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May 08, 2006 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-05-08

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, May 8, 2006

'She inspired me'
Amanpour excellent, selection process still imperfect

Editor in Chief

Editorial Page Editor

Managing Editor

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other
signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.
Editorial Board Members:-Emily Beam, Jared Goldberg, Theresa Kennelly, Mark Kuehn,
Rajiv Prabhakar, David Russell, Gavin Stern, Ben Taylor, Christopher Zbrozek.
Melting the pot
Roots of immigration debate lie in America's identity

Who? Christina who? So rang the
scoffing chorus of dissent from
the discontented graduating
seniors this past March when University
President Mary Sue Coleman announced
CNN's chief international correspondent
and world-renowned journalist Christiane
Amanpour as this year's commencement
speaker. Lauded and revered as Amanpour
is within the world of journalism, detractors
didn't buy her as the big-name star a uni-
versity of such formidable size and prestige
should be able to ensnare.
But whatever reservations the class of
2006 may have had about their speaker -
and whatever statement their ignorance of
international news' most recognizable face
might have made on behalf of their intel-
lectual preparedness to enter the world -
the shiver of enthusiasm rippling through
Amanpour's riveted audience last week
proved her critics wrong.
From her opening joke likening the
semi-demolished stadium to a war zone,
to the compelling urgency with which she
implored students to find their passion
and take action in the world for a positive
change, Amanpour was uniformly impres-
sive and inspiring.
Her story was one of character triumph-
ing over adversity. Growing up in a com-
fortable existence in Iran only to flee during
the revolution, Amanpour spoke of the way
she transformed her early struggles into
the power to demand accountability from
the powerful, and shake the complacency

of a worldwide audience grown apathetic
in its ignorance.
The enormousness of her life's success
and the unrelenting passion with which she
imbued her words produced an effect on
even the most jaded and disinterested stu-
dents. "Self-absorbed is so yesterday; it's
out," she declared with characteristic con-
viction." 'Cool' is now to be a citizen of our
world, not just an inhabitant."
The University is to be congratulated for
its choice of a speaker possessed of such
dignity and poise, imparting a timely mes-
sage of international compassion to students
now embarking into a global world. But the
success of the commencement address was
more a credit to Amanpour than to the Uni-
versity, which, thanks to its now-character-
istically late announcement, only secured a
phenomenal speaker by chance.
In recent years, graduates have become
accustomed to disappointment when they
show up decked out in their caps and
gowns - a trend perhaps best exemplified
by chants of "spell check" from last year's
graduates in reference to the befuddling
choice of a Xerox scientist. True, some
speakers have, like Amanpour, proven sur-
prisingly eloquent and effective before the
graduates, but often they have not.
The school's name commands too much
respect to leave the commencement speaker in
the air long after comparable institutions have
booked big stars, and the graduates of this fine
university are far too used to four years of the
best to be satisfied with anything less.

America has long been considered a
nation of immigrants, but it seems
we have grown weary of that dis-
tinction. As Congress considers legislation to
toughen the country's stance on illegal immi-
grants, hundreds of thousands of such people
- already living and working in this country
- took to the streets in protest last week. The
need to reform U.S. immigration policy is
evident, but at the heart of this immigration
debate lies more than politics or economics.
Emotion - the worries of some citizens that
immigrants will undermine American culture
and the strong pride in America's immigrant
past and present that others feel - is what
drives politicians and activists in this cause.
There is a push for assimilation, a push for
inclusion and a push to get rid of anyone who
speaks accented English, but the roots of this
immigration debate lie in culture and in the
question of what makes an American.
Last week's rallies across the country
showed the growing political power of a long-
silent demographic. Immigrants - mainly
from Latin America - and their supporters
took to the streets to demand not only legal
reform, but also to show the magnitude of
their social and economic contributions to
the country. The reaction from those wary
of the growing immigrant population tended
to dwell on the symbolic, mostly with great
indignation - how dare protestors wave
Mexican flags alongside American ones?
A well-timed CD release of a Spanish-lan-
guage version of "The Star-Spangled Ban-
ner" the week before drew the attention of
even President Bush, who let eager media
outlets know that he believed the anthem
should be sung only in English. Here in
Michigan, state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk (R-
Portage) pushed for a bill to make English

