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Old July 9th, 2008, 01:14 PM   #1
garysher's Avatar
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Location: Los Angeles
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Obama pokes fun at Americans abroad

One nation, not just speaking English

After a substantial speech decrying the current state of bankruptcy law in the United States, Barack Obama took a few questions from the audience in Powder Springs, Georgia on Tuesday morning.

One young woman asked whether there was anything he could do to prevent teenagers from dropping out before they completed high school, and added, almost as an afterthought, that "there should be a push more for our citizens to become bilingual here in America."

Obama responded, "You know, I don't understand when people are going around worrying about, "We need to have English- only." They want to pass a law, "We want English-only."

Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English -- they'll learn English -- you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.

You know, it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], "Merci beaucoup." Right?

You know, no, I'm serious about this. We should understand that our young people, if you have a foreign language, that is a powerful tool to get a job. You are so much more employable. You can be part of international business. So we should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age, because children will actually learn a foreign language easier when they're 5, or 6, or 7 than when they're 46, like me.

There's nothing particularly exceptional about Obama's position, unless you are an English-only partisan cowering in fear of your cultural identity being swamped by funny-looking people from strange lands. Or one of the similarly insecure patriots who believe any criticism of the U.S. is a sign of "blame-America-first" treachery.

And I suppose the whole comment about "going to Europe" opens Obama up to more charges of elitism, and disconnection from the lives of those who, right now, can't afford to even think about going to Europe.

But to most people who actually grasp the fact that we live in a complex, interconnected global economy, being able to speak more than one language just makes a lot of sense. Maybe those of us who do feel threatened by Spanish-language signs in government offices would sleep a little easier if we understood what they they were saying.

One nation, not just speaking English - How the World Works - Salon.com
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Old July 11th, 2008, 09:27 AM   #2
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Senator Obama’s comments on bilingualism have ignited a firestorm across the Internet. Blogs and message boards are ablaze with vitriolic indignation at the perceived condescension and his apparent embarrassment at the low level of multilingualism among his fellow countrymen.

Born of a fierce sense of pride in country and culture, they seek to defend a way of life derided by cultural elites at home and challenged by rising antagonists abroad. Portraying the offended as simplistic and narrow-minded, the media adds fuel to the flames of resentment raging in the background of what Pat Buchanan has so aptly characterized as an ongoing culture war.

Yet, lost in the maelstrom’s fury are the Senator’s remarks focusing on the economic advantages associated with bilingualism.

“You know, no, I'm serious about this. We should understand that our young people, if you have a foreign language, that is a powerful tool to get a job,” Obama noted. “You are so much more employable. You can be part of international business. So we should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age, because children will actually learn a foreign language easier when they're 5, or 6, or 7 than when they're 46, like me.”

Hear, hear!

We live in an increasingly globalized economy. Though English is the current universal language of business, with China’s monumental rise and the waning of America’s political and economic predominance its days may be numbered. To not prepare accordingly is economic and societal irresponsibility.

In addition to the concomitant economic advantages of multilingualism, there are also benefits to be reaped in the realm of national security. Even today, almost seven years after the attacks of 9-11, the FBI, CIA, NSA and Pentagon are still in dire need of personnel with advanced foreign language skills. I seriously doubt terrorists and antagonistic governments will do us the courtesy of conducting business in English in deference to our lack skilled linguists.

While we have enjoyed the leisure and convenience of the world bowing to our linguistic preferences in the past, to doggedly expect it to do so in the future just because we are America is as arrogant as chiding one’s fellow countrymen for their national pride.

Believing America has no need adapt to a changing global economy is akin to a football forgoing training camp and regular practice after having won the Super Bowl. While past victories are a foundation to build on, they are no guarantor of future success. The same holds true for nations as it does for athletes.

In the course of the last two decades America has found itself alone as the sole economic, military and political superpower. But without the requisite investment in time, effort, treasure and study, the status quo is by no means guaranteed. The Chinese, Japanese, Germans and Indians are not going to stand idly by as we bask in the fading warm glow of past glories.

The majestic splendor of Imperial Rome and the days when the sun never sat on the British Empire have faded off into history. Unless we take up the challenge in earnest with the renewal of the fabled American can-do spirit, we are destined to share their fate. We must be responsive to an ever-changing environment and adroitly proactive if we are to seize the day. America’s future depends on moving boldly forward, not recoiling defensively in the face of critique and commentary.

We must rise to the challenge with gusto, raising our children’s mathematics and science scores to levels commiserate with our lofty self-image. And yes, Johnny must learn another language in addition to English. If he is to compete with Hans, Suki, Rajiv and Chiang Ching it is a must.

No, I will not sit idly by as my fellow countrymen are derided for their pride in culture and country. Rest assured, I stand at the barricades with you defending the exceptionalism of America.

Nor will l sit idly by as she wistfully whistles by the graveyard. So if wanting the best for America’s national security, economy and her children’s future is elitist, then as God is my witness I am an elitist of the highest patriotic order. And damned proud of it, I might add.

I challenge you to join me. To move beyond mere words and bruised spirits to boldly act to defend America’s place in the Sun; not only for today, but for tomorrow and years to come.

THE BARE KNUCKLED PUNDIT: The Senator's Tongue Verses the Native Tongue

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