Atta Ikede

January 23, 2009

Caroline Kennedy

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 12:11 pm

I finally got around to watching video clips of Caroline Kennedy: I recommend this clip of an interview she did with the AP.

You guys probably already know about this drama – she’s JFK’s daughter and although she’s never gotten involved with politics before, cast herself in the running for the NY senate seat that Clinton is vacating. People were initially excited about this announcement because of the JFK connection. I really don’t think Caroline Kennedy has any other claim to fame.

It’s amazing that the name and legacy of a president who was killed over 40 years ago still carry such weight and meaning in America. When I think of JFK, the first thing that pops into my head is the bay of pigs invasion. The second is Jackie O’s amazing dresses. And yes, I do think of her as “Jackie O.” When many Americans think of JFK, they think about things like the glory of America, and glamour, and things like that. They get overwhelmed by a “those were the glory days!” mentality. I only know this based on what I heard on NPR, but I think we Ontario-and-eastward Canadians have a similar phenomenon with the Trudeau story and glorification. (Western Canadians obviously hate the guy for good reason. Haha.) Every country probably has their possibly-undeservedly-excessivily-glorified former-leader and related dynasty.

Once Caroline Kennedy started giving interviews though, the main controversy I heard about her was her terrible performance in public speaking. Apparently her speech was littered with “ums” and “you knows”, to the point that the viewer was left with a general feeling of disgust. What contributed most to this feeling of disgust was the reality that we know that Caroline, as JFK’s daughter, had every privelege that could be granted. She went to the best schools, was surrounded by the creme de la creme of society, etc. etc. From the articles I read, it sounded like people were most upset by her poor public speech because there was no excuse for it. Presumably a similar performance would have been acceptable if delivered by a poor person from the slums. .. ?

At first I found this rationale pretty elitist and offensive. Everybody who has been to university knows that you don’t really have to study that much to survive. Once you’re in, you’re pretty much good to go with a few well placed exam results and papers, unless you really screw up on certain key items. I don’t agree that just because somebody went to elite schools that they should be expected to live up to the ideals espoused by those institutions. Just look at GW. He went to Yale, but apparently it’s ok that he still talks like a cowboy. I personally found his fake folksiness and country phrases (“we’ll smoke ’em out!”) disingenous (though hilarious) and quite possibly more annoying and offensive than sitting through 15 minutes of “you know” and “um”.

Overall, I was a little surprised to see this daughter of the dynasty done in by something as lame as public speaking.  Yes, public speaking is an important skill, but I’d argue that so long as the speech is understandable, strong content can overcome the problem of “you knows” and “ums”.  Is this just more evidence that Americans are more interested in style than substance? I can’t help but think that her public speaking wouldn’t have seemed so bad if it hadn’t been heard against the background of Obama’s crazy inspiring soundbites. Bad timing for her, I guess.

After watching the video, I quickly realized why all this hoopla about her public speaking ability was stirred up. Certainly, the frequency of “you knows” and “ums” was a little ridiculous. More importantly, I realized that the content of her speech was so generic and uninspiring that it’s no wonder commentators harped on her delivery. This was no issue of people being more interested in style than substance — there was no substance! Her “you knows” and “ums” were the only noteworthy aspect of the whole interview!

I also started thinking that her entry into political life was highly opportunistic and was possibly an act of desperation. She was so lifeless and boring that there’s no way she would have won an election unless she had an extreme makeover. She probably only got involved in this opportunity because it’s by appointment rather than by election.  “This is the only way I’ll ever get into politics! Act now!” Is that what she was thinking?

Anyway, in conclusion, after watching the video I figured that her dropping out of the race is evidence of market forces at work. She put herself out there, she obviously sucked, and now she’s out. Good riddance!


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