For the first time in the history of the United States, the American People have elected a multi-cultural President of African decent. The Ethiopian Crown Council congratulates the people of the United States and President-elect, Barack Obama, for this transcendent and inspirational example of multiculturalism and racial harmony. As the climax to more than a century of bloody struggle against imperialism in the old world, and the withering vestiges of slavery in the new, President-elect Obama’s victory presents a shining beacon of hope for all humanity – Africans at home and of the Diaspora in particular.
More than seventy years ago, Ethiopia’s emperor, Haile Selassie I, stood before the League of Nations in defense of his country’s rights against Italian aggression. In the 1930s, as he spoke, virtually every inch of African soil lay under foreign colonial rule and African-Americans suffered under a stifling regime of segregation. Yet a scant thirty years later, Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle to free African-Americans from the burden of racial prejudice in America, while ironically at the same time, Nelson Mandela languished in an apartheid South African prison – another symbol of a continent still struggling to shake itself free.
Now, 45 years after the March on Washington, 46 years after Mandela’s arrest, and 72 years after Haile Selassie’s demand for freedom to the League of Nations, every inch of Africa is free and African-Americans have seen previously unimaginable dreams realized. Though grand it may be, we must remain humbly ever mindful that this final victorious link in a century’s old chain of hard fought accomplishment, is not Barack Obama’s alone. There is a saying that we all stand on someone’s shoulders, thus we must never forget the great personal sacrifice of countless unsung heroes across America who helped make this extraordinary moment possible.
Thousands upon thousands of Ethiopian-Americans have supported President-elect Obama. Every Ethiopian who left our homeland behind to seek hope in a new world can now see himself in Obama’s Kenyan father, and as a son of Africa the eyes of all Africans are upon him. Moreover, every child born to Ethiopian émigrés on these new shores can now see itself in Obama – and know that one day they too might hold America’s highest office. The President-elect has shattered barriers to capture the imagination of all Ethiopian-Americans, challenging them to participate fully in American democracy in the certain knowledge that they too can shape the fate of that great nation.
In the past, the Ethiopian Crown Council has applauded George W. Bush and his administration for eight years of strong support for Africa. Bush’s accomplishments in terms of African aid and bilateral development, and in the struggle against HIV, have been unprecedented. We call upon the president-elect to follow his predecessor’s example in this regard and build ever-closer ties between the United States and the entire African continent.
For many generations, America has seen itself as a city on a hill, a fortress for freedom built anew by those who have left their old world and their old lives behind in search for a better tomorrow. For centuries, Europe’s gifts to America have kept that dream alive, as all European countries (and others) have contributed their sons and daughters to build America’s future. Today, it is Africa’s turn.
On January 20, 2009, a Kenyan-American will be inaugurated leader of the free world. Through his extraordinary example, the President-elect has shown Africa — indeed, the world — that all barriers can be broken. He has demonstrated to African-Americans that their imagination must ignite with a renewed sense of what is now possible – today it is a Kenyan and perhaps one day soon it will be a South African, a Ghanaian and an Ethiopian.