About the Author: Renee Earle serves as Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the European Union.
Hello from Brussels, the administrative capital of the European Union, and, for many, the heart of Europe. Last night, that heart was broadly given to our new President, Barack Obama.
TV channels across Europe carried the ceremonies, and this morning it was hard to find a newspaper without a front cover carrying the image of the U.S. inauguration. Some papers ran 20 pages of coverage, and “open letters” from Foreign Ministers and school children detailed recommendations and aspirations for a world that can be renewed. From small towns to the European Union’s principal institutions, all shared in the significance of the moment. Braine- le-Comte, a small town south of Brussels, gathered its citizens around a large-screen showing of the inauguration in its town square while Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, issued a public statement: “I personally believe that the election of President Obama was a defining, turning point for America. It may now also be an important turning point for the rest of the world.”
Both the U.S. Mission to the EU and our “bilat,” the U.S. Embassy in Belgium, hosted standing-room-only receptions to view the inauguration. Smilingly enthusiastic, our European guests, like the editorial comment across Europe and Belgian Defense Minister, Pieter De Crem, in his speech at the Embassy event, hailed a new era, a renewal of America and its place in the world. European officials, media, NGO leaders and other friends tried also to focus some attention on the challenges ahead and the great, perhaps unrealistic, expectations for one president, who would have to be “a cross between Gandhi and Superman,” but last night the emphasis was on jubilation and hope. This morning, an email from a European think tank contact summed up the feelings, “You may not believe it yet, but America is back.”