Friday, May 1, 2009

Surprised, Troubled, Enchanted and Humbled

I found the
question at the press conference by the New York Times reporter to be quite, well, surprising, troubling, enchanting and humbling. That is, it is surprising and troubling that the NYT is asking college entrance exam questions at a televised press conference. Where is Peter Baker, ace reporter for the NYT and formerly of the Washington Post, and even more formerly of the Oberlin Review (and my roommate my first year at Oberlin), when we need him? The question deepened my enchantment with Obama becaues he was able to respond quite well to this bizarre question. I can only imagine that the previous president might have cackled a bit, answered one or two parts inadequately and then moved on. And I am humbled by how smart our new President is. He will not always be right, and I will find much with which to disagree, but as a professor, I probably over-value intelligence, so President Obama impresses my socks off.

Thanks to this question, I have been given a gift--a gag I can run with for days and months when I run short of other ideas. So, here is my
STEH take of my first 100 days and 6.5 years or so in Canada:
  • Upon moving to Canada, I was most surprised that while one can get a liter of milk in a plastic or cardboard carton or jug, you cannot get the gallon equivalent in anything but a plastic bag.
  • I am most troubled that Canadians are often satisfied with comparing themselves and their systems to the U.S. rather than considering other, better alternatives. The most glaring example is that Canadians tend to be critical of their health care system, but do not imagine significant changes because they assert that their system is better than the U.S. Instead, I would suggest that they ought to compare their public health care system to the most functional public health care systems in Europe and elsewhere.
  • I am enchanted by the passionate curiosity Canadians have about the world around them, despite the aforementioned acceptance of the US as the comparison category. In my classes, on the streets, and everywhere else, people here want to know more about the entire world. In West Texas, the media always had to ask--what does this mean for the folks here? In Montreal and in Canada, they don't have to do that.
  • I am humbled by the ability of most of the Montrealers with whom I interact to converse in two or more languages with such a facility that conversations move back and forth among the various languages from sentence to sentence.
Of course, the reporter could have used different passive verbs: enraged, puzzled, confused, seduced, alarmed, depressed, energized, constrained, coerced, etc.

1 comment:

Jenyfer Maisonneuve said...

Well I think the question asked by the journalist of the NYT was actually a VERY good question. Think about it a second...
The President of United States is not only a machine taking decisions for his country, it is also a man and a father experiencing new things as a President. Obama as the man has emotions, feelings, fears, etc and I think for the population in a moment of crisis it is important to reveal the true nature of the man and not only the professionnalist decisions taken of the president.

On the other way, I thought that Obama answer was not enough honest. He link the question to much to the president work and not as much to the man. However, I really liked when he said that the most troubled situation is that even in a moment of crisis things are not changing fast and the administration is still slow. This is actually the proof of a Obama's active work during his first 100 days. As we said in French: je lui lève mon chapeau!