Sarah on Oprah

November 17, 2009 at 1:36 am (By Amba)

I recorded “Oprah” today (because it was nuts here at that hour — ask Ron) to be able to watch Sarah Palin’s first book-blitz interview, late and out of sync with the whole culture as usual.  I watched it this evening.

Here’s the crazy thing:

I liked her!

It surprised me, because earlier I’d been reading The Anchoress’s tweets, and they were wince, wince, wince.  She talked too much here, she was too defensive and “rattled” there.  I think I know exactly what Anchoress is going through, because I’m that way with Obama:  wince, wince, wince.  My family thinks I’ve become a right-winger who is looking for him to fail.  Actually, I want him to succeed, but I can’t lie to myself that he’s succeeding when he isn’t.  If anything, I’m hypersensitive to every time he’s less than felicitous and candid and brave.  He’s from the same world I am, so I hold him to a mercilessly high standard.  I want him to be so much better than he is.  I want him to stop clinging to the teleprompter and the cheat sheet — why is he so afraid to speak extemporaneously?  I want him to wean himself from voter adulation and political trimming and act on principle.  I want him to have principles to act on.  I want them to be firm and generous and embracingly American.  I’m so relieved at those moments when he hits a good note and I can momentarily relax my rictus of anticipatory wince.  I get a cramp in my face.

In contrast, I don’t need or expect anything particular from Sarah Palin.  She doesn’t have to hold up my side.  [Note that the “side” I share with Obama is, as I’ve often said, not the left but the worlds-traveler — cosmopolitan, chameleon, amphibian.  Oh, and the ex-left — if only.] I don’t see her as a yokel or a political savior.  I’m really kinda neutral on her.  And from that perspective, I didn’t see any awful gaffes in her “Oprah” interview at all.  I found her voice grating at times and I did wish she’d be less coy and evasive about whether she was running for president, but aren’t they all?  Hillary, too.  On the whole she seemed to me authentic (for a politician), guileless yet also shrewd in her own time signature — you can hear her marching to a different drummer than the interviewer, and therefore sometimes seeming off the beat or slow on the uptake — impulsive, but also grounded.  She takes off in flights like a flustered pigeon, but then circles back home.

She didn’t seem extreme to me, either.  It might have been a slip when she said Bristol’s pregnancy could have been a teaching moment on the perils of “unprotected sex.”  Whoops!  But if so, the slip that showed was realism, realness, common sense.

Is she qualified to be president of the United States?  Trick question:  what are the qualifications, and how many presidents were short a few?  Did she abort her developing qualification by resigning as governor?  Maybe.  It was a big risk to take, in particular a risk of making it all about her as a personality instead of all about the office and the country — a cult of personality that threatens to become the mirror image of Obama’s.  I agree with Camille Paglia that her qualification also “will depend on her willingness to hit the books at some point and absorb more information about international history and politics.”  But her candidacy doesn’t strike me as the outlandish joke it seems to be even to some Republicans.  The extreme caricaturing and mockery of her that goes on strikes me as much more outlandish than she is.


  1. Ron said,

    “shrewd in her own time signature” — I’m stealing that!

  2. amba12 said,

    I think it’s screwed up, though. I think there’s a key signature, but not a “time signature.” (Theo, help!)

    When do you sleep??

  3. El Pollo Real said,

    I missed the interview and didn’t tape it. I’m looking for a link to to whole thing. Does anyone have one?

  4. amba12 said,

    Know what, though? I don’t want to read her book. Why? Because she didn’t write it. Also, politicians’ memoirs and manifestos are not my favorite genre. Haven’t read either of Obama’s books, either.

  5. Jenny said,

    There are both key signatures and time signatures.

  6. wj said,

    I would distinguish between “qualified to be President” and “capable of being President.” The difference being that qualifications, whatever one considers them to be, can be listed specifically. But capability is a much more subjective matter — at least before there is a track record as President. (And, just for the record, I would also say that whether I consider the individual “like-able” is separate from both.)