the state's official language
following in the path of 27 o
Certainly the ability to speal
important skill, and English a
guage programs for children a
are important ways to ensure a
speak the language. But the sy
taken by overzealous Congres
to teach anyone English, an
marginalize immigrants who
the process of learning the lan;
President Bush countered tI
tests and boycotts with a syml
own - the annual proclama
as "Loyalty Day" a national
official by Congress in 1958, w
fever engulfed even the simple
actions. Loyalty Day was info
in the 1920s as "Americaniz
response to the socialist mobili
Day. Ironically, the message o
our allegiance to our nation"
this year, was carried out in th
rallies by those who are denie
Regardless of country of origi
or native language, the hundred
of people who took to the stre
protest are already Americans,
for public and governmental re
A united nation is one thi
enous one is another - yet
to mobilization among imn
cate that many Americans sti
two. Diversity of cultures, la
flags is one of America's grea
Rather than trying to exclu
defining a mold into which
and citizens must fit, it is the
of Americans to embrace imi
force that has built its past, a
will continue to shape its futu

in February,
her states.
k English is an
s a second lan-
nd adults alike
dl residents can
mbolic stances
ssmen do little
d only further
may still be in
he day of pro-
bolic act of his
tion of May 1
holiday made
vhen Cold War
st of America's
rmally started
'ation Day' a
zations of May
)f "reaffirming
as Bush said
iP im a tin

A thrust in the right direction


ef mmgeetrwlraonra iet
ad legal status. Next fall semester will be a great time to
n, legal status, ride the bus.
s of thousands Imagine knowing precisely when the next
st ds in peaceful bus will be at a certain stop - you may never
etsimplyeaskin have to wait for a bus again. For the past two
s years, Engineering prof. Chris Ruf has led a
cognition. directed study class that will change the way
ng, a homog- you get from point A to B. The Magic Bus
the reactions Project, funded by the University's transpor-
aigrants indi- tation service, uses a GPS tracking system to
ll confuse the track busses and will soon be deployed in Ann
nguages, even Arbor, much to the delight of students traveling
test strengths. across campus, along with transportation offi-
de groups by cials studying data related to traffic flow and
all residents engine diagnostics.
responsibility With its precise tracking capabilities, the
migration as a Magic Bus system will be able to determine
nd one which the locations of buses and the estimated time
ire, of arrival at each of the bus stops around cam-
pus. It will also provide engine diagnostic data
JON OQUISr to help troubleshoot mechanical problems,
instantly defraying the downtime that would
otherwise accompany repairs. For students, this
TillAS ,^A60 . will mean a drastic improvement in the conve-
nience of riding a University bus.
A webpage that displays all buses running
at a given time will be available atllocations
inside the Union and Pierpont Commons. Text
messages can also be sent to find out the exact
time the next bus will arrive at aparticular stop.
For transportation officials, the ability to track
busses and record data could mean increased

safety for passengers and a way to optimize
routes for efficiency.
The project was born from a desire to learn
how students can best utilize learning spaces at
the University. For the past two years, the senior
design experience classes, a requirement for
graduation from the College of Engineering, have
worked to design and implement Magic Bus.
By integrating a learning experience for
engineering students with an improvement
the campus community needs, Ruf embod-
ies part of what the University stands for: an
eye for improvement and finding innovative
ways to bring it about by using its greatest
resource - students. The shift away from
textbook-based knowledge into a practical,
result-oriented sphere helps students bridge
the often-abstract education they receive at
the University - a considerable advantage as
they move on to the real world.
The University should continue to look
for such integrative opportunities. While the
Magic Bus Project represents a success story in
the administration listening to students, more
active efforts should be made to address con-
cerns from the community. While the ideal of
a university fully accountable to student feed-
back may be a distant reality, the small steps
taken by Ruf and the Magic Bus team are cer-
tainly a thrust in the right direction.
Li is a class of 2006 alum of the College of Engi-
neering. He was aformer team leaderfor the
electrical subsystem on the Magic Bus project.

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