Archive | November, 2008

Some Thoughts on the Election

7 Nov

As Melissa mentioned, this past Wednesday I was invited to provide some post-election analysis at a lunch hosted by the US Ambassador at her residence for 50 Egyptian VIPs. It was quite an assemblage of A-list Egyptians — including leaders from government, business, media, civil society, etc. The event was running late, so I considered ditching my prepared remarks in the interest of time, but I went ahead with them anyhow, and am glad I did so. People paid rapt attention, and several asked if they could receive copies. The embassy staff gushed, and said they’d love to have me speak at other events. My speech wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch — I wrote it from 7-10am after staying up all night watching election returns, and I don’t think it includes anything that other people haven’t already said — but I guess it beats what they usually hear from bureaucrats.

I’ve included my remarks below, for anyone who’s interested:
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Election Day

4 Nov

Happy Election Day! I have to admit, it’s been kind of fun spending this year’s election season in Egypt. It’s interesting to get an international perspective on the elections, especially this year when the whole world seems so invested in what happens today. Although I do miss those incessant negative political ads on TV and being hounded by robocalls during dinner.

It’s going to be a long but fun night for Melissa and me. First we’re going to the Hard Rock Cafe for the US Embassy elections party — it starts at 9:30pm and goes until 9:00am. I don’t think we’ll quite make it all night, but we’ll go for a couple hours before coming home, catching a quick catnap, then getting up at 2:00am to start watching the results come in. For political nerds like us, this is like Christmas — especially when those packages in bright blue wrapping paper pop up — but it only comes every four years!

Through the American Studies Center, we organized a mock election on campus today. I figured it would be a fun way to get everyone on campus involved and excited about the elections — and to give those who aren’t American citizens the sense that they participated in some way. We set up a booth in the middle of campus, and, in the grand tradition of Chicago politics, bribed everyone who came and voted with drinks and candy bars. Given the almost unanimous support for Obama here in Egypt, the only suspense was how big he would win. There were 716 votes cast: 631 for Obama (88%), 69 for McCain (9.6%), and 16 other (2%). For some reason I think the real election today might be just a tad closer. We had a great time, the students were really excited, and we even had one of the big Egyptian TV stations send a camera crew, and we’re going to be on their 10:00 news show!

But by far the best part about the day came when I went back to the history department. One of the Egyptian departmental secretaries gushed about how much she loved the event. She said, “Dr. Mason, you have no idea how much I loved voting. Even though I know it didn’t count, and I don’t have any say in the American election, just having the opportunity to choose between different candidates made me feel valued and alive. We don’t get to do that in this country — you don’t know how lucky you are in America.”

If you read this before the polls close, and if you haven’t voted yet, please take the time to go out and exercise your right to vote. Even if you think your vote isn’t very important and doesn’t matter on a day when 130 million votes will be cast, think about my department secretary — and the other billions of people who live in countries without free elections — and do it for her, and for them.