    As you say, whatever the qualifications (beyond the Constitutionally mandated ones), there would likely be some Presidents who were missing some. Both incompetent and quite capable Presidents — and whether I liked what they did as President or not. On the other hand, pretty much all of the Presidents who clearly, ahead of time, did not meet the “capable of being President” test were incompetents.

    And, in my subjective opinion, Ms. Palin clearly does not meet the capability test. I came to that conclusion around mid-September of 2008, and everything I have seen since has only reinforced it.

  7. chasrmartin said,

    “Time signature” is fine, it’s the part that usually looks like a fraction. And I like it better than key signature, because she’s hitting the right notes, she’s doing so to her own beat, and I don’t think they’re accidental.

    WJ, honestly, if you came to that conclusion in mid-September 2008, then you’re probably basing it on falsehoods. That’s when I was still in the throws of the Palin Rumors thing, where people were actually making things up, posting them as satire, and then seeing them reported as fact by AP and similar “respectable” sources. Amba actually appears to slip into that as well: Palin was in favor of teaching condom use while still Governor, and said the thing about the risks of unprotected sex during the campaign as well. That didn’t keep the opposite from being reported. Repeatedly.

  8. amba12 said,

    Thanks, Jenny. So I remember correctly from my piano-lesson days. That’s a relief.

  9. wj said,

    Chas, actually I was basing it on the interview Palin did with Couric. (Did I, perhaps, mis-remember the date?) It wasn’t a matter of what other people were saying about her, so much as how she behaved and what she said during that broadcast.

    I confess that I have a pretty low level of expectations when it comes to politicians in general. But that was just way beyond what I felt was acceptable.

  10. amba12 said,

    You’re right, Charlie, I just noticed that she was not entirely hewing to the social-conservative playbook there. Mike Huckabee would not have said that. I had forgotten, if I knew, her history on the issue. Pragmatic, as a parent of teen-agers.

    I thought she was sweet about Levi.

  11. Danny said,

    Likable, yes, and it didn’t hurt that Oprah went so easy on her. Oprah seemed to tread very lightly on Palin’s stated complaints about the McCain campaign. I was surprised that I actually bought Palin’s explanation of her abysmal performance during the Couric interview, even about the question of what books and magazines she reads. In retrospect, I can see why Couric’s demeanor was perceived by some as the epitome of liberal elitism. I thought it was funny the goofy way Palin dismissed Oprah’s self-importance about her supposed snub of Palin during the campaign by saying “forgive me, but that wasn’t the center of my universe at the time” even though I didn’t believe for a second that she hadn’t heard much about that controversy until now. I also didn’t buy her attitude towards Levi, I’m sure in private quarters she is (rightfully) screaming bloody murder about her daughter’s opportunistic ex. Overall performance: A-. Talk show? Go for it. But Sarah Palin in the White House? Please God NO.

  12. Donna B. said,

    Danny — Oprah is easy on everyone isn’t she? Though I haven’t watched her in years (she got to woo-ey goo-ey) she doesn’t have a reputation for confrontational or ‘hard’ questions.

    As for a public good attitude about Levi, she really has no choice. She’d look like she was picking on somebody weaker and that would be true. Also, it would give Levi another opportunity.

    …….. and, Sarah never quite worked with the entire social conservative playbook, though you’d think it from reading/hearing all the rumors about her. She never proclaimed abortion should be legally wrong, though she stated it was wrong for her morally. That’s pretty close to my own very secular position. The worst (and it’s bad, IMHO) was espousing what appears to be a belief in ‘young earth’ creationism.

    The main reason I don’t want to see her run for President is that she is still dealing with a lot of crap tossed on her that she in no way deserved. We don’t need a President who has that to deal with.

    Amba – you wrote: [Note that the “side” I share with Obama is, as I’ve often said, not the left but the worlds-traveler — cosmopolitan, chameleon, amphibian. Oh, and the ex-left — if only.] That made me blink twice and go “HUH?”

