A pink taxi

A pink taxi

May 3, 2011

Primary Sources

The course of my academic trajectory happened naturally. I began as a literature major and turned into a researcher and finally am a blogger today.

I caught the reading bug when I was in third grade, devouring books. In seventh grade, I excelled in Reading Comprehension which required us to recopy the passage from the text in green pen when we answered a pertinent question. What word did the author use? Where does he show that he feels that way? Can you read between the lines and perceive the irony of the author? I was trained early on to understand the utilization of words, the intentional grammatical twist, be it in poetry and novels, later in historical texts and eventually in political ones.

Ironically, at the French Baccalaureat, the two subjects I did the least well in, not to say failed, were French literature and History. I blame it on the fact that I had detestable teacher who taught those two subjects in my final school years. In fact, at age 17, I wasn't interested at all in Churchill or DeGaulle speeches!

The French curriculum has reformed since and has brought primary sources to the 5th graders! They are given "documents" with questions asking them to analyze photographs, art works or primary texts of the historical era they are studying. My son has caught on to my love for primary sources: we dissect these documents together.

Therefore, I always read the primary texts that LeMonde posts, essentially because their French readers don't ever hear them integrally because of their language barrier. I seek their original language format, particularly Barack Obama's, for he orates like a professor that he is. Yesterday's BinLaden speech caught my attention the same way his election speech brought tears to my eyes and his Cairo speech restored my pride.

I am aware that political rhetoric doesn't necessarily translate into deeds but I just interpret the speech literally, studying its construction and elaboration. Political speeches are designed for the instant they are pronounced and for the impact they have in that moment. It is easy to criticize them in retrospect, as can be done with the Cairo speech. Today, Obama's host Moubarak has been ousted as a corrupt leader; I still think his speech was a harbinger of times to come. He called upon the Muslim world to seek its "own democracy"!

I listen to him live with the knowledge that it is a global commune activity and I cup my ear in attention the way my late grandfather did. I acknowledge the historical moment. My interested brother will then forward the text to me and I will read and analyze it, as I did in my academic hayday.


  1. The Lawyer in Chief as Obama is dubbed by his Repluican opponents who were shocked when their "birther" movement did not materialize,were again slapped with the OBL coup om May 2.
    To come after an unpopular "Swaggerer" like W,is by itself a great change,yet his "Yes we Can" rehtoric is fading away as his re election campaign is getting into top gear.No one should expect anything from a US President especially when it comes to the Middle Easters issues,because the Empire's interests come first.
    The blogger ought to get a more diversified sources of political information,and start reading more US,UK,and Arabic sources to be able to differentiate the colors of the rainbow.

  2. It's important to deconstruct historical speeches. I took a history class at Vassar called Deconstructing US history. It was one of my favorite classes. Style and oration count alot. Reagan's greatest strength was his oration and natural style. Obama's domestic and foreign detractors can criticize him all they want.Obama will go down in history as one of the greatest American Presidents with his face on Mount Rushmore. I sleep better at night knowing that he's at the helm.