The G20 summit took place amidst much uncertainty, some division, and a sense that the world is about to change dramatically as it wrestles with the worst economic crisis in more than seven decades. The result of the summit, at least on the surface, was a pledge to cooperate and find common solutions. In the months ahead, we may end up questioning whether this was a useful endeavour. Each leader will end up playing to the cameras of his or her country, and we know that not everyone agrees with the various stimulus packages, nor do they all agree on other measures. At best, we can say it is work in progress.
Still, Obama brought a new energy and a new spirit to the meeting. His tone and manner contrasted with that of the previous administration, and this seems to have been appreciated if one judges by the early press accounts. Obama has made efforts to change the dynamic with Russia on arms and with China on economic cooperation. He has also rejected—in convincing terms—any tendency towards protectionism. Granted, there is lingering resentment directed at American policies in financial matters and their effects on the economies of the rest of the world. However, Obama is urging his counterparts to look ahead to the future rather than dwell on past mistakes. Obama is becoming the consummate multitasker, giving new direction to the US economy while also bringing new approaches to world matters. Clearly, this president intends to regain the moral credibility that was lost over the past eight years.
We are just two-thirds of the way into the first 100 days. A year ago, Obama was having to make an historic speech on racism just to save his candidacy. Forty one years ago this month, Martin Luther King was assassinated. King’s hope was that a president be chosen on the basis of his character and not of his colour. We have come a long way. The new president has begun to break the mold that has been so questionable for years. It is exhilarating, but it remains work in progress.