Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

Caveat: Some who know me will laugh that I’m writing about this, since I’ve been known at times for speaking too hastily.  But was all learn this lesson at some point – don’t we?  This was a post I originally wrote for Marylhurst University’s Communications Department:

How are we going to turn around and help younger generations manage and understand sheer speed, and teach them to be discerning thinkers as well? 

 That was a question I asked in one of my last posts to this blog.  Now we have a story which could not present this case more clearly, and yet it was not the younger generation without the discerning minds and an understanding of speed; it was the people a couple of generations older – and in charge of things — who should have known better.

 You all know the story:  A black employee who resigned from the Agriculture Department on Monday said the White House forced her out after remarks that she says have sparked a fabricated racial controversy.  – From the New York Daily News on Tuesday, July 20.

This story has an awful lot of people and organizations with egg on their faces.  From right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart, who first posted a distorting clip of the video, to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, to President Obama, there was a massive rush to judgment without one person asking, “What’s the source of that video?  Do we have all the facts?”

 But it’s not just that rush to judgment which troubles me about this story.  It’s also that we are in such a politically correct mode these days that we can hardly utter a sentence without it being scrutinized for some sort of imagined evil; public sensitivity and outrage is at an all-time high, and seems to need neither context nor frame of reference before taking offense.

 On the other hand, we are all learning to express ourselves differently, and sometimes this is a good thing.  The TriMet bus driver who vented in his blog about a bicyclist who nearly caused a crash with the bus was “benched” this morning, according to the Oregonian (at http://tinyurl.com/23jwnel) because on his blog, the driver wrote about killing the cyclist.  Not the best way to vent – at least not in public. 

 The underlying lesson?  Slow down and think, both as consumers of the news and those who write on blogs, Facebook, or any other kind of social media.  A column in the Washington Post (at http://tinyurl.com/35zudsh) makes the case for slowing down.  And as someone who has worked in and around the media for the past 30 years, I have to say I’ve never quite understood the rush to get the scoop.  The only time I want to know the news instantly is if my community is in imminent danger of wildfire, flood, contaminated water, or some other disaster that would affect all of us.  Otherwise, I’ll get the news.  And I’ll think about it.  And write about it, perhaps, sometime later.

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O.K., I don’t get it.  I just watched the full video of President Obama’s education speech today – http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2009/09/08/sot.obama.education.entire.cnn –  and sorry, but I don’t see what the fuss is all about.  I DO see a lot of disrespect for the President.  I was trying to think of a time when a president greatly affected me when I was in school, and it was President Kennedy.  He had President Kennedy’s Physical Fitness Program in the schools.  I probably have the name wrong  after all these years, but I clearly remember mandatory phys. ed. class in which we all tried really hard to meet the standards we were told the President had set.  These days?  We have no mandatory phys. ed. classes and a nation full of overweight, inactive kids. 

I also remember the Peace Corps when it was first founded.  There are times today when  I still think about joining as a senior citizen.  Both then and now, the Peace Corps was a way of giving back, of making a contribution out there in the wider world, of displaying the fact that not all Americans fit the mold of the “Ugly American” from the book of so long ago.

Did we think socialism then?  We did not.  Did we lob rude, crude criticisms at the President then?  Not that I recall.  We had some respect for the office and for the man; and if the President wanted us to be physically fit, we were going to work on it.  Did we feel ruled by some kingship, as if our choices were taken away?  We did not.  As school kids – I was in junior high and high school in those years of his presidency – we had something, and some one, who commanded our respect. 

It wasn’t Camelot, we all know that now.  But in those days, there was no shame in respecting the office of the President and the man who held the position; and there was no outcry over being asked to fulfill our better natures.  He helped shape our dreams – most leaders do.  Why are we, in this country, so determined not to dream, not to aspire, but only to throw spit balls and whine and complain?

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