Yesterday, Americans made history. We elected the first African American president and the first man in nearly a half century who understands what it means to look at this country with hope, not fear; with pluck, not cold political calculation.
It’s understandable that millions of Americans celebrated last night on the streets of Washington DC, in New York and San Francisco, in Phoenix and Cleveland and Miami, and that millions more celebrated in their homes with friends and family close by.
But, as we all know, celebration isn’t a uniquely American trait. Friends in Budapest and Sydney related jubilation from around the world, becuase what Barack Obama has the opportunity to accomplish on a global scale is truly historic. With any big win, as we all know, comes responsibility. Responsibility to those who worked for you and those who sacrificed on your behalf, but also those who did not even have an opportunity to take part in the choosing.
Billions of us around the world, some who voted for Obama and others who did not or could not, are saddled with an ailing economy, poverty, pandemic disease and an energy crisis that like dry tinder could ignite at any time — it’s already on fire in some places around the world.
Despite these warnings, the path has never been clearer towards a prosperous future, a robust economy and a resurgent America. We know as president, Barack Obama must follow that path to rebuilding America by investing in green jobs and pathways out of poverty, towards a carbon-free, clean energy future. In his victory speech, Obama said “There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created.”
And he has a responsibility to bring that vision — a vision he espoused again and again on the campaign trail — to the world. He must reengage the world’s leaders, as Nelson Mandela writes in a brief letter to the President-Elect. One way he can lead, and take a decisive stand against dangerous climate change and for clean development is by attending the UN climate talks this December in Poznan, Poland.
Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief said yesterday that “It is impossible to advance on this important topic without the full engagement of the United States. I am very encouraged by the stated commitment of Senator Obama to the issue of climate change, and I really hope that he or his
representatives can come to the climate change conference in Poznan and speak to his vision of the way forward.”
It’s up to us to make sure Senator Obama follows through with the vision of a world we desperately want that is now a little bit more within reach. Sending him to Poland is a needed first step towards rebuilding the world economy and solving climate change, tasks which will no doubt take years, if not decades, to accomplish.
At this historic turning point, it’s up to us to shed the yoke of history and move forward by joining with our new leaders and pushing for a bold new solution to these dual crises. The world is counting on us.