Quote of the Day

A while back I quoted Hillary Clinton’s now infamous speech right before the New Hampshire primary because I believed in the sentiment she expressed there. Today’s quote is actually from yesterday and it comes from Barack Obama whose sentiment moved me just as much:

“Washington today is a place where good ideas go to die”

– B. Obama

And I would add that what he said in response to claims that he needs more seasoning, more experience, and more time on the Hill to be a serious candidate echoed in my bones.

“It’s as if all the cynics are saying we need to season and stew him a little bit more and boil all of the hope out of him so he smells just like every other politician.”

– B. Obama

I have to tell you, when he said that, it reminded me of something I was told in Graduate school: You aren’t getting out of here until we are sure we have put our stamp on you. Followed by the person making a fake stamp with their hand and hitting me dead center of my forehead. It was only slightly less disconcerting than what I was told in undergrad “You are either from the elite or going to the elite and there is nothing you can do about it.” Both sentiments require a level of conformity that may be required of the profession but certainly is not required of free and complex thinking.

What moves us forward as departments, institutions, and nations is the ability to speak across difference and honor, truly honor, the knowledge and the life skills that each of us brings to the table no matter how different, exuberant, or even scary they may seem. In academe, as in politics, knowledge and experience do matter it is not, as some juniors and students might argue, simply a point of ageism. However, newness can be a real blessing in both venues and coupled with an experienced cohort (be it cabinet or fellow faculty) it can be a force beyond imagining. After all, why do we always gravitate toward candidates and scholarship that is “new” and “hot” if we don’t recognize that both help keep our tried and true methods, theories, and praxis relevant? In the same way the tried and true ensures we are grounded and not throwing out the baby and the bath water.

I often worry that the real concern is about difference and change (no not the soundbite “change” but actual change). And I think the momentum that word has created amongst college age and college educated people proves that diversity (not just identity but also of thought and process) is something that they are yearning for in their intellectual and political worlds. Until we learn that difference is not the enemy, we really will be left with the mush at the bottom of an over boiled pot.



6 thoughts on “Quote of the Day

  1. There’s a part of me that responds very positively to what you’ve quoted of Obama’s words . . . but for me the question still remains as to whether he will *actually* be different. Let’s face it, the man is skilled with words. He knows how to respond to charges of inexperience. But that doesn’t actually mean that he will or can make change happen. As someone who is only a few years out of college, I have to say the present primary race makes me feel like I’m cynical and *very* out of touch with my “demographic” (black women, college educated/graduate degree, young, etc.). But I just don’t see why I should trust his rhetoric.

  2. I’d add that I do believe change is possible, but I don’t believe it will come from people running for high office – wealthy, powerful people looking to gain more power and wealth. This isn’t to say all politicians are entirely or equally insincere, but rather that they don’t have much incentive to overhaul the system. Change will come from the average people, if and when it comes (IMO).

  3. I can so relate to those school quotes that come from your own experience. Having attended a University of CA school for undergrad, I would always hear how we were in the top 12 percent of the state’s high school graduating pool. What sticks in my mind is that I don’t want to become so different or out of touch with the 88% of our society that I don’t stop to learn and engage from them as much as I do with my more “elite” peers. The first Barack quote struck me last night as well.

  4. Expanding: when I said “Yep” above, I was referring to the whole post but most specifically to the end:”And I think the momentum that word has created amongst college age and college educated people proves that diversity (not just identity but also of thought and process) is something that they are yearning for in their intellectual and political worlds. Until we learn that difference is not the enemy, we really will be left with the mush at the bottom of an over boiled pot.”Anyway, I can see all sides of the argument on relative virtues of Obama, and *yes* real change has to come from elsewhere, but still I would like to get a President who at least won’t bomb Iran and all, and he’s my current bet for that. And if he does and I picket him, maybe he’ll pay attention to me: I’ll bet McCain just shoots.*But: I really came back just to comment on the “we will put our stamp on you,” stamp in forehead gesture. Ugh, but yeah, it’s a common attitude. Good point on conformity and its connection to the “experience” thing.

  5. tope – welcome to the blog. I don’t think you should trust anyone’s rhetoric. For me, I know what I want from the person who is going to represent me, who is supposed to lead this nation domestically and as part of the global polity. The person who lines up most closely with the issues I find important for not only my survival but that of all marginalized peoples, is the one who will have my vote no matter how pretty or sparsed their words may be. I’ve been encouraging everybody to think about the world they want & who will get them there; I just have to stave off the boiling long enough to retain the hope that most of us will do that come November.Adriana – there is a finishing process in academe and I think it is hardest on people who want to stay connected (not just in touch ) with “the other 88%.” One day I came home from undergrad and no one in my neighborhood understood anything I said, one of my bestfriends said “Half the time I don’t know what you are talking about but I just nod along in case you think I am stupid.” That’s when I made the choice to ensure that my life, my language, and my foundation were always based amongst that 88%. (Only recently, have I let go of the sense of selling out if I work at an elite school instead of an underfunded one and that I think really has to do with experience. When I was younger/newer, I didn’t know how or trust that I could keep one foot in both worlds nor that I could do the same kind of good – tho differently – in either space. Shoring up my own convictions and letting go of some of my own stuff was part of seasoning that I do commend. The truth is, there are elitest and folk at every institution.)prof. zero – “I picket him, maybe he’ll pay attention to me” that’s great! I just got done arguing that a sign of freedom is the ability to criticize your government and/or its policies without fear of repression and we have certainly lost ground on that in the last 8 years. Thanks for reminding us this is a question we should be asking of our chosen candidate.

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