Eric Kutson U.S. STUDENT SHADOW PRESIDENT UPDATE:
A Waste of Time?
By Eric Knutson, Pi Gamma Mu's "Shadow President"
Recently, President Obama traveled to Copenhagen to campaign for his home city of Chicago to host the 2016 Summer Olympic games. While the Chicago bid ultimately failed, I was surprised to hear so much commotion about the president's trip, which took less than 24 hours, 18 of which were in the air.
Critics argued that the trip to Denmark to promote Chicago's proposal was a waste of time and effort, especially in these trying times. Considering the existence of such vital issues as unemployment, a muddled economy, major health-care reform, and problems in Afghanistan and Iran, the leader of our nation should not be spending valuable time worrying about a sporting event. He owes it to the American people to get his priorities straight.
I, on the other hand, commend President Obama for the trip. While, in the end, it did not work out as he (and many analysts) predicted, the trek to Copenhagen was a perfectly practical presidential action. If an appearance by President Obama could not garner the votes for a Chicago victory, it probably was not in the cards to begin with.
The president did not make this trip to deflect some other political controversy or distract the American people from domestic issues. There are a number of reasons why he made the trip. First of all, hosting the Olympics in the United States is something special; the United States has only entertained the Summer Olympic games four times ever. It is an international honor to host the world's premier sporting event, as well as an opportunity to showcase the host country.
Secondly, talk about a boost to the economy. Billions of dollars are spent to prepare for the two-week affair - spent over seven years! Thousands of jobs are created to build the Olympic site, not to mention the number of employees it will take the run the event. The winning city, Rio de Janeiro, plans to spend at least $14 billion in Olympic preparation. Finally, over 10,000 athletes participate in the Olympics. Additionally, thousands of family members and fans attend the games, bringing in vast amounts of dollars to the service and tourist industries.
Third, it is no secret that President Obama loves sports. He has made it clear that he is a big fan of competition; he filled out a NCAA Basketball Tournament Bracket and threw out the first pitch at the MLB All-Star game. The president also harbors a passion for his home city of Chicago - the place where he made his acceptance speech on November 4. When these two passions are combined, it is easy to see why President Obama wanted to help bring the Olympics here.
Lastly, the president spent less than a day away from the office. Leaving Thursday night, Obama was back in Washington and able to release a statement about the trip by 3 p.m. on Friday. He did not spend a couple days in Copenhagen; he did not even tour the city. This was not a weeklong vacation to Martha's Vineyard or retreat to Camp David. Instead, this was a diplomatic trip during which he arrived, made a speech, and departed.
I agree that there are more critical issues in our country about which to worry. The economy is still staggering, Iran is not becoming any safer, and most agree that there are issues in Iraq and Afghanistan which are urgent. However, none of those matters was going to be solved or was even going to deteriorate in the fewer than 24 hours the president spent away from Washington. We all hope that President Obama is going to be able to resolve America's problems, but no one person can do it in one day. The idea that the president wasted critical time during his Olympic outing is undeveloped and nearly preposterous.
So there you have it. President Obama made a pitch to the International Olympic Committee on behalf of Chicago and the United States. It was a commendable attempt, and he must now get back to other issues. But let's think rationally and understand that he did not waste America's time nor avoid the country's pressing issues during his short trip to Denmark.