Sunday, November 11, 2007

HW 30: Citizenship Symposium

The first session I went to was, Iraq Body Count: Real People, Fake Numbers by Stephen J. Clark, Ph.D. He is an associate professor of psychology at Keene State College. The talk was about statistics and numbers and questioning what we read, see, and hear. He went through a few recent statistics going around in the media and pointed out certain questions we should ask about all statistics. For example, “Who created this statistic, why was this statistic created, and how was this statistic created?” What this meant for me was when I look at a given number I should always ask myself what their agenda is, and what is at stake. One of his points was made by a recent comment made by a politician supporting the war and he said that Iraq was nor more dangerous than our nations capital Washington D.C. What we realized after looking at the numbers more closely was that he was using the total deaths in a month in Iraq and the total numbers of deaths in a year from D.C. This only confirmed his theory that we all need to be active participants in our country and in doing so it is so important to be properly informed and to question everything.

The other session I went to was, Citizenship and Responsibility by Tom Lantos, U.S. representative and Holocaust survivor. He is the only Holocaust to ever serve in Congress and the only one who ever will. He came to America after WW II from Hungary with literally nothing. His theme for the talk was based on a quote from the new president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, “America did not teach men the idea of freedom she taught them how to practice it”. He spoke about freedom and democracy being a goal that we are continually trying to close the, “hypocrisy gap” on. In other words we have ideals and in the two or three hundred years of practicing these in America we are slowly getting there. His examples of our achievements included all the things we have done for Germany, France, and other foreign countries. We as a country are more attuned than any other country to accepting global responsibility and as such we have a responsibility. We also as citizens have a responsibility to deal with the issues in our country and while it might be tempting to hide from that, especially in these critical times we must be informed and active citizens of our country.