  13. trooper york said,

    Palin is a lot like Nixon. She has a ton of supporters because of the enemies she has made. She has a big Huey Long streak in her. Do you remember old Huey?

    He had a chance to surpass FDR until they whacked him. A real blue collar populist could get a lot of votes. He couldn’t be a white guy now, because the decks are stacked against that now. But a minority or a woman? They could roll right over both the Democrats and the Republicans.

  14. trooper york said,

    “Every man a king.” “It’s the big money that is holding you down.” “Those taxes you pay, they don’t go to you, they go to those special interests the elites determine should have the dough.”

    “It’s a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight.”

  15. Randy said,

    WJ: You’re close! That interview began on September 24.

  16. david said,

    If you don’t want to read her book because she didn’t write it, then you shouldn’t credit or discredit her for anything she said, because she didn’t come up with any of those, either.

  17. Donna B. said,

    ’tis true, David. How I wish I had a ghostwriter for my blog posts and comments. It’s not that they would say something different than what I believe, but that they would say it more succinctly.

    One sense that I perceive with Palin is that ‘what you see is what you get’. She didn’t portray herself as an intellectual because she doesn’t see herself as one. She did portray herself as competent. There’s a huge difference.

    Plus, it’s much easier to ‘seem’ an intellectual than to ‘seem’ competent.

    What hurts with Obama is that he can’t keep up the illusion of either.

  18. amba12 said,

    Donna: what was the “HUH?” about? Ex-left? I wasn’t ever hard left, I just came from a liberal family with all those ingrained assumptions: Roosevelt good, government good, Republicans bad.

  19. amba12 said,

    A real blue collar populist . . . could roll right over both the Democrats and the Republicans.

    And, for better or for worse, wouldn’t there be a certain satisfaction in seeing that happen??

  20. amba12 said,

    David: you really think everything she said was scripted by someone else??

  21. Ennui said,

    Palin is a lot like Nixon. She has a ton of supporters because of the enemies she has made.

    Very good point. That explains some of her appeal to me. The other part is her likability (should we call it charisma in the Max Weber sense?). So, on balance she’s a good looking Nixon without the iron butt.

    The iron butt gap is a problem for me.

    Here’s another odd little note. Sarah Palin is, to the best of my knowledge, the first out and out Gen-Xer to achieve real prominence on the National Stage (Obama could be considered an early Gen-Xer or a late Boomer, depending on where you draw the line – you just can’t pin the guy down on anything :) ). Generation X has been little heard from in national politics – and that may be part of the weirdness in her time signature (e.g., the way she lives by her wits, isn’t really an ideologue, stresses competence over vision, sees conflict as personal rather than structural). Ditching the Governorship may appear out of kilter on this score, but we X-er’s have a well earned reputation for traveling light and being willing to “redeploy” in a heartbeat.

    I really don’t think that she’ll end up being a national office holder.

  22. Donna B. said,

    Amba — it wasn’t the ex-left, it was the worlds-traveler, cosmopolitan bit. Those suggest an ability to be and behave as if one were home wherever they find themselves. I think Obama has proven himself to definitely NOT be that.

    Perhaps I’ve got the whole thing wrong, but Bill Clinton is the person it sounds like you were describing. He would be as comfortable in my house eating cornbread and beans as he would dining with Sarkozy on escargot.

    Bill Clinton, though as fatherless as Obama, really never worried about who he was. Obama, I’m not so sure has a clue who he is, other than a survivor. I have no problem seeing him as a chameleon, but not amphibious. He’s in over his head and has gone beyond the safety buoys. He’s inflexible and appears not to learn from past mistakes.

    I think Obama is essentially weak, whereas you are one of the strongest people I know.

  23. William O'blivion. said,

    Nobody is qualified, beyond just meeting the strict constitutional requirements, to be the Chief Executive of a government with as much power, responsibility, and scope as this one.

