|Drinking Guinness in Ireland|
However, for most of the time, it has retained a moral authority and the majority in the West look at the United States as a benign guardian of the Universe. We welcomed the election of Barack Obama and shared in the joy that middle-America had the guts and the tolerance to endorse an African-American for the Presidency.
The day will eventually come when the colour of a person's skin will not be an issue in any context, but we would be fools not to acknowledge that for now, sadly, it still matters. It is true to say that the President has his share of critics, especially in his own country, but it has little to do with his colour and more to do with his policies.
His visit to Europe this week, accompanied by his wife Michelle and a retinue of 1,500 others, has shown a man at ease, whether it be in a bar in Ireland, or at a State Banquet hosted by the Queen. George W. Bush always gave the impression he could have problems with the cutlery, despite his distinguished background, which he hid well, but this is not so with Mr and Mrs Obama who represent their country with a style and grace not seen since The Kennedys occupied the White House.
I don't know how the photographs of Mr Obama in Ireland and with The Queen in London, play to the American audience, especially at a time when the re-election process is underway, but for those of us on this side of the Atlantic, it is a reminder that, for better or worse, the United States is on our side. The ultimate hope is that President Obama shares our desires for a decent world, even if we regret that he has compromised some of his stated principles.
Problems at home and abroad will mean the President will have some tough decisions to make in the coming months, but for now the general consensus here is that he is doing America proud.