Yes We Canada

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 24, 2009 Ed Cartoon

The massive crowd that gathered on Parliament Hill last week to welcome Barack Obama to Canada was a testament to the new American president’s indisputable celebrity status.

What is less clear, however, is whether or not Obama’s cult following will help or hurt the quality of his presidency.

Thanks to his charm and charisma, Obama has been hyped up by the media and public alike as a hero " an individual who is capable of bringing about great change, as his campaign continually implied.

On one hand, Obama has already proved his worth by breaking down racial barriers and being elected on a tide of global goodwill. His ascent to the Oval Office will no doubt inspire generations to come.

Yet there are no concrete results yet to prove Obama’s ability to create change. The economic stimulus package is a start, but Obama himself has noted that things will get worse before they get better. Could the United States, a society based on instant gratification, be patient enough to wait for Obama’s promised changes?

As it stands, it seems the new president can do no wrong. He is the media’s golden boy on both sides of the border. Images of the First Family flood magazine spreads and coverage of Obama includes topics such as what breed of dog he will get.

This sort of treatment of a president is not unprecedented " even George W. Bush once had his time in the sun " but the media spectacle surrounding Obama has elevated him to the likes of Hollywood celebrities.

Thankfully for Obama, his popularity will likely buy him time as he eases into the job and makes some mistakes along the way. But the honeymoon will not last forever.

In these tough economic times, those who have placed their hopes in Obama will eventually expect results. In addition, the public tends to build up icons, only to tear them down again. Case in point: the recent scandal involving Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals in Beijing and recently made front page news again after smoking marijuana at a party.

One slip-up by the new president could be heavily publicized " or the public could forgive and forget their new hero.

So far, Obama has been careful to not exploit his popularity and instead portrays himself as a normal individual. Global reactions towards him imply that others do not see him as such, however.

Here in Canada we need to focus on more than the pomp and circumstance and instead pay attention to how Obama’s policies will actually affect our country.

Overall, it remains to be seen what sort of legacy Obama will leave. If Bush’s two terms are any indication, public favour can shift dramatically in eight, or even four years.

Obama faces some great challenges in the months ahead. Only time will tell if Obama is more than just hype.

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