Leaving O'Hare airport on the afternoon of election day, I was somewhere near Greenland on a flight to Europe when the captain announced the results. "At the moment," he said, "Senator McCain is delivering his concession speech, and Senator Obama had been elected president." In the plane, there was spontaneous applause and cheers.
Landing in Geneva, and remembering my rusty French, the cashier at the money exchange window said, "You must be happy. This is magnificent." My taxi driver told me this was "extraordinary." And the hotel clerk, upon realizing I was an American, immediately offered me her congratulations.
I came here for a meeting of about 30 folks from around the globe at the World Council of Churches. A bishop from Nigeria told me how his wife had called him from home the night before, full of excitement, saying, "We've won!" A friend from the Sudan told me earnestly, "This is not just good for America. It's good for the whole world." And a young woman theologian teaching at a seminary in Brazil told me she had received an e-mail from friends with Obama's acceptance speech already translated into Portuguese.
I worked in Geneva with the World Council of Churches for six years and have returned here often while serving on its governing board. But in all my visits here, I've never been so popular as an American.
This morning's local paper had a headline about "the new America." And I received an e-mail message from my friend Rev. Richard Howell, who is General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India. "If the whole evangelical world, now predominantly from the Two Thirds World (Asia, Africa, Latin America), were to have voted, we would hazard a good guess that Obama would have won by a landslide," he wrote.
We know the heavy expectations placed on the shoulders of President-elect Obama by Americans-both those who voted for him and those who supported Senator McCain. But I wonder if most Americans comprehend the enormous hope, and huge expectations, that are felt around the world. Most of the world feels they won this election. And now they're waiting to see a difference.
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson served as legislative assistant to Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-OR) from 1968 to 1976. Today he serves as general secretary of the Reformed Church in America.