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Now I Get It...

July 8, 2003 |


Dear Mr. Keillor,

I am an international student from China here at University of Hawaii. Unlike a lot of radio/TV show hosts, you never say things just to get a bigger audience. You always have an opinion and are not afraid to express it. Now that I understand the American culture a bit better, I laugh at your jokes, too! I saw that some people have criticized you for ridiculing the president and jeopardizing "national unity." I believe you say those things because you fear for your country and the values it stands for, which, in my opinion, is real patriotism.

Best Regards,
Tracy Xia

Dear Tracy,

Welcome to the U.S. I hope you get to see more of it than the little island paradise of Hawaii. And wherever you go you will find Chinese, one of our hardiest immigrant groups. "Hardy" means "able to thrive under unfriendly conditions." The Chinese made it in America because they are even more industrious than we are. They built the railroads, a back-breaking job, and they typically ran laundries (one more tedious unpleasant job) or restaurants (ditto) or became shopkeepers and traders. They maintained strong family loyalties into the third and fourth generations and beyond. And we native Americans respect them for their values.

Part of my antipathy to the president is based on the fact that he was a classic rich kid who slumped his way through college, dodged the draft, went AWOL from his National Guard unit, and made his way through family connections and rich pals, and never had major defining moments as his father did. Had no curiosity about the big world out there. Simply relied on luck and charm. Maybe he's his own man now, but I don't see it.

I see his politics as an extension of his own privileged life. Reagan, Nixon, Eisenhower, all the major Republican presidents of our time came from hard-scrabble roots and knew something about hard work. This one doesn't. I don't care if 85 percent of the American people think he's a hero, to me he is who he is. I knew people like him in college. I've been in rooms full of people like him. Believe me, I have much more in common with an aspiring student from China than I ever will with him. And that's the truth, kid.

God bless you and I wish you a long and happy life.

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