Jonathan Zimmerman: Obama Should Go to Haiti

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. His most recent book is “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory.”]

Thus far, President Obama has done all the right things in response to Tuesday’s catastrophic earthquake in Haiti. He hastily dispatched American ships, transport planes, and more than 2,000 troops to help distribute supplies, search for missing victims, and maintain order in the devastated Caribbean nation. At a press conference on Thursday, meanwhile, the president also pledged $100 million in immediate US aid.

But there’s one pledge Mr. Obama hasn’t made: to visit Haiti himself.

And he should, as soon as possible.

When disaster strikes in the United States, after all, presidents traditionally travel to the stricken areas to offer symbolic as well as material support. A presidential visit signals the nation’s concern for the victims, drawing renewed attention to their plight. The time has come for Obama to extend this practice outside our own borders to a country that is suffering beyond anything we can imagine....

An Obama visit to Haiti would galvanize American and international relief efforts, as nothing else could. It wouldn’t hurt that Obama is the first black president in America, and Haiti the first black republic in the West. Most of all, though, Obama’s visit would remind Haitians – and the world – about the common humanity that binds us all....
Read entire article at Christian Science Monitor

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Vernon Clayson - 1/15/2010

Yes, Obama should go to Haiti but I believe it's beneath his dignity to go where squalor and third world conditions pervail, whatever else he is, his elitist personna doesn't want to be seen as kin, albeit distant kin, to the likes of such people.
Plus, and it's a big plus, former President Bill Clinton is involved and if he goes Obama would be overshadowed.