OBAMA'S TRIUMPH: My ringside seat at the making of history

Camden Labour supporter Tulip Siddiq reports from the Ohio campaign trail as an historic US election reached its climax MORE THAN 40 years have passed since Martin Luther King uttered these impassioned words: I ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! If King had exc

MORE THAN 40 years have passed since Martin Luther King uttered these impassioned words. ''I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!''

If King had exceeded the average life expectancy of an American male by just five years, he could have conceivably witnessed the victory speech of arguably the most powerful African American orator since him, Barack Obama.

I find myself wondering whether this is what King had in mind when he spoke of the promised land and does the election of a black president represent the end of America's post-racial journey?

Nothing could have prepared me for the electric energy in the air when I landed in Columbus airport. In the short ride from the airport to my motel, I saw 'Obama-Biden' stakes planted in the back yards of passionate Democrats. I saw three-month-old babies with Obama badges pinned to their bibs and groups of young men with 'Yes we can' tattooed on their arms.

It felt like the city was on the brink of a new era, as if the residents were anticipating that this election was going to transform their lives.

Campaigning in Ohio for Obama during the past week has been different to any other campaign I've worked on. My campaigning colleagues here have a vision of change, not just for Columbus, or Ohio, or America but for the world.

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Obama's election is seen as the beginning of a new life and a new way of thinking.

On Saturday I attended the Obama rally in Columbus along with 60,000 people. I was sandwiched between a sophisticated lady carrying the latest Prada handbag and a funky student with dreadlocks who believed it was better to shout out the Pledge of Allegiance rather than recite it.

The excitement increased steadily and then Michelle Obama stepped out. The sophisticated Prada lady turned to me and said ''I'm getting emotional already,'' and to my disbelief, she started sobbing hysterically as Obama took centre stage.

The passion in that crowd was almost beyond description. That's when it hit me, that this was not just a political rally, this was history in the making.

Obama fought the election on a platform for change. Obama's message of hope prevailed over McCain and Palin's descent into negative campaigning. American voters could not be swayed by tenuous associations with has-been terrorists or the suggestion that Obama was a 'closet Muslim' at a time when Wall Street is collapsing, people are having their homes repossessed and American soldiers are still giving their lives, calamities that most voters associate with the incumbent Republicans.

So what can we expect from an Obama presidency? Majorities in the Congress and Senate as well as his presidential veto powers put Obama in a powerful position. But how will he use it? We can expect healthcare reforms, improving access and affordability for all. The election result and credit crunch create a compelling mandate for economic reform.

From my side of the pond, and probably for most of the world, it will be his foreign policy that will be most under scrutiny. How will he approach the threat of terrorism? How will he deal with Iraq/Afghanistan/Iran? Not to forget Syria. Will he adopt a more multi-lateral approach or have the Bush-like 'go it alone' mentality?

Will he appeal to Americans to view themselves as part of a wider world dealing with global issues?

And last but definitely not the least - is Barack Obama going to be able to live up to extremely high expectations?

Before I let my archetypal British cynicism get the better of me, I reflect on the many positives of the 2008 presidential election. Victory for Obama will not heal America's racial divides overnight, but would undoubtedly be of huge symbolic significance. The bigots will have been dealt a major blow and those who complain that black youngsters lack positive role models, will have to re-evaluate.

Ultimately, Obama's election can only send a positive message to the rest of the world.

Tulip Siddiq