Friday, July 31, 2009

The "Beer Summit"

Today we witnessed the first presidential "Beer Summit". This was the name given to the meeting held at the White House by President Obama, Vice President Biden, Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley. The stated purpose of the meeting was to establish a dialogue between the folks in the well documented dust-up that occurred in Cambridge Massachusetts two weeks ago.

The President, was hoping to conduct a male bonding moment, I mean a "teachable moment", over a few beers. The President had a Bud Light, Vice President Biden a Buckler(non-alcoholic), Professor Gates had a Sam Adams and Sgt. Crowley a Blue Moon. This was conducted outside in the rose Garden within photo lens range of the press.

It must be nice to know the President of the United States, in the middle of a health care legislative fight that may define his young presidency, has time to have a few beers and mediate a situation that he had no business involving himself in to begin with. Or did he make the time because his advisers have been getting some unflattering feedback from the American people about his comments after the incident that just doesn't seem to want to go away.

In Obama's words it was "an opportunity to listen to each other and recognize we all have different points of view". Really? To be sure, race relations in America are constantly going to have its ups and downs - on a daily basis. Have things gotten better? Absolutely. Do we have a long way to go? Absolutely.

For me, however, a "teachable moment" is providing examples for my children and their friends, as my parents provided for me, to judge people by the quality of their character and not the color of their skin.

Examples of how to settle disagreements, even heated ones, without the need to use racial or ethnic slurs.

Examples of how to treat everyone as you wish to be treated.

Examples of how to stand up for yourself and what you believe is right by using your brain to guide your actions, not your emotions.

Examples of not thinking you are better(or worse) than other people. I could go on and on with examples but I think you get the idea.

To be sure, there are those who think the President is utilizing out of the box thinking to open the lines of communication in the police/race debate that has captured the headlines for the past two weeks. Were there positive outcomes from this post workday happy hour? Seems to be, judging from the comments by Sgt. Crowley afterwards. I didn't hear from Professor Gates, but maybe I missed his statement.

Just like I may have missed his apology for possibly helping to escalate the situation that day. We heard Sgt. Crowley's. Oh, and we also heard an apology today, on Larry King Live no less, from Boston Police Officer Justin Barrett for his email that referred to Professor Gates as a "banana eating jungle monkey". (But that's for another blog post).

I don't have the luxury of having the President of the United States provide me a "teachable moment" to learn conflict resolution. But maybe the next time I have a tough situation, I'll call and see if he's available. Maybe I'll get a beer and a tour of the White House too.

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