Random Thoughts from A to U
From the Parkville Luminary, 10-16-09
Some random thoughts (for me, the phrase “random thoughts” is a redundancy) from A to U (V-Z, I’ll deal with you later):
Afghanistan: Will this be Barak Obama’s Vietnam? Every time I see the president conferring with generals, I think of hapless Lyndon Johnson pouring more and more troops into Vietnam, each time with an official assurance from the Pentagon that victory was just around the corner. President Obama, take your time, but whatever you decide, have a clear mission, and a clear exit strategy. If keeping Al Qaeda on the run is the mission, I’m in. However, nation building seems hopeless. Let’s not be taken in by our successes in Iraq, which is about as different from Afghanistan as Zimbabwe is from Switzerland.
Crescent Peace Eid dinner: I had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate brotherhood last Sunday night with the Crescent Peace Society, a group of Muslim-Americans dedicated to spreading goodwill and building fellowship between Muslims and the larger community. Masoom Khawaja, Park University professor of Graphic Design, was honored by the organization as educator of the year. Congratulations, professor. Masoom shatters the tired stereotype of the oppressed, downtrodden Muslim women. Vibrant, educated, and professionally active, she is a role model for all women, and an important symbol for those who would marginalize Muslim women. Islam, like other religions, is diverse. Don’t judge all Muslim women by the burka-wearing women that you see on TV.
Nobel Prize: As Americans, I would hope that we could all be proud of any American who wins a Nobel Prize, particularly a Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps the greatest honor that can be bestowed upon anyone. Of course, given the nasty political climate, that hope is no more than a pipe dream. Of all the negative conservative reaction to Obama’s peace prize, perhaps none stands out as much for its lack of magnanimity as the statement from Rep. Sam Graves, a Tarkio Republican. Graves told the Kansas City Star, “I am surprised because I have no idea why he won. But I congratulate him and I hope he will donate the cash prize toward the $1.6 trillion deficit he ran up this year.”
Mr. Graves, were you also among those cheering when Chicago lost the Olympics to Rio?
To paraphrase the world’s best political pundit, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, it seems that the president’s opponents hate Obama more than they love America.
Park University: I don’t usually put much stock in university rankings, since they seem to put the emphasis on all the wrong things, like the number of celebrity professors or how many millions (or billions) the university has in its endowment. However, I’m willing to make an exception for any ranking that puts Park University at #1. Ingram’s magazine says Park is the top private school in Missouri or Kansas, based on graduate enrollment, tuition costs, housing costs, and student to teacher ratio. I think the last criterion is the most important, since it has such a direct, demonstrable impact on student learning. In 13 years at Park, I have never had a class larger than 25 students, and most of my classes are about 15 students. This allows for the kind of interaction, and the kind of connection, that wasn’t possible in the 150-student classes that I took when I went to college. Not only are the classes small, but they are high quality as well, since Park has many outstanding professors in every discipline. I’m proud to call them colleagues, and I can’t wait until my son enrolls at Park.
Uganda: The Parkville Rotary Club is putting the final touches on its generous donation to the Ociba Primary School in Arua, Uganda, which is being hit hard by a devastating famine. I’ll keep you posted when the final figures come in. Meanwhile, if you are a regular reader, you might recall how I was honored during my recent trip to Uganda to have a baby named after me. Little Stephan (pronounced Stephanie) is four months old, and devastatingly cute. I recently received an email from Stephan’s mom, Gloria, asking me if I would consider being Stephan’s godfather. Of course, I was thrilled, and jumped at the chance. Now I just have to figure out what my official duties are as a Ugandan godfather. I probably should have asked this before I agreed to sign on for this duty.