    Nobody. Some (Bush, Clinton) can fake it better, but it’s way too large, way too diverse and way too corrupt in both people and process to be manageable.

    The two biggest complaints I have about this President are his obvious dislike of this country and his complete lack of class.

    I don’t like his policies, I don’t think we should go where he thinks we should, but that’s politics and we can have those discussions. But the structure of those country is that we are supposed to (SUPPOSED TO) have these debates out in the open, not use the power of the federal government to suppress debate.

    The previous administration faced (so far) 7 years of ridicule because a single official said that people might want to watch what they say–with the in-context implication being that you don’t want to give THE COUNTRIES enemies ammunition to use against us. This President (not just his hired weenies) has suggested that it is morally wrong to merely debate his policies.

    I really don’t see how anyone can consider the left in this country to be “liberal” any more.

    Liberalism, at least that which I grew up understanding concerned itself with the rights, freedoms and liberties of the individual. The right to live as the state wants you too is not part of that no matter who claims is.

    In this thread HERE Sarah Palin has been compared to Huey Long and Richard Nixon. This is–has to be–deliberately disingenuous. Both were FAR more concerned about the exercise of power and strengthening the central state than Palin, Long and Nixon were both corrupt as hell, and Nixon was a paranoiac who saw enemies everywhere. Palin might also see enemies everywhere right now, but to coin a phrase “Tt ain’t paranoia if there’s incoming.”

    If anything one can compare Obama to Long–especially the bits about getting political opponents removed from office.

    I like Palin’s instincts, but I deplore her intellectual depth–which is to say her lack of it. I think that on most CURRENT issues I would find myself on her side, but for different reasons.

    Obama has an intellectual pedigree, he has some depth, and this makes it CLEAR how he’s going to come down on most issues. Anyone who’s shocked by ANYTHING he’s done wasn’t paying attention. Well, that’s not true. I’m shocked that he’d failed to put his hand over his heart so many times, and that on those occasions he didn’t even bother to look involved. I though he was egotistical, but I thought he was at least together enough to fake it.

    This intellectual depth–once it’s understood–gives you a good idea how a Chief Executive will react to *new* issues.

  24. amba12 said,

    I think Obama is what’s called “Generation Jones.”

  25. amba12 said,

    Donna: I don’t know if Obama is essentially weak, but I’m sure he was untested in some essential ways (even though he was getting close to 50 years old). He had a lot to learn, and he has to get his vanity out of the way (which he was slow to do, because that’s where the personal rewards were) in order to learn it. He needs a real (metaphorical) beating, and he’s getting it now in the U.S. Presidency. Everybody does, that is, but most are far more ready for it. Even though he is a Chicago politician, he’s barely out of the Golden Gloves. Turns out that was a small pond in some way. (Sorry about the mixed metaphors. I need coffee.)

    The thing about being a worlds traveler for someone whose identity is sort of formless and in flux (mine was!) is that it takes a long time. You adapt to this influence and that influence, never becoming wholly a part of any one, but becoming a studious apprentice of each. Then one day it all coalesces, and it becomes clear to you what you’ve chosen and what you’ve shed of each influence, and it’s all you. You are no longer any different when eating cornbread than escargot. You are comfortable with so much, but stop trying things on.

    I don’t have a clear sense of whether Bill Clinton ever had to go through this process. I suspect Obama has. I know I did, and when would I say it all came together? I was still a work in progress at 50. Curious that for me, it coincided with getting out of the liberal world view.

  26. Theo.Boehm said,

    Amba: There very much is a “time signature.” It consists of the numbers you see at the beginning of a piece or elsewhere that are usually written as 4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 6/8, etc. The top number tells you how many beats in a bar, at least in theory, and the bottom number indicates the value of the note that the beats are denominated in, again theoretically. So, for example, the bottom “4” means quarter notes, while the “8” means eighth notes.

