It was more like a campaign crowd greeting a candidate than soldiers meeting with their commander-in-chief. The soldiers cheered wildly. They mobbed Barack Obama, reaching out to shake his hand, to seek his autograph.
The scene at Camp Victory in Iraq when Obama paid the troops a surprise visit was the climax of an 80-day journey to an economic summit in London, a 60th celebration of NATO in France and Germany and a U.S.-European Union summit in Prague. The new president met with many world leaders in the course of his journey, including those who rule China, Russia and India.
As many Americans this week celebrate Easter, the holiest day on the Christian calendar, and Passover, the Jewish festival of freedom, they can look with pride at Barack Obama's first foray into international politics. Our young president is confronting difficult economic times at home. And, on this international mission, he acquitted himself well.
He was cheered not only by American servicemen and women -- but many European citizens reacted warmly to Obama's hopeful words. He has a personality that, so far, seems to make a deep impression on the people he visits. From the Queen of England to our kids in Iraq, the verdict was favorable. They like this guy.
It's much too early, of course, to assess the true impact of his trip abroad or of the revolutionary measures he has taken at home to try to right the economy. But Americans can agree that this is not a man who hesitates to meet challenges. Obama's aides, as might be expected, gave him high marks. His chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, proclaimed: "America is back." Adviser David Axelrod said, "Over time, the seeds that were planted here are going to be very, very valuable."
Readers of the NY Times blog were generally favorable to Obama. One wrote of the European odyssey: "I have been so proud of President and Mrs. Obama and the way they represented our country during this trip. How refreshing and wonderful to have a President that listens to others, speaks eloquently and lets the world know that the American people want a government that listens to all sides."
In his book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama wrote that he discovered, at the very outset of his career, that "what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart and that, if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem but we can get something meaningful done."
The words were written by a young man running for the state legislature in Illinois 12 years ago. The question now is whether he can deliver on those words, to any degree, for the people of America and the world.