Why the President Doesn't Know Where He Is; He Flunked Geography and Took a Wrong Turn

By Hanson, Victor Davis | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 16, 2013 | Go to article overview

Why the President Doesn't Know Where He Is; He Flunked Geography and Took a Wrong Turn


Hanson, Victor Davis, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Victor Davis Hanson, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In Sam Cooke's classic 1959 hit song Wonderful World, the lyrics downplayed formal learning with lines such as Don't know much about history ... . Don't know much about geography.

More than a half-century after Cooke sang that lighthearted song, such ignorance is now all too real. Even our best and brightest - or rather our elites - are not too familiar with history or geography.

Both disciplines are the building blocks of learning. Without awareness of natural and human geography, we are reduced to a sort of self-contained void without accurate awareness of the space around us. An ignorance of history also creates the same sort of self-imposed exile, leaving us ignorant of both what came before us and what is likely to follow.

In the case of geography, Harvard Law School graduate Barack Obama recently lectured: If we don't deepen our ports all along the Gulf - places like Charleston, South Carolina; or Savannah, Georgia; or Jacksonville, Florida ... . The problem is that all the examples he cited are cities on the East Coast, not the Gulf of Mexico. If President Obama does not know where these ports are, how can he deepen them?

Mr. Obama's geographical confusion has become habitual. He once claimed that he had been to all 57 states. He also assumed that Kentucky was closer to Arkansas than it was to his adjacent home state of Illinois.

In reference to the Falkland Islands, Mr. Obama called them the Maldives - islands southwest of India - apparently in a botched effort to use the Argentine-preferred Malvinas. The two island groups may sound somewhat alike, but they are continents apart. Again, without basic geographical knowledge, the president's commentary on the Falklands is rendered superficial.

When in the state of Hawaii, Mr. Obama announced that he was in Asia. He lamented that the U.S. Army's Arabic-language translators assigned to Iraq could better be used in Afghanistan, failing to recognize that Arabic isn't the language of Afghanistan. For that matter, he apparently thought Austrians speak a language other than German.

The president's geographical illiteracy is a symptom of the nation's growing ignorance of once-essential subjects such as geography and history. The former is often not taught anymore as a required subject in our schools and colleges. The latter has often been redefined as race, class and gender oppression to score melodramatic points in the present rather than to learn from the tragedy of the past.

The president in his 2009 Cairo speech credited the

European Renaissance and Enlightenment to Islam's light of learning - an exaggeration if not an outright untruth on both counts. …

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