As a Canadian, I am always aware of the vastness of my country, the second largest in the world. It's normally a fact that I'm secretly thrilled with as a Canadian but not today. Today, I wish Canada was much smaller. If it were, I'd have seriously thought about finding my way to Ottawa, our capital city, to freeze with the big, cheering crowds that tried desperately to see a glimpse of US President, Barack Obama. Alas, I don't have my own jet nor the time or money to travel 3,500 kilometres as the crow flies. I had to watch on TV like many other Canadians.
We in Canada, at the last poll taken, were so charged with Obama-mania that about 80% of us admired the new American president. Just as a point of comparison, that is more than the popularity of our own leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Seeing the Canadian news this morning you could see even normally stuffy, stiff politicians looking a bit giddy to host Obama.
I admit I have been swept along by the charismatic style and soaring rhetoric of Obama. I, like many Canadians and other people around the world, have watched the presidential race closely. We in Canada, I think, had a special interest in the result because we are the largest trade partner and one of the closest allies of the United States.
I tried to read and watch what I could today about Obama's visit to our nation's capital, to our prime minister. I was excited to see not only his grinning acknowledgement of those crowds screaming "Yes We Can!" but also the gracious press conference between both leaders. Hey, it was one the few times I'd seen my Prime Minister actually seem human and even somewhat eloquent. I think, like most Canadians watching, we felt like the shy girl in the corner getting winked at by the popular guy in school. We felt seen, validated. I think we haven't felt that way for a while.
I realize that the national news networks in the U.S. weren't as interested in the Canadian personal stories of the day but I wish they had paid just a little attention to our news tidbits. I've seen the touching images from the U.S. of young African American kids crying when they realize that they too can become president but it translates to some other countries as well. It happened here. I got misty-eyed. It was sweet to see young Canadian kids of colour saying, 'I see Obama and I know I can be ANYTHING I want if I work hard enough". As a teacher, I know that I could have told my students that until I was blue in the face before but they had to see it to believe it. They believe it now. I know they'll believe me more readily now.
The story becomes a little personal for me now. A young teenager I once taught some years back seemed to have problems seeing any point of trying to do better. I learned, from another teacher, the day after the election, that this same student had begged to be allowed a few minutes grace to get home in time to watch the news about Obama. Not one time but many times. This startled me in a good way. I was hopeful but hesitant. Was this the spark that was needed to chase away the regular gloom I'd seen in this child? I saw this student the next day, the young eyes still shining with hope. I smiled and got a shy one in return. I quietly said, "Yes you can". I saw the "Yes I can" returned in the shining smile I got as an answer.