1sunfight’s Weblog

November 21, 2008

The Rebranding of America Through Barack Obama

Filed under: Daily Observations,Obama,politics,Uncategorized — Julie P @ 1:02 am
Tags: , ,

Receiving a warm welcome is not the same as maintaining one, and Obama has a lot of work to do to improve the US brand.

America’s image has declined in nearly every region of the world in recent years, but Obama’s victory “enables the United States to start again with a clean slate,” according to John Quelch, the senior associate dean at Harvard University.

“Americans can actually go to dinner parties and cocktail receptions around the world today and not have to apologize for the United States for the way they had to do for the last several years,” he said.  “The election has made life a little bit easier for Americans living and traveling abroad to hold their heads up high again.”

The United States tarnished reputation has been fueled by a combination of factors, including opposition to US foreign policies like the war in Iraq and alleged torture and abuse of prisoners, the perception of hypocrisy, unilateralism, and the perceived war on Islam, according to a congressional report released in June.

Obama represents a “clean break” from the past, and the election is a big step toward change, said Dick Martin author of “Rebranding America”.

“Changing America’s standing in the world was going to be the work of a generation, and it would have to start with some kind of grand gesture that demonstrated things were changing.  His election in itself is that kind of grand gesture,” he said.



I traveled to Ireland and the United Kingdom to study abroad not long after the invasion of Iraq. It was not my first time out of the United States, but it was the first time in a very long time. I was a little anxious about what kind of reception I would receive when I arrived in Dublin, Edinburgh, and London. My apprehension was well earned, as the invasion of Iraq was globally unpopular. There had been global demonstrations against it. There still were remains of one demonstration still clearly visible at Parliament Square and I saw slogans still spray painted on the sidewalks in Dublin. However, in spite of the recent unpopular invasion I was still warmly received wherever I went.

Two and a half years later I returned to London for a visit with a friend of mine. We traveled around London and saw the sights. We even went to see Andrea Bocelli perform at Wembley Auditorium while we were there, along with seeing Evita in Leicester Square. The entire time we were there we were treated well, people spoke warmly with us, even as we waited on a cold, windy dock for the riverboat to take us for a tour on the Thames.

During those two visits if anyone mentioned the war in Iraq or George W. Bush’s name we said we did not support or like either of them, which we did not. It helped.

When I returned to London in May of this year during the presidential primaries things were a little different then. People were asking me a lot about the election and the candidates. It was clear they did not want a Republican elected and there was great fascination with one candidate in particular, Barack Obama.

I can clearly recall sitting in St. James Park on an usually warm day there and I fell into conversation with a man there. The conversation started out pleasantly enough, but as the conversation wore on it was evident that the man harbored a lot of anti-Americanism. Much of his anti-Americanism centered on George W. Bush, but he also held a lot other ill will toward our foreign policy, along with our approach to economics. Although I did not fear that the man would make any aggressive actions toward me because I am an American, he certainly did not like many things about the United States. However, there was one thing he did like about the United States and I was grilled about that person. That person was Barack Obama.

With that man in mind, and the others I met while I was there, like the man on the Tube from Bath who spoke with me quite a bit on our journey, as long I talked favorably about Barack Obama I was liked. It made me wonder, what is it about Barack Obama that people outside of the United States seem to like about him?


“I believe Barack Obama embodies, more than any other politician, the ideals of American eloquence,” says Ekaterina Haskins, professor of rhetoric at the University of Iowa.

On winning the election, his Chicago address echoed two of the most famous speeches in US history – Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg address and the words spoken by assassinated civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King the day before his death.

Philip Collins, a speech-writer for former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, is in no doubt that Mr. Obama owes his success to his oratorical gifts.

“Rhetoric always has the connotations of being about appearances rather than reality but he doesn’t sound false. He plays with the patriotic abstractions that allow for a certain kind of rhetorical manoeuvring and fills them with specific concrete examples,” she says.


It may be that Obama’s gift as an orator, and the reasons just explained, are not only the reasons why he became well liked with Americans beginning with the 2004 Keynote speech and those that followed, they are also the reasons why people abroad like Barack Obama too. He stirs the deepest promises, the brightness of America, and that is good with it for all people. You see, America really is the shining city upon the hill and after eight long years of an unpopular president, Barack Obama reminds people about what is right with America.

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1 Comment »

  1. Julie-
    Nice. I haven’t traveled internationally in a while, but it’s nice to know that people around the world have been paying attention, and that we are not alone. I believe that President-elect Obama’s victory did indeed signal that we are ready to be members of the global community again, and not spoiled big kids in a room full of smaller children.

    Comment by ReyMac — November 21, 2008 @ 10:28 pm

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