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Post-US Election Thoughts

Mon 14 Nov 2016

Greetings all –

I must admit, I received messages from many of you this week asking my opinion on the American election and its aftermath.  While I myself am not overly political and I don’t currently live in the US full-time, of course I do have some thoughts and opinions on this.  So I figured why not share these in a blog? 

First of all, I was tuned in to the election results – via TV, internet and social media.  It was hard to avoid this, even though I was in Cambodia working at the time.  I spent the day at an education fair in the city of Phnom Penh, meeting with 61 students of all backgrounds and talents.  There were a couple of highlights of course:  the straight A student who rode three hours to the fair by herself on a motorbike to inquire about civil engineering, and a student at the end of the day with a mobility handicap with a 7.0 IELTS and top grades who plans to study and then develop Cambodia into a place that is far more accessible for those with disabilities like him.

I then retreated to my room to watch Donald Trump prevail in the US presidential election before returning to Vietnam the next day.  I was a little tired so what better way than to listen to some live music – so I joined some friends and listened to some jazz.  At the end of the night, this young woman got on stage and started singing randomly after the jazz band had finished.  I rarely have a moment where I just say:  “Wow”.  But wow.  I said to her – “I have rarely heard such an amazing smoky, raspy voice here in Saigon.”  And she replied “Thanks – well that’s probably because I’ve been studying music in America and just moved back.”

The reason I left America at age 30 and a good job at a bank in New York and embarked on a new adventure in Vietnam was because I wanted a greater challenge.  There was more out there for me.  I wanted to be tested and fulfilled.  It was about me and it came from within.  I see this same quality in the students that I meet every day and that is what excites me so much.  Each of them have their own talents and desires and goals and seek the opportunity to develop themselves and reach these goals.  Not only in engineering or business, but in science, music, fashion, art….or the improvement of handicapped facilities in developing countries like Cambodia.

By the way, the definition of the word handicap is a circumstance that makes progress or success difficult.  No matter what their political affiliation, I’m not sure that the music teacher at Julliard or the science teacher at Berkeley or the fashion teacher at FIT will be thinking about Donald Trump when their students are singing, testing or designing.  The student talents on display come from within.  The teachers and education system bring this out.  It may very well be that this election serves as a temporary roadblock to the success of America – but it most certainly will be temporary.  The collective, individual talents of all those musicians, scientists and designers are too great to make progress difficult to achieve. 

In the age of social media, I do understand the concern and the initial fear that comes from reading headlines and making judgments.  It is a natural reaction – I do it too.  But the talent on display every day – in the students you work with and the students I meet – trumps any one individual in any one country.   

I look forward to seeing you all on my travels within the region soon and have a nice weekend.

 

Jack



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