Monday, April 6, 2009

That was the week that will be

When it goes right, it really goes right.

President Obama returns home on Tuesday from Europe with a pocketful of triumph. According to ESPN, the baller-in-chief’s picks for the NCAA Basketball Tournament placed him in the 80th percentile of accuracy, with the president correctly choosing North Carolina to win the championship, nailing 14 out of the Sweet 16 correctly, and ending with an overall win-loss record of 40-22. If this presidential thing doesn’t work out, there may be a professional place for him in the game somewhere.

But that was just the latest Obama win. The president comes home (Michelle’s already back, with the First Kids) with the global wind strongly at his back. The first Obama European residency ends with stellar reviews, Obama oratorically knocking it out of the park with dazzling performances in London, Strasbourg, Prague and Ankara. In speeches that set a new course for American diplomacy, Obama’s engaging personal style was wedded to a message of a change in American policy that saw the 44th POTUS embraced by a continent ready for something new from the world’s change-agent nation.

But it was more than pure adulation, more than emotionalism. Articulating policy shifts from engagement with Iran over nuclear energy to improving Muslim-American relations, to negotiating a new strategic arms agreement with Russia to setting the United States on a course to “immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty” — President Obama set out nothing less than his own agenda for a different, presumably safer planet, a vision of new world order for real.

Barack Obama left Washington for Europe last Tuesday as a new American president, one whose brilliance in the sky remained largely, still, an American phenomenon. He returns home a week later as a statesman, one chastened by the rebuff of some European leaders on his global stimulus plan, but also invigorated by the same message he imparted to millions: The past doesn’t have to be prologue to the future.

Years from now, historians may look back at the inaugural Obama World Tour as the period in which his presidency really began — not according to the narrow, procedural calendar of oath-taking and legislation and partisan wrangling, but in the wider context of leadership that the United States has historically presumed to define.

This was a week that Barack Obama spent daring the citizens of Europe, and by extension the world, to envision a seemingly impossible future. If his geopolitical vision is as good as his basketball bracketology, we’ve got a lot to forward to.

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