Published November 6, 2008
She called from Britain Wednesday afternoon with a comment about Barack Obama's historic election as president of the United States that initially sounded silly: "He's our brother, you know."
"What are you talking about?" she was asked.
And so Annabelle Halliday, British citizen, explained: Barack Obama's father was from the East African nation of Kenya; Annabelle and her brothers were from Uganda, also an East African country. So, Obama's their brother.
But Halliday wasn't the only one claming a relationship with the first black to be elected president of the U.S. In just about every country around the world, people were saying the same thing: Barack Obama is family.
No, they weren't being literal, but the message was clear. This man, born of an African father, a white mother from Kansas, raised by white grandparents in Hawaii after spending four years in Indonesia belongs to the world.
The news broadcasts from London to Rome to Mosow to Bombay to Sidney all showed the same thing: An outpouring of joy and pride in the man who isn't just an American. He is the first international president.
Annabelle Halliday's brother in Canada also called Wednesday to talk about celebrations that were held in Ottawa and cities around the country, especially among black Canadians. Our neighbors to the north have a huge immigrant population that is well assimilated, but yet proud of its roots. There are many people from East Africa who are now living in Canada. They see in Obama a son or a brother.
This is the first time since John F. Kennedy that people around the world have been so affected by a presidential election in the United States.
As for Annabelle and her brother, Herman de Souza, their calls to this writer were a reminder that we really do live in a global village — with Obama now recognized as the chief.