Voting in Change : Exciting to be French Again

The crowds march towards Bastille...
The café next to the Odéon was hardly full, but it turned out to be prime seating to discover the news as the crowds started marching down Boulevard Saint-Germain – France had a new president.

The French have decided, by a slim margin, to elect a socialist president, something the country hasn’t seen at the Elysée since 1995.  While far from the most exciting presidential candidate, Francois Hollande and the change he could bring to France have awakened Paris on a normally quiet Sunday evening.  From the banks of the Canal and all across rue de Rivoli, drivers honked their horns, waving flags, ready to welcome the new president at the Bastille. 

I didn’t dare head to the Bastille for two reasons.  First off, I’m no fan of crowds.  Secondly, this is not my victory.  I’m not French and I didn’t want to crash a patriotic party.  But I’m still excited.  As TF1 airs images of celebrations across France, in Toulouse, Marseille, and throughout the streets of Paris, I can’t help but feel the same fresh air that blew in during November 2008 when Obama won the presidency.  The newness of it all, the hope for change, the seemingly endless possibility – it’s all very electrifying.

Oh hi Mister President!
Seeing all of these people on TV cheering the new president, however, I’m not entirely swept up in it all.  As an immigrant, there could be certain changes that may affect people like me in terms of social changes and policies.  That said, I’ve survived nearly four of Sarkozy’s five years without much to complain about, so I’m not sure what I can expect. 

But for France, the change could be something akin to the change I felt when Obama won in 2008.  The day after the `08 election, I felt an undeniable pride to be an American.  I didn’t feel like I had to hide my nationality while in a foreign country (no more sewing Canadian flag patches on our backpacks when traveling…). 

In France Hollande accused Sarkozy of ruining the image of this nation.  Whether he was right or wrong, I can imagine how many of the Hollande supporters are feeling now.  Regardless of what’s in store for the country and what Monsieur Hollande manages to do, it’s uplifting to see the French getting excited about being French again.