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President Obama spoke at a commencement address at Hampton University Virginia this morning. According to Obama Americans are distracted by information….
“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,” Obama said.
“All of this is not only putting new pressures on you, it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.”
But within the very same speech laments the uninformed citizen through the thoughts of Jefferson…
“What Jefferson recognized… that in the long run, their improbable experiment — called America — wouldn’t work if its citizens were uninformed, if its citizens were apathetic, if its citizens checked out, and left democracy to those who didn’t have the best interests of all the people at heart.
“It could only work if each of us stayed informed and engaged, if we held our government accountable, if we fulfilled the obligations of citizenship.”
What is one to make of such contradictory utterances?
My first thought is that Obama’s heart is more accurately reflected in his own words rather than Jefferson’s.
But if we accept the two thoughts as equally weighted and that Obama appreciates an informed electorate, then it seems that only certain information qualifies as appropriate to Obama, the kind that he agrees with, the state sanctioned sort of ‘news’.
One comes away with a sense of wistfulness, a desire for information control that other leaders employ in more remote parts of the world in these contradictory statements.