campaign trail in Chicago). Aside from my obvious kindred fascination with traveling to exotic places to understand one’s roots, I guess this is one of the things I love about President Obama: his desire and ability to connect on a deep and meaningful level with specific groups the world over, and then unite them in common causes. During his campaign, it was possible to print out stickers and posters with a “personalized” Obama logo for just about any specific group. Here are some of my favorites:

Although I did not vote for him the first time around, and remain as yet uncommitted this time, I secretly love having Obama as a president. He is so, well, presidential; direct but diplomatic, dignified but personable, tall, good-looking, well-spoken, and idealistic. His speeches–well-written, well-delivered, and moving even when the substance of them happens to be disappointing–are a delight to hear. And as an American abroad (especially here in the Middle East/Africa), I cannot even describe how much easier it is to have Obama as president than his predecessor. The long, embarrassing years of shrugs and head-shaking when my president is mentioned in casual conversations have been largely replaced by modest acknowledgments of the inevitable compliments.

What will next year bring? Who knows. I haven’t decided yet where to throw in my lot. But in the meantime, I’ll just continue basking in the bright, reflected glory of Barak Obama.

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