Worldwide Hopes Soar for Obama Inauguration
January 20, 2009 - 4:45 PMA world made weary by war, recession, joblessness and fear shed its collective burden Tuesday to celebrate the arrival of a new American president. Bulls and goats were slaughtered for feasts in Kenya and caterers prepped for black-tie balls in the capitals of Europe.
From Kenya and Indonesia, where Barack Obama has family ties, to Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America, Obama represented a volcanic explosion of hope for better days ahead.
The ascendance of the first African-American to the presidency of the United States was heralded as marking a new era of tolerance and possibility.
It was a reflection of Obama's sprawling, complex family tree that villages in places as diverse as Ireland and Kenya held special parties to celebrate their link to the new president.
In Kenya, feasts were prepared, Obama beer was stockpiled and movie screens erected so neighbors could join together for the moment, only a year after their own elections were marred by horrific ethnic violence.
"Our election in Kenya really had problems with ethnicity ... America has shown that this doesn't have to be that big a problem," said Dr. Joseph Osoo, who runs a clinic in one of Kenya's biggest slums and last year in January was stitching up those wounded in election riots.
"Kenyans are very happy because their son is going to be the leader of America," he said.
In the village of Kogelo in western Kenya, where many of Obama's Kenyan relatives live, women dressed in colorful printed cloths performed traditional dances at dawn to the rhythms of cowhide drums.
At the biggest hospital in nearby Kisumu, Christine Aoko named her newborn daughter Michelle, after Obama's wife.
"I hope my girl will grow as tough as Michelle," Aoko told The Associated Press.
An Irish village called Moneygall covered itself in red, white and blue bunting Tuesday in honor of Obama's connections, via a great-great-great grandfather named Fulmouth Kearney who emigrated to the United States in 1850. Road signs read "Moneygall welcomes our President, Barack Obama."
They also baked a special round fruitcake, locally called a "brack," to sell for the occasion _ and put pictures of Obama on the wrapping.
In the South American country of Guyana, dozens of work sites closed at noon to let employees watch the inauguration.
"As far as I am concerned, today is a holiday," said Patrick Hazelwood, an insurance agent in the capital of Georgetown. "I have also told my staff they are free to do what they want and take in the ceremony. Today is a serious day for everybody, a historic day."
There was also jubilation in the often violent Colombian town of Puerto Tejada, where sugarcane-cutting descendants of African slaves had the day off to celebrate and watched the proceedings on a giant screen.
"The people here see themselves represented in Obama," Mayor Elver Montano told The Associated Press.
In Sweden, African-American singer Cyndee Peters was hosting a show named "A Gala for Obama," featuring dozens of Swedish soul, jazz, hip-hop, gospel, folk and blues artists.
"Obama fever is all over the whole world, " said Peters, 62, who grew up in North Carolina and New York. "What he stands for needs to be celebrated."
"No one is doing their favorite songs or greatest hits," Peters added. "We're doing songs about hope."
In London, Americans could get free admission to Madame Tussaud's waxworks to see the new figure of Obama, and Queen Elizabeth II sent the new president a personal message of support. Parties were scheduled in dozens of venues, from ritzy hotels to local sports bars.
Louise Darko from Atlanta was standing on line to be photographed with the Obama waxwork. She was thrilled with Obama's inauguration because of the difficulties her great-grandfather faced when he was one of the first blacks to attend university in the American south.
"Now when I tell my children you can grow up to be anything, I really mean it," said Darko, 44. "
In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, where Obama spent four years as a young boy, students from his former school swayed and spun in bright, traditional costumes representing Indonesia's ethnically diverse tropical islands.
Old classmates gathered to watch his speech at the Menteng 1 elementary school, where he is fondly remembered as a chubby kid called Barry.
"I'm proud that the next president is someone who I have shared time with," said Rully Dasaad, a fellow Boy Scout with Obama. "It is when we learned tolerance, sharing, pluralism, acceptance and respect of difference in cultures and religions."
In the Japanese town of Obama, hula dancers performed _ Obama was born in Hawaii, and hula is popular in Japan. Businesses pumped out Barack Obama sweet bean cakes, chopsticks, T-shirts, fish burgers, neck ties and noodles.
Many across the Middle East heralded the inauguration but expressed reservations about how much Obama will actually change U.S. policy in a region where anti-American sentiment spiked during George W. Bush's administration.
Those doubts have become more pronounced in recent weeks with the devastating Gaza offensive by U.S. ally Israel that killed over 1,250 Palestinians.
But Obama still retains a great deal of goodwill in the Middle East for having a Muslim father.
Saleh al-Mohaisen, who runs a jewelry store in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said he was "overjoyed" when Obama was elected.
"I felt that he could understand Arab suffering," he said. "I feel we share the same blood."
AP writers Min Lee in Hong Kong, Anthony Deutsch and Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin, William J. Kole in Vienna, Karl Ritter in Sweden, Dean Carson in London, Bert Wilkinson in Guyana, Vivian Sequera in Colombia and writers across the Middle East contributed to this report.
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