Yes, You Can! Wishlist for a new America

And what will his priorities be? We asked campaigners, academics and celebrities where they would like Barack Obama to start. Ian Griggs and Emily Dugan report
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The Independent US

Jenny Jones Leader of the GLA Green Group and former Deputy Mayor of London

I was incredibly moved by the result because I half expected something to go drastically wrong and for loads of rednecks to swing the vote for McCain. I feel proud of America. At one stroke, it has redeemed its reputation. His first act should be to bring in the world's experts on climate change and turn the country overnight into one that is doing radical things to mitigate it.

Louise Bagshawe Writer

I would like him to pledge that America will abide by the terms of the Geneva Convention from now on, particularly its provisions on torture. America is a great power and it would be the right thing to do, to call for an end to the torture of suspects. It is something the incoming Commander-in-Chief could do immediately, and it would a splendid first act when he takes office in January

Zac Goldsmith Environmentalist

Barack Obama's acceptance speech marked a moment of giant transformation. It's almost impossible for him to match expectations. But people will forgive that, as long as he remains as honest and authentic as he appears to be today. That's key. Specifically, we need him to take charge of tackling the environmental crisis. A lot of time has been wasted, and we're running out.

Sir Max Hastings Historian and former newspaper editor

Obama's victory was a great moment for us all. I have seen him on the election trail and been impressed and moved. His greatest challenge is to restore America's moral authority in the world – and he may be able to. We have many months to wait before it is plain whether he is Franklin Roosevelt or Tony Blair, but we need hope, and he is surely worthy of it.

Adrian Lester Actor

One of the biggest mistakes of the present incumbent was when he used empty religious rhetoric to attack factions in other countries. He was saying we are right because we have the best god. So if things get tough I would ask the new president not to forget the people who worked to put him there and the ideals he had.

A C Grayling Writer and academic

The major thing he must do is adjust the whole focus of American foreign policy. If the US thought of itself as a colleague to the world and not a bully boy, as Bush did, or the kind of leader who says "I'm going to lead whatever the costs", there would be a vast improvement. The focus on the Middle East has meant lots of other problems have been neglected and allowed to grow.

Lord Taylor of Warwick Conservative peer

He has already done the one thing I would ask him to do which is to unite the world. He has energised the youth of America and the black community and these groups don't always come out and vote. It will be a bonus if he goes on to fix the economy. We had fallen out of love with America, but Africa, China and even Russia sent good wishes on his victory. That would not have happened if McCain had won.

Sir John Mortimer Writer and creator of 'Rumpole of the Bailey'

I felt great pleasure when he won. It was terrifically exciting. One of the things that was so good about it is that it puts an end to the conservatives – it's fantastic. His first step as president should be to stop all the wars they are fighting.

Sir Richard Eyre Theatre director

I felt a fantastic sense of relief because I thought the alternative would have been unimaginably depressing. I would ask him to create a settlement between Israel and Palestine. His primary focus for foreign policy has to be the Middle East. He should also to talk to Iran.

Moazzam Begg Former Guantanamo Bay detainee and spokesman for Cageprisoners

I always believed he was going to win.

I campaign on behalf of people detained without trial or charge and I was greatly relieved for their sake and the sake of the world that he won. I would ask him to close Guantanamo Bay and all the secret detention sites around the world.

Brendon Burns Comedian

History is determined in hindsight. It was a huge thing but nobody knows why yet. He should make passports compulsory for all Americans and demand they all take at least one trip abroad each year.

Shami Chakrabarti Director of Liberty

You can be moved and inspired by this without being naive. I don't expect all the hungry to have food or all wars to be stopped overnight. All politicians are doomed to break our hearts. You can have your eyes wide open but still have moist eyes. On 20 January, President Obama should reach for his fountain pen and shut down Guantanamo Bay.

Tony Benn Former Labour MP and president of Stop the War Coalition

Obama has given hope to people abroad and he achieved the support of young people with a high turnout. It is also the end of Bush and the neo-cons. People used to accuse people who were against the war of being anti-American, but you can't be anti-American if the president agrees with you. There is so much for him to do but my first thing would be to ask him to end the two wars.

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