    The theoretical part comes in where the value of the note for the beat is not used for the beat. The classic example is 6/8 time, which is very often counted in two, with the three eighth notes to the beat. Jigs and such are in 6/8 or 3/8 time. Fast 3/4 time is also often counted in one, as you might do in a fast waltz. Examples abound.

    Your use of “shrewd in her own time signature” is not only appropriate, but brilliant, actually. It has the obvious connotation of her marching to her own drummer, etc. But beyond that, I can think of all sorts of musical examples that give that use (or “application,” as Dr. Johnson would say) a depth of meaning far beyond the obvious.

    And, like Ron, I’m going to steal it!

  27. amba12 said,

    Thanks, Theo. The funny thing is, all that about 4/4, 3/4 time, etc., and what the two values stand for, is very familiar to me. But I second-guessed myself — I wasn’t sure after blurting it out that “time signature” was the right name for it. First thought, best thought.

  28. karen said,

    “Chas, actually I was basing it on the interview Palin did with Couric. (Did I, perhaps, mis-remember the date?) It wasn’t a matter of what other people were saying about her, so much as how she behaved and what she said during that broadcast.”

    I think Palin is a gal that’s never gotten used to hanging out and being catty w/women– she’s never grown outta that ~Tomboy~ age– no matter what she wears or how she looks!! And i think the open hostility from the likes of Couric and Oprah– we all know they hate her guts– almost pushed Palin physically backwards. She isn’t much good at faking– w/Couric, she didn’t fake; w/Oprah- she may have over-corrected a tad too much, idk- i didn’t watch.

    William– always a pleasure- it’s not just your words being music to my ears as they are of the Libertarian/Conservative bent, but the frankness of it all is pretty cool. “It ain’t paranoia if there’s incoming”. Lord.

    So– yesterday, i got off the farm and had two great experiences. In the dentist’s office(for a cleaning)this guy around my age looked at me and said something like: ” Do you realize that our President thinks that a strong, vibrant China is a good thing for the world?” “Did you know that Brack Obama headquarters had a picture of a South American Revolutionary hanging beside his own portrait while campaigning for president?” & on&on&on like that. He pissed more people off– and i told him i would never have the balls to be so outspoken– he said that’s what more people need to be doing, talking… because our freedoms were under attack and that of free speech definitely.

    He really made my day:0). No one tried to engage him in conversation(i sorta did, but certainly not as joyously as he.) It was so funny. One young lady got up and mutterred under her breath-“i’m not going to listen to this shit!” and sat as far away as she could and when they called her into the office she said: “Thank God!!!” to which he smiled and said- “yeah- i’m getting a lot of that.”

    I don’t know if he does this everywhere or if he only does it to get on people’s nerves, it’s nothing to me, really; but, i did give him Gateway Pundit as a blog to hit for info.

    The 2nd great thing was to have my glasses adjusted. I am so happy because cows are not stock-still(lol) animals when milked and i was missing a nosepiece thingy and the earpieces were so loose that i peered over my glasses and habitually pushed them back up the bridge of my honker every 5 seconds- which sucked. So, they are nice and stable and tight again. Only, this morning, Liz slipped off the tread w/one foot and righted herself by adjusting my head- which does rest upon the flank when i put the milker on her– and bent my specs. Oh, well,i bent them back:0).

    David– have you read any of Obama’s books?

  29. karen said,

    And, David? Obama doesn’t tweet, either– so, who all thaked the world in Nov when he won the election? Via Althouse.

