Last week, we had visitors from England. My five-year-old niece, Ella, accompanied by her eight-month-old sister, her mother, and her grandmother, joined us for the February school vacation that coincidentally fell in the same week on both sides of the Atlantic.
On Saturday, Ella and I took a walk to Porter Square Books (my favorite local bookstore) so that Ella could choose something to read while waiting for her flight home. She enjoyed the store’s large post-inauguration display of books about our new president. Pointing to each book in turn, as only a five-year-old can do, she identified the person on the cover in a conflation of the names of the country and its new leader: AmericObama. AmericObama. AmericObama. AmericObama. AmericObama. And so on, until she was sure I was aware of the subject of every book on the rack.
A couple of days earlier, she had bought herself a fridge magnet with a photo of AmericObama and his family. The cashier asked if she knew who was featured in the picture. “The prime minister,” said Ella. Not bad, especially given that even many grown-ups may find it challenging to identify the British prime minister. (Quickly now, my fellow Americans — anyone coming to mind?) No Gordon Brown fridge magnets on U.S. refrigerators, I’m afraid, though Queen Elizabeth has a better chance. On the other hand, I’ve been visiting England regularly since the Reagan administration, and I don’t remember any Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, or Bush 2 fridge magnets in the kitchens of friends or relatives. This is an unusual time for Americans, to have elected a president who is (at least temporarily) so admired in other countries. Even Tony Blair, in a parting comment when he spoke at Tufts earlier this month, congratulated the U.S. on the events of January.
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