- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2008

BEIJING

World leaders and ordinary citizens around the globe expressed amazement and admiration Wednesday at the election of America’s first black president.

“His win has really changed my view of America,” Beijing sales manager Lei Xiuli said of President-elect Barack Obama. “I have read a lot about discrimination against black people in America. Now I realize that it’s actually not that bad.”

Wu Xinbo, vice president of the Shanghai Institute of American Studies, said the election demonstrated the “greatness” of the United States.

“It shows the American people have come a long way since the days of Martin Luther King,” Mr. Wu said. “In many regards, the U.S. represents more progressive ideas and China should learn from the U.S.”

Official congratulations were coupled with hopes that as president, Mr. Obama will help bring the world back from the brink of financial meltdown and provide more collaborative leadership than outgoing President Bush.

Particularly in developing countries, there was a sense of awe that Americans had elected a president whose father was from Kenya.

Kenyans danced through the night and wrapped themselves in U.S. flags, and President Mwai Kibaki declared a public holiday on Thursday in honor of Mr. Obama.

South Africa’s iconic black leader Nelson Mandela wrote in a message to Mr. Obama: “Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called Mr. Obama’s election “extraordinary” and said he hoped it would bring stronger hemispheric relations and an end to the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh praised Mr. Obama’s “extraordinary” journey that would “inspire people not only in your country but also around the world,” according to Agence-France Presse.

Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram of congratulations to Mr. Obama to hail the “historic occasion.”

Even U.S. adversaries praised the Obama win as the beginning of a new direction for the world’s sole superpower.

In a letter issued by his foreign ministry, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez congratulated Mr. Obama, citing his election as a “symptom” of the same political trends that have brought leftist leaders to power throughout South America.

Iran, suspected of trying to develop nuclear weapons, saw the Obama win as “an evident sign of that country’s people demanding basic changes in U.S. foreign and domestic policy,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

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