:: Pedantic Platitudes ::

Greetings! My name is Sam J and I am a student at Harvard University. Perhaps this blog will present a little look into the mundane yet unique events that make up my life.
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:: Tuesday, August 10, 2004 ::

Mr. Lin goes to Washington... Part 2

I neglected to include a photo of John Kerry yesterday when he was speaking:

Mr. Kerry


On Friday, we got up early again and met at one of the hotel's meeting rooms for breakfast. Breakfast was quite nice and included scrambled eggs, a potato dish, bacon, sausage, assorted pastries, and orange juice - the pulpy kind (which was nice to have since I always end up drinking the non-pulpy kind, but I digress). We socialized while eating our meal. We then headed to the convention hall, where we heard a speech from the one and only George W. Bush, alas. On the way to the convention hall, we passed the requisite protestors, who lined the sidewalk with posters denouncing Bush and handing out fliers detailing 15 reasons why not to vote for Bush this November.

Security was very tight. There were Secret Service agents everywhere, and we had to go through a bag check and metal detectors. The same thing happened when we went to hear John Kerry speak the day before, but it was more rigorous and intensive for Bush. We then had to wait a very long time as more and more people filled the hall, and the speech started late because, as one security guard put it, "The president will decide when to start, and he likes to speak to a full house," (I of course rolled my eyes when I heard that). Right before the speech began, we heard the loud rumbling of a helicopter above the building we were in. We weren't sure if it was part of some security procedure or if it was W. landing in a helicopter on the roof of the convention center.

Bush speaks

The speech... Ah yes, what can I say about Bush's speech? I seriously think that media outlets edit his comments to make him sound more intelligent. I mean, I had known before that he's not the most gifted with the English language (or any other intellectual capacity for that matter), but I was still truly overwhelmed by his inability to speak.

Here are some highlights:

Bush refused to take questions from the general audience, but he did take questions from a panel with representatives from the four major journalists' associations of the convention. A representative from the Native American Journalists' Association asked, "What does tribal sovereignty mean in the 21st century?" Bush's response (from the event transcript): "Tribal sovereignty means that, it's sovereign. You're a -- you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And, therefore, the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities."

My friend turned to me and commented, "So he just says 'sovereign' six or seven times and that answers the question?"

Another moment was when Bush described the War on Terror:

"We actually misnamed the War on Terror. It ought to be the Struggle Against Ideological Extremists Who Do Not Believe in Free Societies Who Happen to Use Terror as a Weapon To Try To Shape The Conscience Of The Free World."


But of course we couldn't use that name because we need to feed the American public a scary soundbite like "war on terror" to drive them into fearful submission!

Finally, a representative from the Asian American Journalists' Association talked about a new book that proposes a return to internment camps like those used against Japanese-Americans during World War II. She asked how Bush felt about it. His response? "First of all, we don't need intern camps."

Um, you mean internment camps? Well, I suppose he wouldn't want any intern camps after the whole Clinton scandal...

There was a moment during Bush's speech in which everything became surreal for me. I was overwhelmed with confusion about our country. How could anybody listen to him speak and still want to vote for him? Does he even know what he's talking about? I think it's true that media outlets "go easy" on him. Maybe they feel sorry for him. Maybe they are just overwhelmingly conservative. Whatever it is, the truth needs to be told about this man.

Oh yeah, and there was a protestor who started shouting at Bush in the middle of his speech. He kept yelling, and a couple of mysterious Secret Service agents approached him and took him outside. On one hand, I agree that trying to shout somebody down during their speech is not really democratic, but on the other hand, I found that moment where the protestor was carried out to be incredibly symbolic of the Bush administration's silencing and launching a smear campaign against anyone who disagrees with them.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson held a press conference immediately after Bush's speech to rebut his comments

After the speech, we gathered again for several meetings as part of our Scholars' Retreat. We broke off into groups and had discussions about being a scholar, working in the journalism industry, and other issues that affect the media, such as ethics and plagiarism. After the day of sessions, we gathered for a big group picture.

Later in the evening, we gathered once again for dinner. We were all going to go to the dinner for the Asian American Journalists' Association, but there was a big ticket mix-up, so we didn't have enough tickets for everyone in the group. The few of us who did get tickets all sat together at a table in the far corner, and the dinner began.

Those of us who made it to the dinner

There were so many celebrities there. "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto was one of the guests of honor, and onstage were Lisa Ling (who was once a host on "The View" TV show), Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN medical correspondent), and CBS anchor Connie Chung.

Sanjay and Sam J

Iron Chef Morimoto (Connie Chung is at the table on the left)

Dinner was very much like the night before, with the asparagus salad, mushroom soup, and chicken breast. Because we had the same thing the night before, we requested the vegetarian dish, and that was most delicious. It was a flaky pastry with lots of vegetables. Dessert differed from last night; instead of key lime pie with flavorless meringue, they served this wonderful citrus custard with fresh berries in a martini glass. It was delightfully sweet. I had two of those desserts, and I probably gained twenty pounds as a result.

