Monday, November 12, 2012

Dr. Faulkner: Convergent Events

Convergent Events

            Two completely unrelated events recently converged to prepare me for Thanksgiving.  The first was the fact that it was the day after the election and the second was a presentation program by the Humphrey’s Fellows.

            November 7 was the day after the local, state, and national elections.  Regardless of the outcome, it was almost as if there was a collective sigh of relief that the campaigns were over.  Many of us empathized with the little girl in the viral video who through her tears expressed that she was “tired of Obamaand Romney.” Even the local elections this year were worrisome.  At all levels there was too much anger, innuendo, vitriol, and downright false statements.

            On that same day, I was able to be in the program where 6 of the Humphrey’s Fellows gave presentations on their home countries.  If you are not familiar with the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program you can learn more at this website.  In a nutshell, as quoted from their web page, “The Humphrey Program brings young and mid-career professionals from designated countries to the United States for a year of non-degree graduate-level study, leadership development, and professional collaboration with U.S. counterparts.”  Vol State partners with Vanderbilt University in the Humphrey’s Program.  The presentations I heard were by Fellows from Bahrain, Liberia, Myanmar (2), Niger, and Nigeria.

            Poverty is extensive in many of these countries with some living on an average income of one dollar per day.  One country reported an 85% unemployment rate.  Most of the fellows are associated with education in one form or another.  Here again things are vastly different than in the U.S.  One country reported a first grade dropout rate of almost 12%.  Still another showed photos of schools where there is one teacher for over 140 students meeting in a dirt floored shed.

            The Fellows have been in the U.S. for a few months now and have had the chance to follow our election process.  Almost all made direct mention of how much they envied our process.  They remarked about how we were able to choose a leader without a military coup.  One remarked that there were not elections in their home country but rather “selections” of the chosen candidate.  In some of their countries the form of government is a complete monarchy.  Others have had multiple coups, violent dictators and where democracy is emerging the military still has the right to suspend freedoms and dissolve the parliament.  When asked what we as U.S. citizens could do to help their countries, they responded that we should support their efforts to bring democracy to their homes.

            This is where the Thanksgiving kicks in.  As I sat there listening to their stories, I was reminded that I am fortunate to live in the greatest country in the World.  Yes we have our challenges but nothing that compares with the challenges these people face daily.  Despite our individual leanings in the election, we elected leaders without a coup, without military intervention, without murder in the streets.  We have the highest standard of living in the world and 7.9% unemployment doesn’t sound too bad.  An in this nation when things are really bad, we pull together.  I’m reminded of the recent images of a very Republican Governor of New Jersey and a very Democratic President of the U.S. walking through the devastation of hurricane Sandy and working together to bring relief. 

            As we approach this season of the year, I hope we will all stop and give thanks for all the blessings we have and for the fact that we live in the United States of America.  God bless America.



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