Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Meaning of a Train Ride

Today Barack Obama went on a train ride from Philadelphia to Washington, but why? Was it a symbol of unification or an unnecessary security risk? (Image: HuffingtonPost) Today when watching U.S. President Elect Barack Obama make his "whistle-stop" train ride to the United States capital, the first thing I noticed, as I'm sure anyone else would, was the people standing in the frigid cold at the locations of the slow-rolls and speeches. It's always surprising to see how many people show up for these events, let alone in the freezing cold of days like today.

The dedication of thousands of people for merely a glimpse of a train carrying the president elect, or a waving Obama if they're lucky, is stunning. It made me wonder why this was happening and why nothing like it is happening in Canada. The former is a very interesting question that has a whole range of possible answers. I believe it had a lot to do with what he represents.

Barack Obama represents many different things to people, but I think what most people have in common is the view that he is a symbol of hope. It sounds corny to some extent, but, beyond the rhetoric, Obama has transcended the politics that we have all been exposed to. He floats over the bickering and seems to react to situations like a normal person would.

Now using the words "normal person" is a bit tricky. I simply mean that he doesn't think about political positioning first, instead he seems to do what he thinks is right. Speaking as a Canadian, I've never experienced a connection to a politician in the way that I have while watching Obama over the last year and a half. Here, politicians seem to be dry and incapable of inspiring the electorate, not to mention inspire themselves.

Watching the American campaign has inspired a sense of yearning in me for a similar figure in Canada, but there are no signs of anything of the sort. To have a political leader represent hope to so many people is truly inspiring. Watching him make his way to the place where he will govern from for the next 4 years was historic. Even as a Canadian I can understand and respect the appeal of being part of that moment. My only wish is that this country experiences it soon as well, but for now I feel inspired to see the transformation in the States.