A couple of years back nobody would have believed that a black American could be elected President of the United States. Half a century back anybody entertaining the idea would have been considered crazy. American society has undergone vital social changes during the last half century. On Tuesday it took a qualitative jump by electing with a thundering majority Barack Hussein Obama who besides being black is also the son of a Muslim. Despite federal laws against discrimination, blacks in a number of Southern states were virtually denied the right to vote till about the middle of the 60's. These states required voters to be able to read the constitution and to explain it, something few Afro-Americans could do. The feat helped to disenfranchise the blacks. Voter registration efforts by activists were met with violent repression from state and local lawmen, White Citizens' Council and the notorious Ku Klux Klan resulting in beatings, arrests and the murder of activists. There was widespread segregation. In Montgomery Rosa Parks, a black American, who was later known as the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, was arrested when she refused to get up of her seat on a public bus to make room for a white passenger. She was tried and convicted for disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. In September 1957 a crisis erupted in Little Rock, Arkansas when Governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to prevent the nine African American students who had sued for the right to attend Little Rock Central High School. To carry out the orders of the federal courts President Eisenhower ordered the National Guard to return to their barracks and deployed elements of the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to protect the students. The students were thus enabled to attend high school but had to pass through lines of spitting and jeering whites to attend classes on their first day, and to put up with harassment from fellow students for the rest of the year. Eight years later in 1965 black football players were refused service by a number of New Orleans hotels and businesses, and white cabdrivers refused to carry black passengers. This forced the American Football League to move the AFL All-Star Game to Houston. Most blacks still remain backward. As compared to the whites the proportion of the blacks in jail is much higher. The way minorities both racial and social have voted for Obama, the administration under him would have to be more responsive to the problems they face. The process of integration will move faster than before. This suits those who happen to be the real are movers and shakers in the US. Will the election help improve the US economy? Will it improve the lot of the poor in the US who constitute the other America? Much will depend on whether President Obama is able to change the policies that have been dictated by the military industrial complex. In case he does so he will have to cut down the defence budget which after including indirect expenses has reached a whooping $ trillion this year. The world would judge him from what he does to make it a more peaceful place. Will Mr Obama start putting an end to the American bases around the world, cut back on fanciful schemes like the anti-missile system which has initiated an armed race with China and the USSR? Will the US revise its strategy vis--vis the Palestinian people? Will he seek peace with Iran? Again, will he change the single-pronged, military focused policy to fight terrorism? Or will he learn from the failures of the past and go for a holistic policy? Among the measures needed to bring peace is the initiation of a dialogue with the Muslim world where history of past relations combined with the prevailing poverty and social backwardness provide breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism. The world is gradually moving towards a multi-polar system where the US is no more the sole superpower. It will judge President Obama from the courage he displays by devising policies that benefit both the US and the world at large. For this he will have to think beyond the immediate interests of the well-known merchants of death and their collaborators and beneficiaries in the American establishment. E-mail: azizuddin@nation.com.pk