Friday, November 9, 2012

America’s Influence

For the past three years that I’ve lived in Samoa, I’ve always carried a U.S. $1 dollar bill in my wallet. I keep it there as a way to remind me of where I’m from, why I decided to come to Samoa and where I will return to once my time here is completed. Nearly every day I have people ask me where I’m from and I’m always proud to tell them, “Amerika.”

This past week was another good example of why I’ve been proud to represent my country overseas. America has its faults and shortcomings, as I’ve learned all countries do, however, I have also learned that America still holds a very important role on the world stage—even to the far reaches of the South Pacific. I can’t tell you the number of people who have stopped me in the past few days to ask me about the election in America, who I voted for and how I felt about President Obama being re-elected.

America matters overseas and people are watching what Americans do. They are watching when a lone gunman goes into a movie theatre and kills indiscriminately and they are watching when the most powerful country on Earth goes to the ballots to cast votes peacefully. People overseas see America’s good and bad but this past week has been about the good.

I was fortunate to watch election night coverage on CNN. Just for clarification, CNN is not a part of Samoans basic TV package! Samoans receive three or four local stations, with their world news coming through feeds from New Zealand. Those who pay extra and have a satellite are able to receive CNN, so this ends up being relatively few. I was with my Peace Corps friend Lilli at her friend’s house in Apia.

However, I found it slightly confusing watching the election coverage from Samoa. First of all, with the time difference, we were watching on a Wednesday evening. Also, I was sweating like crazy with mosquitoes nipping at my ankles. Normally my election nights are spent inside the house while a cold blustery Michigan wind sweeps across the harvested cornfields near my house.

Lilli and I ordered a pizza from Italiano’s and picked up some chips. We started watching coverage around 4p.m. Samoa time (9p.m. Eastern) and by 6p.m. we had received word that President Obama had been re-elected. The Samoans whose house we were at had all traveled to the States before so they were familiar with modern U.S. presidential history (probably even more so than some Americans). They told us that their friends at work had been talking about the election that day as well, so it was a big topic of conversation.

I don’t care to divulge my political views in this blog, however I will say that I was proud to hear Governor Romney’s humble concession speech and President Obamas inspiring victory speech. That is what I love about America, that when all the dust settles, there is still law and order and a peaceful transfer or continuation of power. Our leaders deliver those speeches knowing that not only is the United States listening, but the entire world.

The next day the Samoa Observer had a front page picture of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as several inside pages dedicated to the election results, even detailing the races in congress. There was also an article and picture of Samoa’s Head of State attending an election party held at the official residence of the U.S. Embassy. Perhaps there are a few more ties to America here in Samoa due to the fact that many Samoans have family living in American Samoa which is a U.S. territory, but I am still confident that people in other far reaches of the world had front page newspaper articles with our country’s election results.

So let us be proud to be Americans, no matter what our political parties may be. This is a great chance for Americans to come together and celebrate what makes our country great and examine what we each can do to continue making it a place that others around the world look at and are fascinated by.

John King and Wolf Blitzer of CNN making it all the way over to Samoa.

Lilli watching election coverage.

After the final word came that President Obama had been re-elected.

The news made the front page of the Samoa Observer on Thursday morning.

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