One of my coworkers, Mary, has a daughter who is spending her junior year in college abroad. She is living with a family in France, and she has availed herself of the opportunity to travel as much as possible. She's been all over Europe, and recently traveled to Morocco.
Allison has had a wonderful time (even getting to appear in a music video in Amsterdam!), and we've all enjoyed hearing about her adventures in Europe and beyond. Mary was telling me about some of Ally's experiences the other day, especially her time in Morocco. What struck me the most was that Allison said that in talking with some of the shopkeepers and folks in the market, they all love Americans. They don't like our current president and they don't like our current foreign policy, but they asked Allison all kinds of questions about life in America and our politics. She told Mary that they love our freedoms, our abilities to be what we want to be, and the fact that we can get an advanced education.
I had recently heard on NPR that the rest of the world is watching this campaign and the upcoming presidential election with great interest. They said that most of the world considers America a "beacon of hope," and it seems that Allison's experiences abroad are similar.
The world is watching us, and they want us to be that beacon of hope. I know that many have maligned President Bush, and while there's no denying that he has been a big disappointment, he HAS made major commitments to disease prevention and treatment in Africa. (Ask Bob Geldof.)
Allison's experience, as well as the reports from world correspondents, is a reminder that the world still looks to us for help and hope. It seems to me that while we may have lowered the bar for ourselves for a while, the rest of the world has raised it again for us. Are we country enough to rise to the challenge?