  30. karen said,


  31. karen said,

    i found this- this dude was on B O’Rielly(cringecringe):

    Bill O’Reilly and author Bernie Goldberg Expose The REAL Reason Why the Media Hates Sarah Palin.
    Because she’s so ordinary like Middle America… And they detest Middle America:

    Bernie Goldberg: “When she was still on the ticket a disease broke out in liberal America- Palin Derangement Syndrome. But I don’t think Bill that they detest her simply because she’s a conservative woman, a pro-Life, pro-gun conservative woman. I think there’s something else that’s working here. Here’s a woman that didn’t go to Harvard, Yale or Princeton. She bounced around at a bunch of colleges before she wound up at the University of Idaho which is practically a crime against humanity among liberal elites. She has 5 kids. Liberals don’t have 5 kids. One of them has Down Syndrome, liberals certainly don’t allow that to happen… They detested her Bill, they detested her because she was so ordinary. Because she was like a Middle America. And you know what? The liberals and the lamestream media, that’s who they really detest.”

    ps– i don’t know this Bernie, but i like him way better than Bernie Sanders.

  32. trooper york said,

    Dude, Sarah’s aniti-elitism stance is right out of Huey’s playbook. And he didn’t look at what he did as courruption, he was just taking care of his people. Americans were a lot more honest about that back in the day. Boss Hauge and Jimmie Hines and Big Tim knew what they were about. It was when the blue nose Protestant reformers that came in that we got great stuff like Prohibition and the Depression.

    Every man a king.

  33. wj said,

    William O’ — I certainly agree that probably nobody on earth is capable of managing all of the stuff that a US President is supposed to deal with. And I have no problem with anyone who disagrees with some, or even most, of Obama’s policy preferences — heaven knows I have a lot of disagreements there, too.

    But what do you see that causes you to characterize Obama as having an “obvious dislike of this country”? Is it just a matter of his policies being things that you think would be bad for the country? Or is there something else that he has done or said that moved you?

  34. amba12 said,

    wj — to borrow a term from Twitter, #buttinski: my reading of what Wm O’ said is that Obama has inherited the academic left’s critical attitude toward the U.S., seeing it prominently if not primarily as imperialist, colonialist, and racist, through the alternative history lens of oppressed minority groups, client states, meddling in the governance of Iran and much of Latin America in order to a) shore up an anti-Soviet alignment and b) preserve favorable climates for U.S. corporations such as the oil companies and United Fruit. Never say I don’t know the drill! Your average academic leftist would view your average American patriot as the beneficiary of a lot of immoral ruthlessness toward non-Americans, especially those “of color.” Of course, your average academic leftist is also a beneficiary thereof, but feels guilt about it and blames his or her country for putting him or her in such an uncomfortably comfortable position.

  35. Ron said,

    First, ask chickelit for who was the sexy beast who coined #buttinski on Twitter…

    If academics feel guilty about America, perhaps the cure is therapy not literary theory.

    It should be noted that just because someone does not have their guilt about America doesn’t automatically mean they’re imperialist or racist.

  36. amba12 said,

    It is an ugly truth that many of the advantages we enjoy were acquired at others’ expense. On the other hand, we have also generated many advantages, tangible and intangible, that have spread outward to others. You don’t want to see how sausage or nations are made; you can still appreciate the quality of better sausage.

  37. Ron said,

    It is an ugly truth that many of the advantages we enjoy were acquired at others’ expense. True for any non-dead people on Earth?

  38. amba12 said,

    My point. But idealists have delicate sensibilities until it comes to imposing those sensibilities on others.

    Critics say it’s loving your country to expect better of her. True, up to a point. (If not, black people and women would still not have the vote.) There is ever room for improvement. But expecting an unearthly moral purity, if taken to its logical conclusion, is either suicidal or homicidal.

  39. Ron said,

    To judge any country (or individual!) by a standard obtained by no one not only is wrong, but it destroys whatever virtue idealism might have.

  40. david said,

    For what it’s worth, I am seeing the beginnings of a significant turn away from dogmatic, reflexive leftist thinking in The Academy.

    Of course, I’m at the University of Chicago, which has never exactly been a hotbed of radicalism. On the other hand, Ehud Olmert did get shouted down when he tried to give a scheduled speech on campus last month.

  41. amba12 said,

    The former is very good news, the latter, not. :)

  42. Donna B. said,

    Amba @7:12am — We are all untested when confronted by something new, are we not? That relates to weakness only in how we respond. How we respond, I think, is a part of our personality or personal traits developed well ahead of any formal “testing”.

