Election Night has long been one of my favourite nights of the year but this is the first time I’ve experienced an election from overseas. In the States my friends and I would always gather together cheering wildly every time a new state’s results came in for the candidate we were supporting. Last night was no exception, except for the fact that I had the privilege to spend my evening at the US Embassy in London with hundreds of other Americans, diplomats, and distinguished guests.
I was a bit apprehensive from the moment I set out for Grosvenor Square from Maida Vale where I was staying. I wasn’t going with anyone but I had met another St Andrews student on the train to London that was going to the election night party too. As I arrived at the embassy in Grosvenor Square, projections of the American flag waving majestically were being shown on the embassy façade. Metropolitan Police were covering the embassy exterior and running security checkpoints.
We had to wait in queues to go through security but that provided me with an opportunity to share my excitement about the election with someone. I asked the woman standing behind me if she was from the US. She told me that she was living in London but was actually from Singapore. As it turned out she works at the Singapore Embassy in London and was invited per her role as a diplomat. She was quite fascinating to talk to since it’s always intriguing to get a non-American’s perspective on US elections.
As I walked into the embassy once I passed through security, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people there. Everyone was talking in little groups so I was unsure about how to meet some other people. I figured my best opportunity would be to approach someone close to my age. I noticed two women in the centre of the room looking around so I thought that they may also be looking for someone to chat with. I asked them if they were in university to which they responded that they were not, but nevertheless were flattered that I thought they looked so young. After some chatting about attending St. Andrews they said that they both worked at 10 Downing Street. One worked in public relations for the Prime Minister and the other worked in events. One of them told me that personally she wanted Obama to win while the other just smiled and would not say whom she supported.
Just about the entire embassy was used for the evening’s event. In the basement there was live entertainment throughout the night with the highlight being a performance by the English tenor Russell Watson. Waiters came around throughout the night with every legendary McDonalds item including Big Macs, McNuggets, McFlurrys, and French fries. They also provided wines, beer, cocktails, appetisers, and Starbucks coffee. It was really an incredible evening for the free food and drink alone.
At about half ten the Ambassador to the United Kingdom, officially the Court of St. James, Louis Susman welcomed everyone. He gave a unifying speech saying that he was there to represent all Americans regardless of political ideology. He stressed the importance of Americans coming together and that as Americans living abroad, we share a special bond. He remarked that America will always share a ‘special relationship’ with the UK no matter who wins the election. He touched on the historical importance of Anglo-American relations. His speech was very impressive and I had the honour of shaking his hand afterwards and sharing a quick word with him.
I spent the majority of the evening in the media room where the exit polls and results were being displayed on televisions around the room and a projection on the wall. Reporters were stationed on a platform in the back of the room for their all night coverage of the election. Andrew Marr, Ian Hislop, and Jonathan Dimbleby were some of the journalists reporting live from the event. I can be seen in the background on many television broadcasts on both the BBC and Sky News. Additionally, an AFP reporter interviewed me at the beginning of the event.
Following my interview, another university student came up to me and told me he had been interviewed too. We ended up talking for most the night about our predictions for the election and sharing our backgrounds. His father, who I met later in the evening, introduced me to a University College London American history professor. I talked to him and his wife for almost two hours about the future of the American presidency, past presidents, politics in Midwest America, and the future of both political parties. His thoughts on the US were fascinating.
As the results began to come in at about one, people on both sides began to have their moments of highs and lows. By half two CNN had projected that President Obama would win Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. From that moment on, the election was essentially over. At this point the room erupted in cheers. Official results still had not come in for any swing states but the news network exit polls were enough for me. I went to bed feeling fairly certain that President Obama would be in office for another four years. The night was definitely one I will always remember. It was great to see so many distinguished guests and get my fill of everything I missed from America.