CNN’s In the Field: This election will change the world

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Note: While I like the title of the CNN blog post, I have to admit that I would have tweaked it to: “This election will change the world – if we get up and contribute to change”.

November 4, 2008
Posted: 1613 GMT

NEW YORK — Finding myself in New York City this U.S. election Day, I saw scenes that reminded me of the first democratic elections I covered in Afghanistan in 2004, or Iraq in 2005.

Scenes that reminded me of the historic election in South Africa in 1994 when a black man, Nelson Mandela, was elected president thus ending generations of white minority rule known as apartheid.

Or 1998 in Iran when women and young people turned out en masse to elect the first ever reform president, the moderate cleric Mohammad Khatami.

The enduring motif from those elections were the massively long lines at the polling centers. Men and women standing patiently, sometimes for hours, to cast their first ever vote for a hopeful secure future.

And that’s what I saw this morning in New York City as the polls opened. As I rode my son to school by bike, we passed a public school-turned voting center that made us gasp.

There were lines wrapped right around the whole block.

People were waiting happily, patiently, with their take-away coffee cups, snapping pictures of each other, recording what they clearly believed was their role in this historic democratic drama.

I asked some whether they had ever stood in line so long to vote here in the U.S. “Never” they said, smiling. TV and radio report similar long queues across the country.

Remember, the U.S. is never known for its high voter turnouts.

Everywhere you look the mood smacks of history…almost a foregone conclusion. Even New York City’s right-wing leading tabloids, are calling it for Obama.

These past few days, people riding in elevators, walking the corridors of their workplace, hopping in cabs or taking care of their kids, have all been discussing their plans for today, election day: Planning not just to cast their own vote, but to help shuttle the elderly, and cajole new young voters to the polls.

Meantime cable and broadcast TV networks can barely contain themselves: Newspaper articles quote news executives all but saying they will be able to call the election as soon as polls close early evening.

No election has electrified the U.S. like this since 1968. But the whole world wishes it could cast a vote in this one. Whatever happens, this U.S. election will change the world. Stay tuned.

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