While most Americans were watching at home the televised election coverage, I was on a Ferry between Helsinki Finland and Stockholm Sweden. Seven hours difference, I was up early in the morning finding out that Obama was our new president. However, in the lounges of the ferry, there were other people also watching , and none of them spoke English. They were Europeans with their eyes glued to the television set, cheering when Obama was declared the victor. It was incredible getting the pats ( more like punches) on the back congratulating me on finally choosing someone that made sense. It is a new world they declared. Now they like us.
That morning, I gave a speech on our company, CellAntenna, to telecommunications experts in Stockholm Sweden. My first words, carefully chosen, were the following:
“ I want to be the first to welcome the new president of the United States, Barak Obama”
I got a standing ovation.
I realized immediately that the best we could have done for public relations in Europe, was to elect Obama president. They hated us before, and now they love us. One of the people that was at the conference said to me:
“ We needed an excuse to stop hating you and start loving you again. Obama is a good excuse”.
In the European environment, perception is reality. They perceive Obama to be a president that will change the way the world is. Now they have hope since over the last several years, the world was upside down in their eyes and of course Bush was the real culprit. The United States, well, they had no choice since Bush was the one that really caused the problems, not the Americans. The excuse for hating us was Bush. Now the excuse for loving us is Obama.
From Sweden I travelled to London England. In the tube on the way to my office the following morning, the newspapers were filled with Obama stories.
“Americans Get it Right This Time” said one.
The euphoria continued as I saw more and more people during the week and into the weekend reading news papers and listen and watching their BBC, all of them exalting the new US President, as if he were the President of the World. Perception again is reality.
Our image now in Europe has been a metamorphosis from the evil empire to a nation of good. The result of course will be increased trade and more tourists. We need to take advantage of all of this good will while it lasts, with increased activity from US business going over to sell US products and services. We can influence government decisions and unify Europe in dealing with the bad boys of this world so that no war will ever be necessary again. We need to show them just how much we have changed.
President Elect Obama should consider a European trip even before his inauguration. I few handshakes of reassurance will keep the goodwill going, and help with our relationship.
I can tell you that I need to be prepared as well for my next trip to Europe next month. I will bring some American flags, a couple of American pins and a renewed smile on my face, knowing once again as an American I am loved.
It is amazing what an election will do. If I knew it was going to be this good, I would have voted for Obama in the first place 🙂