Mon, January 19, 2009
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Celebrities laud Obama

2009-01-19 06:52:53 GMT2009-01-19 14:52:53 (Beijing Time)  Reuters

To many, President-elect Barack Obama exudes movie star charisma, so it's no surprise that many of his biggest fans are Hollywood royalty.

While celebrities are concerned about the monumental issues that'll confront him, many say they're cautiously optimistic. Among them: actresses Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Connelly.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) Angelina Jolie, actress, saying:

"He's going to do an extraordinary job,I'm sure, but I can't think of another president walking in to so much."

(SOUNDBITE)(English) Jennifer Connelly, actress, saying:

"It's a pretty messy situation he's coming into. But I feel optimisitc about it. i wish him the best of luck."

Obama is the first black man to occupy the Oval Office, and that inspires African Americans like hip hop mogul, Diddy:

(SOUNDBITE)(English) Puff Diddy, hip hop mogul, saying:

"Barack Obama being elected president has done - I can't even express into words what it has done - for self-esteem of young, of all, young and old, African Americans."

Once in office, Obama could tap his cool, charismatic image to help bring about the change he says is needed.

Professor David Birdsell of Baruch College says he can use it to engage a new audience: the politically powerless.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) David Birdsell, dean of School of Public Affairs at Baruch College, saying:

"It creates buzz. It creates interest. There are people paying attention to Barack Obama who never would've described themselves prior to this political season,prior to thise political season as policy wonks as people invested in the political process. So he's widening the base."

But that fawning support in charisma-driven politics can backfire.

Famously charismatic President John Kennedy experienced a firestorm of criticism over the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) David Birdsell, dean of School of Public Affairs at Baruch College, saying:

"Those very assets of telegenic appearance, youth and vigor are now coming into question as perhaps part of the reason why they failed where putatively sager heads might have prevailed. That's are the type of question celebrity can engender."

And as the nation's CEO, Obama will have to adroitly manage sky-high expectations. Celebrity can magnify success and it can exaggerate failure, putting exclamation points behind Yes We Can -- or no, he couldn't.

Fred Katayama, Reuters, New York.

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