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French Version

Obama's victory inspires hope among Lebanese

Lebanese citizens are responding positively to the outcome of the US election, although some remain skeptical about Barack Obama's promises to change American policy, The Daily Star learned after speaking to locals from Beirut. The shared opinion of many Lebanese is that Obama's passion and personality offer hope for the future.

Sanaa Itani, 40, followed the election closely as it played out over the past months. She instantly took a liking to Obama because he seemed genuine in his desire for change.

"Every time I saw him on television I became more and more convinced of his genuine passion," she says. "Whether it is where he stands on certain issues or his policies I just intuitively feel like he means what he said. I think America made a good choice."

Like Itani, Hadi Haddad, a 51-year-old sewing supply store owner, says that Obama has an authentic spirit and truly believed in what he was campaigning for. The end result obviously reflects that he connected with the American people, Haddad says.

"I heard a story of an 80-year-old American woman who waited hours in line to vote for Obama just because she really believed in what he was saying," Haddad explains. "You can't fake that kind of passion. Obama would only be able to evoke that kind of passion in people if he himself believed in what he was saying."

Zaki al-Shiou, a 37-year-old upholstery store owner, says he identified with Obama because of his background.

"I think he is a good choice because he is black and he is Muslim," says Shiou, referring to the Christian politician's Muslim father. "In America, blacks and Muslims are still discriminated against. So hopefully this will make Obama more sensitive to the issues of other Arab countries when it comes to his policies. And in regards to all of his policies in general it might make him more open-minded."

Other people think that despite all of Obama's promises during the campaign, it is still much too early to tell whether he will make good on his promise for change.

"We haven't seen anything of him yet," says Jamal Hussein, 50. "For example, he said in his campaign, in regards to foreign relations, that he will be the friend of any country that is a friend to America. Now this is what he says, but we haven't seen him in action yet to see if he spoke the truth."

Kamil Harb, a 70-year-old owner of a laundromat, agrees with Hussein. "Right now all of these are just words," he says of campaign promises. He even goes a step farther to categorize Obama among the ranks of all other politicians: liars.

"It's the same with all of them," Harb says. "They will say anything to get into the top chair but once they sit in it they forget all about the people that put them there. You wait and see if he is any different."

Gibran Abi-Aad, a 50-year-old dental lab technician, thinks the choice was a step in the right direction for Americans, but fears that Obama won't be able to make good on his campaign promises because of outside influences.

"He's defiantly a better choice than McCain," Abi-Aad says. "But when he steps into power you have to wonder who he is answering to and whether or not other administrative powers or lobbyist will influence or limit what he does as president."

For Rana Sbeyte, it is not what Obama says that makes her doubtful, rather it is his allies that make her mistrustful of the next president.

"He may be a better for the Americans than Bush because he is a Democrat," she says. "But in the end they are all friends with Israel so between him and the Republican candidate, he is like the lesser of two evils."

A few Lebanese citizens approached the subject with complete apathy.

"Who becomes president of America means nothing to me," says Jean Sarrouh, a 45-year-old owner of a shoe boutique. "I live in Lebanon. I work in Lebanon. I will not benefit by knowing or caring who won the American election. But congratulations to him, whoever he is."

Despite the mixed reactions of some citizens, again and again we heard talk of Obama's charisma, charm and a genuine belief in his ability to bring about change.

Walid Tabbara, a 36-year-old small business owner, respects the courage it took for Obama to go after his dream and make history in the process.

"You always hear that America is the land of promise and freedom and a place where anything is possible," Tabarra says. "Look at Obama. You can't help but to have faith in a man who goes after what he believes in, even if it is difficult as he is a pioneer in the process. As the first black president, he is living proof that anything, including change, is possible."

Beirut 06-11-2008
The Daily Star

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