Irish President Michael D Higgins is outrageously awesome.
Specifically, his argument against a Tea Party-loving man on the radio back in 2010 (before he became President) has recently gone viral. And it is amazing. Amazing. I ripped the audio from YouTube so that I could play this on iTunes whenever I like. It’s on loop while I write this. You absolutely must listen, and not just because he’s an adorable old man who speaks fluent English with an Irish accent.
President Higgins talks about how he lived and worked in the United States, and he has no shortage of compliments about the United States. He praises President Obama (while noting that he does not agree with some aspects of Obama’s foreign policy), and talks about how the international image of the United States is being restored, in part because of young American tourists and backpackers traveling across Europe, so that Europeans see first-hand that Americans are not represented by people like Sarah Palin.
On a personal note, the last time that I was outside of the US was in spring break 2003, and so I was on a ten-day high school trip (just with those art history and Italian students who elected and could afford to go) in Florence, Italy when the War in Iraq started. There was a lot of protesting (not against us, and rest assured that suburban high schoolers from Raleigh, North Carolina do not easily pass for anything other than Americans). On our parts, there was a lot of shame and embarrassment. It didn’t overshadow our entire trip (I definitely recommend spending a couple of weeks in Italy, by the way, and I am not typically a person who likes to so much as step out onto the porch), but it was certainly memorable. And I was definitely self-conscious the entire time of how international feelings towards the US had shifted from post-9/11 sympathy to become understandably negative.
So it is really wonderful to hear this wonderful man make these wonderful points. He also talks about standard of living (a “floor, below which people wouldn’t fall”), which is just about exactly my argument for health care. The first obligation of a government is to protect its citizens, but the second is to promote the nation’s standard of living (or “promote the general welfare,” as it says in US Constitution’s preamble).
Oh, and Higgins makes fun of Sarah Palin’s fear-mongering, the Tea Party in general, and uses the word “wanker.”