Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Letter to the English Program Students at UBB

Dear Englishline Students,

As your resident American professor, I want to share with you my thoughts about what I have witnessed this morning on CNN.
  • Barack Obama is President-Elect of the United States of America.
  • Barack Obama, and America, have thus overcome centuries of cultural biases and deep prejudices.
  • Barack Obama based his campaign on the need for change in America.
  • Barack Obama's campaign slogan was, "Yes, we can!"
Last Monday I had a long and serious conversation, over an excellent lunch at The Pyramids, with one of UBB's top administrators. I asked him, "What do you believe is Romania's greatest barrier to further progress and development?" He thought for at least one minute before responding, "The attitude of the people. Romanians do not believe that they can bring about real change."

In my first few weeks in your country, I have seen the attitude to which my luncheon companion referred. I have heard that I should not bring a car to Romania, for the driving is too difficult, the roads too rough, the traffic too thick. I have heard that I must accept long, rude waiting lines to buy health insurance, for the performance of the public servants will never change. I have even heard such things said by some of you.

Every frustration, every irritation in their lives, Romanians accept, and deem inevitable. But those feelings of frustration or irritation are your signals of the need for change. Heed them. Believe in yourselves. Your duty as citizens in a free society is to bring about positive change, to eliminate such irritations for future Romanians.

Does any of you doubt that you, the internationally and multilingually educated young Romanians, can do so? If so, please take the example of Barack Obama to heart. Read his victory speech. It is clearly written. It is gracious. It is humble. It celebrates the ability of America to change. It credits the people of America for that ability. And, it calls for future commitment and sacrifices in order to change America, yet again.

Romania and America are far more alike than different. We are both multicultural countries, peopled by a mixture from many parts of the world. Our histories and geography are different, but we are both literate countries with our basic political roots drawn from Ancient Greece and Rome, and our sense of right and wrong drawn from Judeo-Christian values. America threw off its most recent imperial bonds almost exactly two hundred years before Romania did, and has thus had a two-century head start in democractic governance. But things move much faster today than they did in 1789.

Romania is a great country. Romanians are a great people. Your generation has a great opportunity. I see it. I believe it.

Obama has proven that in a democracy, all things are possible. Please, take his example to heart. You can change anything that needs changing, if you will commit to doing so. Stop accepting frustration and irritation as inevitable. Make your society better. Yes, you can.


Duncan C. McDougall

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