Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Thread of Stereotypes

I watched the interview with Jenna Bush by Diane Sawyer last night. It was surprisingly good. I'm not surprised that Jenna Bush was enjoyable to watch, I am surprised that Diane Sawyer was watchable.

Jenna is a lovely young woman. She is smart, well-spoken, outgoing, compassionate and active in life. She was a joy to watch as the camera recorded her with the children in Jamaica for her work as a UNICEF intern. She has taught children in the Caribbean and Latin America for the last year for UNICEF, utilizing her degree in education to reach out to what UNICEF labels children of isolation - children living in poverty, with a lack of education, domestic abuse, lack of civilized living conditions, living with illness.

Jenna's work allows her to reach out to children living with HIV/AIDS. She was able to put her experience into words by writing a book about the story of a young orphan girl, Ana, born with HIV and living with the disease. This brought up the line of questioning from Sawyer about the Bush administration's public policy of encouraging abstinence, especially for young people. Sawyer asked Jenna "don't you come from an administration that preaches abstinence?", to which Jenna replied, "I don't come from an administration". I loved that.

Sawyer worked for a Republican administration, back in the day, and sometimes seems to go out of her way to belittle whose viewed as in the conservative world today. She seems to feel obligated to re-affirm herself with the stereotype of liberal journalist.

Do we stereotype too much in this world of politics and public policy? Yes, it is a thread running in my posts lately as I am struck by some of the old, outdated, thinking by some. I try to combat easy and old ways of thinking about ideas and the people supporting the ideas, particularly in the political world. I loved that Jenna Bush was such a fine example of a young person, 25 years old, venturing out in her career and her life in such a mature way.

The point is, of course, Jenna is not a policy maker. Not a political person, as a matter of fact. I had to fight the stereotype that a person without children doesn't understand that a child often doesn't reflect the parent and struggles to be a person in his/her own right. Sawyer doesn't have children in her personal life. It was an easy question to be surprised that Jenna dealt with HIV/AIDS in a mature, learned way, as opposed to the stereotype that Republicans or conservatives are stupid homophobes. Or don't understand the innocent victims of the disease.

Because, you know, Republicans don't understand HIV/AIDS. The Bush administration, however, has supplied more funding for programs to help those suffering and for research and drug development than any previous administration. Especially in the struggle to assist the continent of Africa and the epidemic level of AIDS there.

And the stereotype that Jenna, a daughter of a Republican family, and her publicity as a college student for drinking? She gracefully answered that all of that was while she was a freshman and sophomore in college, all very normal for many students. She pointed out it was 7 or 8 years ago. She's, you know, grown up some by now. She was also maintaining good grades and working as a tutor 2 days a week in college while she was suppose to be some wild, drunken party girl.

She was sweet as she spoke about her boyfriend of 3 years, now her fiance. She is very close with her twin sister, Barbara, as well as her parents.

So, there Jenna is, battling stereotypes in her own way.


Paul is a Hermit said...

With those who will not hear or see.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I am surprised that Diane Sawyer was watchable

I actually like her. At least I used to, back through the 90's, before I fell into politics. I just found her voice very soothing.

Loved Jenna's answer about "I don't come from an Administration".

Thanks for posting on this, as I had not caught it.

And good on you for noting what President Bush has done in Africa, for humanitarian reasons when so many criticize him as a "warmonger" and think of him as a compassionless conservative.

Gayle said...

Very informative post, Karen. Thank you!

I don't understand why Sawyer would ask Jenna "don't you come from an administration that preaches abstinence?" What in the world does she think that has to do with helping kids born with the AIDS virus? I wonder if she believes that conservatives think it's the children's fault they have aids? She must believe that conservatives are truly stupid and/or uncaring!

The Aids virus is a horrible and deadly disease, and even those who have it through some fault of their own by being promiscuous don't deserve to die. Liberals must believe we are monsters. How sad.

vicki said...

Abby belongs to a facebook group called, "I scored higher on my SATS than George W. Bush." I wonder if Jenna does? prob'ly not...

Beverly said...

That's a great post, Karen. She is truly a great young woman. I wish her much happiness.

Janie said...

I like Jenna.