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Raising the red, white and blue...

LIKE most corners of the globe next week, Shanghai will be caught up in the euphoria of the inauguration of a new president of the United States. It will be a big event in Washington, with pomp and ceremony fittingly concluding one of the most engrossing presidential contests for generations.

One Shanghai resident who trod the campaign path during 2008 and will no doubt be letting the hair down in her own style on Tuesday night is Amy Summers.

A leading convenor of the organization Democrats Abroad, Summers is a patriotic American who has lived and worked in Shanghai since 2004. "Younger than Obama" and the mother of two boys, one a teenager, Seattle-raised Summers' student life and career was China-destined.

A fluent Mandarin speaker, she is a national partner of a leading US law firm in China and in 2007 won the Business Woman of the Year Award of the Expatriate Professional Women's Society in Shanghai.

But her 2008 was caught up in the presidential campaign as much as possible given work and life commitments.

"A group of us started working to raise support for Obama in the primary stages and when in 2008 it became clear that he would take the nomination, this shifted to an effort to get people registered to vote," Summers said last week.

Her enthusiasm was buoyed by the signs of a shift away from the incumbent US administration. "In some of the voter registration drives, a number of people said to me, 'I've worked overseas for a number of years and didn't vote in past elections but I am this time'," she said.

"One guy was in his late 40s and his wife was from Hong Kong. He said 'I haven't voted my entire life and my wife is telling me I have to vote this time.' His daughter was with him and he said, 'yes, I am doing it for her'."

Summers' education about offshore perspectives of the United States was enhanced when she arrived in Shanghai in 2004. "There was a lot of coverage in the Chinese media about the Iraq war," she recalled. "People would say things to me like; 'What is it with you Americans, you really think you can go around telling people what to do? How can you go in and invade Iraq? There's no way this is going to work out for you.'

"It was clear people had a different view of America as a result of the actions that were being taken," she said.

As a five-year expatriate, Summers believes that the president-elect's background as a "third culture kid" reflects in many ways the lives of foreigners who live here. "When you move overseas, you read about what it means for your children to live outside their home culture, to live in another culture that they're not really a part of," she said. "They devise a third culture in reaction to this to observe and learn, such as how to get along with people who are different from them, how to fit in, maintain integrity ... all of these are things that Obama experienced growing up in his youth in Indonesia."

Democrats Abroad became more active with functions at Malone's for the televised presidential and vice-presidential debates once it became clear by the end of summer that Obama had a real chance of winning.

"On election day itself all three floors of Malone's were packed to the gills. It was a mob scene, there were over 400 people there," Summers said. "Everyone was pretty happy watching the returns then CNN announced that Barack Obama was the next president of the United States ... and there was an outpouring of cheers and tears streaming down people's faces as Obama made his acceptance speech," she said.

Summers will lead the inauguration celebrations at the Glamour Bar on Tuesday night where she anticipates a roll-up representative of a mini-United Stations. She has wide-ranging thoughts of the importance of the US breaking clean from the past eight years of President Bush, of what the Obama period behoves for future generations and the nation's strong and stable relationship with China.

But for now, the prolific law community practioner and public speaker wants to revel in the occasion, wearing a special family-significant outfit, listening to classic soul, funk and R&B from her youth in Seattle while sipping special Glamour Bar cocktails as the red, white and blue moves into an Obama ascendancy. Thanks, in no small part, to her efforts in Shanghai.


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