Argentina was not prepared for the strong impact generated by U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit. Like every president, he has successes and failures, both domestically and internationally. However it is impossible not to think of him as one of the best prepared men on earth to carry out a process of dialogue and understanding with any other political party.
From the arrival of Air Force One onto Argentine soil the unexpected happened – a majority acceptance from the Argentine people of the U.S. President and his entourage. And an idea kept spinning in my head, “The Argentine people were waiting many years this visit.”
Something that played an important strategic role was the additional arrival of President Obama’s family - wife, daughters and even his mother in law - marking a profound difference from any other protocol visit. Argentina is a country passionate about family and President Obama understood this from the first moment he planned this visit.
It is not possible to fully analyze the implications of the President's visit without at least mentioning First Lady Michelle Obama - a person of unquestionable character and outstanding intelligence – and her important contributions. Focusing on specific issues such as women’s rights in the twenty-first century and health problems across the continent, she caught the attention of every one of the attendees who had the opportunity to hear her words.
This presidential visit seeped into the depths of a society that needed a paradigm shift, away from the false dichotomies that were built over years, and movement toward to a collaborative level with the world. The average Argentine expects to see a message from his government to know he is not alone in his thinking, and the Argentine government‘s message was blunt: a new stage is set, not only with the U.S., but with the whole free world.
I had the opportunity to be present at President Obama’s Town Hall Meeting during his visit, close enough to see the sparkle in his eyes when he emphasized his vision of educational policies for the region. The room was filled with youth entrepreneurs as President Obama stated, educational exchanges, such as his signature education initiative 100,000 Strong in the Americas, are vital in the Americas. He stressed on several occasions throughout his speech the need to intensify the exchange of knowledge, culture and visions throughout the Americas.
I witnessed that the emerging generation of Argentine businessmen and Argentina’s administration alike thought President Obama’s visit was a success. The visit returned Argentina to a path that had been forgotten a decade ago, a path toward a strategic partnership with the U.S.
The cards laid out on the table have the opportunity to rebuild a relationship that can only benefit both countries. They not only depend on the intelligence of both governments, but fundamentally the societies of both countries appropriating this new bridge of understanding to start exchanging the best each has to offer one another.
Want to read more about President Obama's trip to Argentina? George Mason University junior Stephanie Bishop is currently studying abroad in Buenos Aires through Partners' 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund. Read Stephanie's experience attending the Town Hall Meeting.