Arne Duncan: Good for Geography?

In January, President Obama appointed the young superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, Arne Duncan, to be the next United States Secretary of Education. (Well, I’d call him young; we are very nearly the same age and I’d feel pretty youthful to be heading the US educational system.) Although never a teacher, Duncan is an experienced administrator and he embodies Barack Obama’s educational goals. What does his appointment mean for Geography education?

First off, Duncan would not likely have gotten much geography in college at Harvard. While he made it to be co-captain of the varsity basketball team, his Ivy League alma mater doesn’t even field a geography department. In fact, of all the Ivys, today only Dartmouth retains a geography program. This is a terrible situation for the country, since many of the emerging leaders who graduate from these august institutions are underexposed to the spatial perspective and tools.

However, Secretary Duncan does have a lot of hard-won experience about the importance of “space and place,” as geographers say. His senior thesis was based on research conducted in the Chicago inner-city Kenwood neighborhood. After college, he lived abroad and played ball in Australia. And, as past CEO of Chicago’s Public Schools, Duncan has an acute understanding of the import of where schools are placed,  which communities they serve, and how geographic issues such as demographics, tax base, and racial distribution affect a school system.

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Your Voice: The Guantánamo Conundrum

The closing of Guantánamo Bay was one of President Obama’s chief promises on the campaign trail and one of the first executive orders issued this January.  The prison camp, which houses 250 inmates on the southern coast of Cuba, will be gradually shut down over the next year. Yet the question remains as to where former detainees will be sent.  Fifty to one hundred detainees … Continue reading Your Voice: The Guantánamo Conundrum

A President for the Digital Age

This post is part of a series for the Youth Media Blog-a-Thon on the topic of “regime change.”


How can one man move the majority of the country to vote for him? One man can’t, but his network can.

On November 4, 2008 Barack Obama won what will be called a historical election not just because he’s the first African-American president elected in the United States, but also because he’s the first presidential candidate to win the election in the era of digital communications.

Digital communications broadly describes most of the technology you use to get in touch with your friends and family–mobile phones, the internet, social networks such as Facebook or MySpace, YouTube, blogs, text message, email, Twitter–basically any information you share on your phone or online.

Think about it: The last time you got together with friends, how did you organize yourselves? Did you send a text message? Did you email each other? Call? Send a message on Facebook or MySpace? Tweet?
During the 2008 presidential primary and race, the Obama campaign did all of the above.

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Obama, the Frequent Flier.

This post is part of a series for the Youth Media Blog-a-Thon on the topic of “regime change.”

Nixon_Mao_1972-02-29.pngWhat do Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton have in common–other than their roles as previous leaders of the free world? A penchant for international travel!

I’ll admit that even as a travel junkie experienced in the ways of fitting my life into a 20 lb backpack for months on end, many of our nation’s greatest leaders put my past travel itineraries to shame. Even prior to the boom in transportation technology President Teddy Roosevelt, the first to leave U.S. soil while in office, traveled by presidential yacht and safari, visiting foreign destinations such as Brazil, the African regions of Congo, Kenya, and Sudan, Cuba, and Panama.

Despite his love for hometown Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Eisenhower found himself visiting nearly 35 countries while in office, a far greater number than any previous president. Following close behind, Nixon became quite the globe-trotter, making perhaps the most important overseas trip in presidential history when he touched down in China and changed relations between the two nations forever. Regardless of being the oldest candidate ever elected, Reagan found himself in Berlin at the ripe age of 69 demanding that Gorbachev “tear down this wall”. And though Clinton had previously poked fun at Bush Sr.’s frequent flier track record, declaring “It’s time for us to have a president who cares more about Littleton, N.H., than about Liechtenstein”, he racked up a total of nearly 133 trips in an effort to build better international relations, tackling issues such as AIDS and the eradication of poverty.

While it would be inaccurate to say that every great president in American history was well-traveled (case in point: Abe Lincoln never left the U.S.), today’s interconnected world demands a greater sense of responsibility to the global community. Establishing personal contact with the populations of faraway regions is advisable, especially when trying to boost one’s international image. The advent of Air Force One, the most impressive and sophisticated means of presidential transportation to date, leaves little excuse for neglecting to visit and engage in shuttle diplomacy in distant locales.

Maathai_and_Obama_in_Nairobi.jpgFor newly-elected president Barack Obama, choosing to embark on an overseas tour during his candidacy helped him win over the hearts and minds of not only voting U.S. citizens, but people around the world. The Washington Post provides a picture documentary of Obama’s international travels. His visits to Afghanistan, France, Germany, Iraq, and the U.K. have racked up an impressive number of miles, a figure which is likely to increase as he plans to spend more time in the developing world while in office. Check out the Dopplr 2008 Personal Annual Report for details on Obama’s travels.

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America’s Most Iconic President? Possibly.

This post is part of a series for the Youth Media Blog-a-Thon on the topic of “regime change.”
The presidential election of 2008 and the following inauguration were a very exciting time for me and many other Americans. For us, this was the culmination of years of hard work, years of hope and years of yearning for something that had been predicted in 1963. But even for those who hadn’t closely followed his campaign and intently studied his plans for the United States, “Obama” quickly became a household name.
People that may have not known much about Obama or his candidacy certainly knew what he looked like, through photos and increasingly through the eyes of visual artists. Additionally, they may have heard praises for him from people other than his campaign workers–including musicians, poets and writers. Arguably, more than any other presidential candidate in history, Barack Obama was elevated to mythic proportions through the use of iconic imagery and romanticized prose- much of the content made available direct to viewers through sites such as YouTube.
Check out this video from the visual artist known as Shepard Fairey. He brought vision and reality to the traveling gallery exhibition called Manifest Hope, which sought to showcase work from artists that expressed support for Obama’s presidential campaign.

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