Monday, March 10, 2008


Take care. And now, as a PS, I leave with an e-mail from a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) who hosted my students last summer (’07). Apparently Bush and Condi asked to meet informally with some PCV’s to hear their take on African development. This was during his African tour, if you remember that in the news.



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: So<>
Date: Tue, Mar 4, 2008 at 5:08 PM
Subject: Ever had lunch with George W. Bush?

I thought I'd start off this email the same way President Bush began
our lunch… with a little joke:

Once upon a time there was a scorpion who found himself on the wrong
side of the river. Convinced his future waited on the opposite bank,
he resolved to find a way across. It was a difficult job, nobody
wanted to take on a scorpion. Finally a crocodile, out of pity, agreed
to let the scorpion sit on his nose as he swam across the river… just
so long as the scorpion promised to behave. Halfway across the river,
the scorpion stung the crocodile's nose. The crocodile, sputtering as
he began to drown, asked, "What the hell did you do that for? You
screwed me, but you screwed yourself!" The scorpion answered, "Dude!
This is Africa."

At this point in time it is worth mentioning Mrs. Bush smiled so hard
her flawless makeup nearly cracked. (She has great pores, by the way…
ask Melinda. She sat by her.)

Actually, to be fair, the President merely asked Bob Geldof, celebrity
activist, to tell the joke. (Then he told him to keep quiet for the
rest of the meal.) Funny? Yes. Appropriate? Hmm… But this little
incident illustrates so perfectly why I love celebrity activists:
their ardent desire to convey at every moment heartfelt and genuine
sensitivity to the regions with which they profess a kinship. And it
adds so much respect and professionalism to an event when you show up
chewing gum and complaining about your hangover. Yes. Way to go Bono
and Company! Saving Africa one inappropriately (albeit hilariously)
placed joke at a time. (I think Geldof should tell that joke at his
next Live 8 gig.)

So as you have by now gathered, lunch was a more casual affair. An
incredibly high-pressured casual affair, but relaxed. I felt like the
power players present (The President, Condoleeza Rice and Mrs. Bush)
relished a chance to sit down to a fun lunch, and really get to know
us. And they genuinely cared to get to know us.

I sat across from Dr. Rice and entertained her with stories of Wamfie.
"Well Dr. Rice, I haven't found communication to be too much of a
barrier. I mean my African mama, as she calls herself, doesn't speak a
word of English, well apart from 'Africa mama'… But she's big and
she's loud and I suspect you would understand her in any language! She
sends you here greetings!" (Luckily I remembered in time that tacking
on, 'she loves you because you are a black American!' may not be
appropriate.) She, Condoleeza Rice, is certainly an interesting lady.
She told me she can't wait to move, "anywhere west of the Mississippi"
and plans to go back to Stanford. Hearing her muse over public policy,
as related to Africa, was surreal. I actually agree with a lot of the
initiatives the Bush administration has put forward in Africa. His
PEPFAR (Presidential fund for Aids Relief) and Millennium Funds are
pretty unique forms of aid. The programs are essentially micro-finance
programs that allow for small business owners and farmers to apply for
grants and loans themselves, the government of Ghana simply monitors
the fund, they don't apply it to their own purposes. In my opinion
these funds direct the momentum that already exists in the minds of
small business owners who just may not have the resources to direct
the momentum independently.

I think we made a good impression on the President. (In a state dinner
later that night he said something along the line of, 'if anybody
wants to see our commitment to Ghana, they should look at our Peace
Corps Volunteers, and the compassion they show towards the villages
they live and work in.') At one point in the conversation he asked me
why I'd joined Peace Corps. I responded that my uncle had been in the
Foreign Service and, as a little girl, I'd watched him in awe wanting
to do the same kinds of things and that my parents always encouraged
me to engage in service to others… so Peace Corps was a natural step.
Then the president asked if I'd ever thought of joining the Foreign
Service myself because, "Condi makes one hell of a reference, and you
two have been talking up a storm!" Then Condi smiled and said,
"Sometimes they recognize my name down in the department of state."

We each got independent pictures with the President (and jewelry boxes
from Tiffanys). For our shot, President Bush pulled me close, called
me his Alaskan Gal and threw his arm around me. If you think that's
crazy, he took to calling Dixie (the 65 year old raging feminist in
our group) 'My little Dixie Chick.' He's got a way. And now, having
met him and thus being able to perfectly sum up his character with the
utmost authority, I am inclined to think he is a genuine in his ideas,
even if they don't turn out well. If he weren't the President I think
he'd be vastly popular. As it is, well… we have our differences. His
visit has made a huge impact in Ghana. All over the country people are
impressed. Just yesterday somebody informed me, "I support the
republican party because George Bush was the first president to ever
come to Ghana and show us he cares." I have also heard him described
as a man who, "very obviously cares about the world outside the US." I
won't offer any comments here… Is this getting awkward? Should I
throw in another inappropriate joke about development in Africa?

What did the Congo do for light before they had candles?
Electricity. (Oh that Geldof! What a card!)

On the home front: Wamfie is now convinced I am personal friends with
every famous person alive. Having lunch with the President the moment
he comes to Ghana does little to dissuade them from this fantasy. Text
messages from famous footballers, that I manufactured as a joke, don't
help much either. In my defense, I sent these messages long before I
was dining with the president and I thought it would be fairly obvious
to realize a text massage reading, "Dear Sophia: You are the prettiest
person in the world. Marry me. I love you. From: Essien the world
famous footballer." was a hoax… but now after this Bush thing, nobody
believes I was lying anymore. Oh well.

Love to you all,

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