August 1, 2008
Senator Barack Obama is taking partisan flack for saying, “…you should be thinking about how can your child become bilingual… you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish… I know because I don’t speak a foreign language. It’s embarrassing.”
For a man who is normally an eloquent and commanding speaker from the podium, he seems to have two left feet when speaking without notes. He has that in common with President Bush’s malapropismic articulation, except, of course, President Bush does speak a little Spanish. However, Senator Obama could have said, “If I was going to give a gift to my children, it would be to speak another language in addition to English.”
I grew up in New Mexico. My county was 65 percent Spanish-speaking. I went to work in agriculture. Spanish is commonly the first language of a large portion of the people I worked with. Today the percent of Spanish speaking people in the ag workforce has expanded far beyond the Southwest.
Scholastically, I did not do well in Spanish class, but it interested me and I made it a point to teach myself.
There are commentators and politicos who became indignant with Senator Obama’s comments. But think about it. If your children could better themselves by learning to weld or program a computer or auctioneer, would you discourage them because you oppose the Alaska pipeline, Microsoft, or free trade? Would you dissuade them from learning Arabic or Spanish because you are incensed by the Iraq war or illegal immigration?
We spend endless hours helping our children play volleyball and soccer, or the piccolo. Granted, these pursuits can improve character, but rarely will it help them get a job. But a second language is a gift that can last a lifetime.
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So, to those who are offended by Senator Obama’s verbal stumbling, don’t throw the baby out with the… I mean, don’t shoot the messenger… no, that’s not it… anyway, what he says is good advice.
On a personal note, even though I speak passable Spanish, I was told that I sound a lot like Charro or Desi Arnaz does in English!
En terminando, mis amigos Mejicanos dicen que yo hablo Espanol como Desi Arnaz o Charro hablan Ingles!
Email Baxter Black at firstname.lastname@example.org