Symbolism of Presidential Visits

I love reading the BBC, just to see what its take is on the world’s news.  I was surprised earlier to read about how NPR fired Juan Williams for comments he made about Muslims, and I wondered if the BBC would pick up that story.

When I went to the BBC, the story was not there yet, but I found out about President Obama’s planned trip to India in November — a story that has not received much press in the US yet.  Here are today’s headlines (Thursday, Oct 21, 2010) from the BBC:

I think that I clicked on the story about India because one of my students had said in her introduction at the beginning of the year that she wanted to visit the Golden Temple in India.  When I clicked on the article, I learned that the President has to think about all sorts of things when he travels and represents the most powerful nation on the planet…

So this raises all sorts of questions. 

First of all, what is a Sikh?

Second of all, where will President Obama visit when he’s in India?  And will he make any side-trips? 

According to a Wall Street Journal report about the planned trip, President Obama also had to think about whether he would visit Pakistan while he’s in the neighborhood.  As the WSJ put it:

It’s a hard choice. If you don’t go, Pakistan cries favoritism. If you do, India takes umbrage and there are a host of security issues to deal with when visiting one of the world’s most dangerous places.

(Umbrage, by the way, is “offense or annoyance”)

As a way to appease Pakistani officials, President Obama recently showed up unexpectedly at a meeting with Pakistani officials, where he announced that he would not visit Pakistan on this upcoming trip.  “Instead, Mr. Obama said he would visit Pakistan in 2011 and also host President Asif Ali Zardari in Washington.”

So now, I’m wondering what Asif Ali Zardari looks like, and that should not be hard to figure out…

Here’s the obligatory blurb about him from Wikipedia:

Asif Ali Zardari (Urdu: آصف علی زرداری; Sindhi: آصف علي زرداري; born 26 July 1955) is the 11th and current President of Pakistan and the Co-Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Zardari is the widower of Benazir Bhutto, who twice served as Prime Minister of Pakistan. When his wife was assassinated in December 2007, he became the leader of the PPP. It has been claimed that Zardari is among the five richest men in Pakistan with an estimated net worth of US$1.8 billion (2005).

I knew at some point that Benazir Bhutto’s husband had entered politics, but the world is a big place and it’s hard to keep up.  Hopefully this blog will help me do that better.

I look forward to following President Obama’s visit to India, even if he does not visit the Golden Temple.  And I wonder what the US coverage of his trip will look like…

Finally, I’m also interested in the article from the BBC about Jewish settlers starting construction on 600 homes in the West Bank, especially since I’m now reading a wonderful book about the situation in Israel and Palestine called To The End of the Land.

Oh, and the BBC just picked up the Juan Williams story (see below) and an outbreak of a fatal sickness in Haiti  moved the Israel story off the “front” of the BBC’s home page:

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About Steve Goldberg

I teach U.S. History at Research Triangle High School, a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning.
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