There were scenes of wild jubilation at the American Embassy in London last night after Barack Obama was elected president, the first African American to hold the office in the history of America.
Speaking to Embassy Magazine earlier in the evening, Ambassador Robert Tuttle said he was “proud” to be an American. “This is a great advert for America to show raw democracy in action. I am proud to be an American tonight.”
He added the election had been the most exciting in his life. “During the Kennedy-Nixon election I was at boarding school. We were forbidden to listen to the radio but I smuggled one under the sheets to listen to the results. I never thought anything could top that election, but this has totally eclipsed everything.”
The US Embassy was definitely the place to be in London to watch the results come in. There was a carnival atmosphere as over 1,000 people crowded into the Grosvenor Square embassy including cabinet ministers, ambassadors, commentators, politicians a sprinkling of celebrities, the Statue of Liberty and a few festive Uncle Sams.
The South African High Commissioner a poet who had lived in America as an exile during the apartheid period and participated in the Civil Rights movement said Martin Luther King’s dream had come true. “This evening is for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, all of those who fought for a moment like this,” she said and smiled: “I can feel a poem forming in my head.”
“This is a great advert for America to show raw democracy in action. I am proud to be an American tonight”
There was a hum of activity in the media area, where every major television and radio network was represented. Decorated in patriotic red, white and blue with television screens, a huge electoral map and cardboard cut-outs of the candidates, it was the perfect backdrop for on-the-spot interviews.
As the evening wore on, and the electoral map filled in - red for Kentucky, blue for Vermont - guests retired to the basement, where they kept their energy up with burgers and fries from Burger King and litres of Starbucks coffee, while swaying happily to a live rendition of Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’.
As the song goes, “You just keep me hanging on” and hang on they did. The crowds hunkered down for the night, watching breaking news on CNN in the Embassy’s auditorium. There were bursts of applause as key battleground states were called for Obama Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.
At around 4am, everybody was rounded up and gathered in the media centre. The atmosphere was electric as all eyes fixed on the television screens. There was a flurry of excitement as Virginia, a key battleground state, went to Obama a quick calculation showed he had enough electoral college votes to take the presidency. Cameras started rolling and seconds later the screens flashed: Obama elected president.
There were euphoric scenes as Americans hugged, cried and chanted: “Yes we did, yes we did!”
The race was won and as an Embassy reader had predicted the ‘skinny guy with a funny name’ had done it.