As you look at the crowds greeting President Obama in South Africa, you can’t but help that everybody is smiling. That’s because they love and are inspired by our 44th president, the fact that he is an African American with a Kenyan father, and that he shares so many things with the other great figure, South Africa’s first Black President, Nelson Mandela.
Along with John Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, I admire Obama more than most U.S. presidents who’ve served during my lifetime. You rarely see Obama in front of disapproving crowds; the exceptions are sourpusses like Vladimir Putin and leaders of the Republican opposition Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.
It is inspiring to watch Obama in South Africa, watching him take his teenage daughters to Robbin’s Island, where Madiba (clan name for Nelson Mandela)was imprisoned for so many years. It is something his daughters will surely never forget. Obama and Nelson Mandela also shared the same position on marriage equality, which is now being celebrated in scores of marriages here: it is a basic civil right that Mandela boldly put forth early during his tenure as President. Unfortunately it is not treated the same way in many other parts of Africa, where it is considered a Western idea and an imperialist malaise.
Barack Obama’s vision and world view accords with mine. After eight years of Bush 43, it’s such a relief. I am moved by his words and actions during his recent visit to Africa.