International Students Share Perspectives on Upcoming Election

A group of international students discussed the upcoming American election as seen through a global lens at an event Tuesday co-hosted by the Pomona Student Union (PSU) and the International Student Mentoring Program (ISMP).

The panel, entitled “The Silent Majority: International Perspectives on the American Election,” featured Michelle Kretsch PO ’13, Michelle Reade PO ’14, Deborah Frempong PO ’15, Ted Gkoo PO ’15, Lazaros Chalkias PO ’16, Sana Javeri Kadri PO ’16 and Sachit Taneja PO ’16. The discussion was led by PSU members Niyati Shenoy PO ’15 and Katherine Snell PO ’15. 

The discussion covered a variety of topics, the first of which was media coverage abroad and where information comes from.

Kretsch, who is from the Netherlands, said that the division between the mostly Republican expatriate community and the Dutch media creates a “polarity between what is important.” What is broadcast in English comes mostly from CNN, whose content differs from what the Dutch media broadcasts. 

Frempong said that in her home country of Ghana, the “elections are not as big of a deal,” partly because the Ghanaian elections occur at the same time. Any attention that is paid to the American election centers mostly around pop culture and President Barack Obama’s Kenyan heritage, she said.

Reade, who currently lives in Dubai, said that the election is covered extensively there. The presidential debates are broadcast live on television in Dubai, and many people, because of the time difference, will wake up early to watch them live.

“Everyone is talking about it,” she said.

Reade said that the Middle East in general cares about the election because there is “an extreme dislike for Romney,” which stems from his pro-Israel stance regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Next, the topic shifted to impressions of Obama and whether race played as big of a role abroad as it did in the United States. 

Kadri said that in her native India, “faith in the Democrats is not as steadfast.” Many are apprehensive about the growth of their economy slowing down, and are looking to Romney to make better decisions, she said. 

“The Republicans are seen as more favorable and less protectionist,” said Shenoy, who is also from India.

Kretsch said that during the 2008 election, there was a lot of fanfare in Europe surrounding Obama and the interest he had taken in the continent. America was seen as a “world power that influences the lives of small European countries,” she said.

Since Dutch troops had been pulled into Afghanistan, many are now disappointed in Obama on his failure to fulfill his promise of getting troops out, Kretsch added. She also said that there is a general feeling that Romney does not care as much about Europe and thus there is “no one to rally behind.”

Taneja said that from an international perspective, it was “interesting to see how America would react” to having its first black president. Although Obama’s presidency was meant to symbolize “a new beginning,” Obama has not done anything particularly impressive yet, he said.

To finish off the discussion, students were asked to describe their idea of the perfect American president. The panelists brought up themes of equality and stability.

“What Europe wants is stability,” said Kadri. “They don’t want an American president to shake things up.”

Taneja said that if the U.S. is going to be a world leader, American leaders “have to go with the idea that you’re not going for your own interest, but for the sake of humanity.”

“[America is] promoting democracy where it is convenient,” Reade said. She said that the U.S. needs to “have a more consistent foreign policy that applies to everyone.”

“I think that the American discussion about the elections is very inward-looking, and that’s understandable because it’s America’s political system, but there are extraordinary implications for the rest of the world, and we have a moral obligation to understand what those are,” said Snell, the primary organizer of the event. 

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