A mysterious metamorphosis happens to Americans abroad. While at home we are often fractured in our beliefs and apathetic about our country, when we travel those differences fall away. I have never before bothered to watch an inaugural speech, and yet somehow I found myself crammed into a little hotel room with ten other Americans at midnight last night to watch the ceremony and hear Obama’s speech. The speech was meant to inspire Americans to come together to work for a better future, something that I expect went right over the heads of most everyone back home. And not too long ago I would have discounted it too. But sitting on the floor of that crowded room looking around at my spell-bound friends glued to the television, I felt differently. Here we are together – a group of men and women, Christians and Muslims and Jews and Atheists, with political opinions that represent a wide range of American thought. A microcosm of the diversity of the United States.
As Obama wrapped up his thoughts, Kelsey held up a finger and laughed “Satu America!” Satu Malaysia, One Malaysia, is a huge political theme here as Malaysia tries to unite three distinct ethnic and religious groups under one banner. In a sense that is exactly what Obama was trying to communicate – Satu America, One America. The idea that our vast differences can somehow be united to create a future that is better for all. And here in Malaysia, in the face of humidity and spicy food and the sense that we need to rely on each other if we are going to survive and thrive, we move past our individual differences and find a common ground as Americans.