Thursday, 11 February 2016

Star-Spangled Banners

Word on the lips of many students today was the special visit of the US Ambassor, who gave an interractive talk to students after school. We spoke to several students who attended the talk, who reported that the Ambassador spoke candidely about American policy both at home and overseas, saying fromt the outset that "we have many [faults]". First the students were asked several questions about their perception of America and some issues surrounding the nation at the moment. Some interesting results showed that 72% of Hampstead students believed that America was too involved in world problems, and when asked what they believe the US Government is interested in upholding, only 7% answered 'freedom', with 45% answering 'something else'; suggestions for what that something else including oil, money and themselves.

Speaking on many different topics, the inevitable issue that took up the larger part of the talk was that of guns and gun control. The Ambassador was said to have likened the number of deaths in America due to cars (30,000) to that of gun deaths (30,000), saying that the number of car deaths had fallen due to advances in technology, education and legislature. His argument was that the same could be applied to guns; over time 'reasonable limitations' could be put on the range and use of guns. Students were quick to raise various points in response, including the fact that cars are not a constitutional right like arms are, and from a British perspective the only 'reasonable limitation' on guns is a complete ban. The Ambassador attributed this to a cultural difference, but agreed that guns are an issue in America.

Double entendres ensued when talking about wages vs. GDP in America, apparently stating on more than one occasion (to a room full of teenagers) that President Obama wants to "get it back up again". He also referenced Obama when talking about slavery, saying that it was "our original sin". When talking about international relations, it was of course his job to argue that America had done a great deal of good. Referencing a great many historical events when America had helped the situation through intervention (such as WWII), he mentioned that after 1945 America had "rebuilt Japan", apart from the small towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As a non-partisan official, he couldn't speak too freely about his thoughts on the current presidential race, however he did touch briefly on something he deemed to be non-political. Speaking on the proposition made by Donald Trump to ban all Muslims from entering the US as president, he said the claim was "unamerican, unconsitutional" and "just plain wrong", as well as saying that it would be "illegal to do it".

Of course, the Head had to weigh in at the end, thanking various people including the, by all accounts, well informed and eruditely opinionated students, who the rest of the time he roundly ignores, as well as gifting the Ambassador with a Hampstead School tote bag, which is just what the Ambassador needs to carry all his top-secret documents in when travelling. The Ambassador did however offer some wise words that could easily be directed at the school Management. When recounting meeting Obama in the Oval Office, the president's advice for dealing people was one word: "listen".

DISCLAIMER: All events reported in this article are true to the best of our knowledge. We have not reported all the issues that were raised and discussed in the talk, only the ones that we deemed of interest. We have tried to portray both sides of each argument equally, something which we are sure the Ambassador would want.

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