    The more testing opportunities one is presented with, the better chance one has to hone his/her responses, but they are all going to be based on an initial set of personality traits.

    Perhaps one huge difference between us is my Scots-Irish upbringing which included a lot of “someone may be more educated than you but that doesn’t make them better or more intelligent than you”. Both my parents were brought up poor in the poor south in the 1930s. They were both highly intelligent people, but not educated. Neither of them got a HS diploma until they were adults.

    At the same time they highly touted wisdom of the elders, especially their parents and grandparents. Obviously I have embraced this trait. While I can see now where my father made some truly horrendous mistakes in some areas, I can also appreciate his wisdom in others.

    What I was trying to state is that I had this firm background of family to depend on. And from what I’ve read of your parents and siblings, you have something very similar.

    That is where I think you and I and most Americans differ from Obama — we have a bedrock that he was denied, through no fault of his own. Bill Clinton had it through the small-town, basically “All-American” community of Hope AR.

    I feel sorry for Obama, the man. But that sorrow doesn’t lead to excusing his actions or non-actions as this nation’s leader.

    To put it in the most blunt and gross “down-home” way, Obama never learned to either shit or get off the pot.

  43. karen said,

    Donna– i’d like a signed copy of that autobiography:0).

  44. PatHMV said,

    Donna… I think one of the most disturbing trends in this country is the growing congruence between poverty and lack, not just of education, but of basic thinking skills and respect for intelligence and education. Not that there aren’t poor smart people, but as a general trend I fear this is true.

    In my own (historical) family, my great-great-uncle (my grandfather’s uncle) was born into a large farm family, poor as you can imagine. Yet they valued education and were clearly quite intelligent, though lacking themselves in formal education. My great-great uncle Oliver, the youngest of the family, had a deep passion for learning, and wanted to go to college. And the family scrimped and saved just enough to send him off. It wasn’t much, just enough for a train ticket and a few months living expenses. On the train, he met a man who happened to run a small Baptist college (not the one which Oliver was travelling to attend), who was taken by him and offered to find some scholarship for him. Oliver changed his plans on the spot and went to that man’s college, living in a one-room apartment with only an old cable spool for a table.

    By the end of his life, Oliver was the chair of the dept. of Romance Languages at Stanford University.

    I don’t have statistics on it, and I know that there is still plenty of socio-economic mobility in this country (much more than in most countries), but I do fear that we’ve lost something, that we’ve lost something of the “poor but proud” attitude that many Americans once had.

  45. Donna B. said,

    Pat — I agree. It seems to me it’s an attitude change, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. After my first husband died, I dated a man who used to laugh at me because he could so clearly see what my children also saw: That I would bend over backwards to get them whatever if they could present it to me as “educational”.

    And my children were quick learners there :-)

    I don’t regret a dime spent on any of it. Private schools, violin & ballet lessons, flying lessons, trips across the country and overseas… yeah, I probably could have paid 4 years tuition easily on money spent on them while in middle & high school.

    Yet these experiences and the discipline required of my children to succeed by displaying a certain amount of trust in them (soloing in a Cessna on a 16th birthday, wandering around Italy just barely supervised, living with a ‘middle class’ family for a month in Venezuela who possessed only one towel per family member and had never tasted peanut butter, playing with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall and wandering around NYC barely supervised… ) allowed them to excel in their college experiences and also got them some fantastic scholarships that greatly exceed in $$value anything I could have saved for them.

    And don’t think for a moment that I discount the vicarious thrill and joy of experiencing these things through my children. It’s similar to my mother insisting that my sister and I learn to play the piano because she’d always wanted to.

    The dark side of the Scots-Irish heritage I’ve mentioned is that some interpret as “don’t try to be better than you are” as a way of keeping the kids down home on the farm or something. I don’t understand that way of thinking, but I’ve seen it in action and it horrifies me.

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