Fancy salad

Tasty dessert

Connie Chung was the keynote speaker, and having seen her on television, I thought she would be extremely serious and boring. However, she was the complete opposite. She was animated, hilarious, and - dare I say - hyper. She was all smiles, and she injected a great deal of humor into her uplifting address. She talked about Asian American issues, particularly relating to journalism, and it was a perfect speech for the crowd. She started off by singing this absolutely hilarious song about politics and this year's presidential election. She then talked about the Asian American identity. She covered various ways to respond to some more ignorant questions, such as the "double from" question ("Where are you from?" "Kansas." "No, where are you really from?" - as if all Asian Americans are born outside of the United States). Asian Americans are often misperceived as outsiders, as not true Americans, and so she encouraged everyone to fight the misconception.

Connie Chung also made a slight dig at other TV journalists like Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer. She said she didn't want to "act like an ogre," so that's why she would be quiet and do as she was told, even if she didn't want to do certain assignments. The moral of the story was to stand up for what you want, instead of feeling like the Asian who feels the need to always say "yes" to everything. That's right. I'm tired of being the ineffectual Asian American who can't say no! I'm going to have what I want!

Connie Chung's speech was empowering and uplifting. For a very long time I didn't (not that I really got the chance) pay much attention to race issues, especially Asian American issues, and even these days I don't get many opportunities to hear about or discuss such matters, so hearing her speech was especially interesting for me. It's tough to have an Asian background in this country, so it was great being in a hall full of other journalists who face similar hardships and can all relate.

After the dinner, my companions and I went to the silent auction held by the Asian American Journalists' Association. We then went to a get-together with the other Knight Ridder scholars in a private suite at the hotel. We ordered food and had lively conversations into the late night.


It was the last major day of the convention. There was nothing scheduled until later in the afternoon, so everyone was free to do sightseeing, attend convention seminars, sleep in, or do whatever they wanted to do.

I still got up early on Saturday and went to the career fair, where hundreds of media companies - newspapers, magazines, television, radio, internet, etc. - had displays and recruiters. It was the last day of the job fair, and everything closed at noon, but I still managed to speak to representatives from many Knight Ridder newspapers. I ran into a lot of recruiters I had met the year before when I went to the AAJA convention job fair last summer in San Diego.

After the job fair, I had some time to do some sightseeing, so I walked to downtown D.C. and visited the National Archives, where the original copiees of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights are on display. It was neat to see these documents so important to the history of our great country, and even though they are so very faded after so many years, what is important is that the spirit of the words on those documents live on today. The line to get in was very long, and it didn't move very fast, so that took up most of my sightseeing time.

I still had a little time left, so I walked across The Mall and saw the U.S. Capitol building, which is huge and can even be seen from the airport.

The Capitol

The Washington Monument

I then walked over to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which is huge and would probably take more than a day to see all the displays and exhibits. I only had about 30 minutes, but because admission was free, I went in and just took a quick look at what was inside. It was neat to see old airplanes and the history of space exploration. It was a busy summer Saturday, so there were many tourists visiting all the museums and interesting sights in Washington, D.C. I took some more pictures and then returned to the hotel, where we were meeting for a special trip.

Right before 4 p.m., we boarded busses that took us to a pier, where we boarded a small cruise ship just for all those who work for Knight Ridder and were attending the UNITY 2004 convention. Hors d'oerves were served, and we chatted with many people on the deck. Dinner was later served onboard. The cruise took us to Virginia to Mount Vernon, to the estate of George Washington. It was a long cruise, but we arrived and got a short tour from a guide. After walking up a long path up a hill, we arrived at George Washington's house. There were guides dressed up in period dress, and they told us about the house and served us tasty little desserts and various drinks. There were even a couple of drum and fife players to provide music! They really made the place feel alive as if we had gone back in time.

Great view

We gathered for a private party on the lawn behind George Washington's house, which overlooks the Potomac and offers such a stunningly beautiful view. We snacked on more desserts and socialized some more. We also saw other parts of the estate, including George Washington's garden and the slaves' quarters, which was a bit disturbing to see. There was also a little museum, which featured personal items that once belonged to our first president. There were books, silverware, and even his will.

George Washington's house

We took one last picture of all of us scholars together:

We then boarded the cruise ship again and returned to Washington, D.C. There was a dance party on the ship on the way back, and people got on their feet to party on this last night fo the convention.

It was the last night of our retreat, so we scholars had our traditional last night get-together, where we talk and play games and hang out for as long as we can before having to say goodbye to each other until the next year. We chatted and joked, and those who stayed until the very end played a game called "black magic," which took us forever to figure out. Some of us were so baffled by the game, but we all figured it out in the end, and that was a great ending to a fun night. I then had to say goodbye to everybody and went to bed. It was sad to leave such good friends who I see only once a year. I really miss everybody, even though it has only been a few days.


I was able to sleep in a little today, and then I packed up all my bags and took a taxi to the airport. It was a nice flight, and I was able to get some more sleep. This trip had been a wonderful experience, and I will never forget being a part of such an amazing gathering of journalists. I learned a great deal, and I very much enjoyed seeing many of my old friends once again. I can't wait to see them again next year.

Sunday night, one of my friends held a "prom" in the basement of her house! It was one of the most fun parties I've ever been to. We all dressed up in formal wear because it's fun to do so, and my friend drove us to her house. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and chatted. We then went downstairs to the basement, where there were many decorations. The music was turned up, and we danced and had fun. We also played pool and had a bowling competition. My friend and her good friend also had a "marriage ceremony," and that was hilarious to watch. I had a great time, and it was nice to see my friends again.

Quote of the Day: "We don't need intern camps."

:: SL 5:57 PM [+] ::

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