So yesterday was a real shock for me.  It had been days since I had checked the news and as I was looking around on Yahoo, I caught the small, tiny fact that President Bush was going to deliver his State of the Union Address at 9PM EST.  I was put in a frenzy.  Since I left for college, it had been a tradition to watch the State of the Union Address with friends, boo, clap, laugh, and throw back a few (sometimes many) drinks.

In an effort to replicate the tradition, I quickly organized an event at my home.  I sent the e-mail: "Come to Jeff’s to watch President Bush tell America (and the world) what’s going on."

President Bush delivers his 2007 State of the Union address

There was a problem though.  If the speech starts at 9 PM EST, that means it would go on at 3 AM here in Budapest.  But for some reason, it didn’t stop people from attending the (now large) gathering at my house.

So at 3 AM, students from 25 countries came over to my tiny flat to listen to President Bush.  And let me say that the State of the Union Address from the international perspective was so interesting.  Students here at CEU really are passionate people in general.  But they are even more so when it’s about Iraq, or climate change, or about the U.S. role in the world.  And even though the domestic part seemed a bit too good to be true for many of us, at least some of the issues (the environment, cooperation, health care) were being brought up.

When it came time to the middle part of the speech, we were all wondering when he’d bring up Iraq, that ‘giant dragon in the living room’, so well said by Sasha from Belarus.  And when the President began discussing the situation in Iraq, it went so quiet.  (You could even the hear the neighbors down the hall complaining about the noise we were making earlier.)  The awkward tension was the best way to represent how many of my international friends felt about everything – America, War, Terror, Hegemony, all those ridiculous concepts that seem to be said in classes here everyday.

When the President finished, people broke out of the silence and just vented their frustration, the same frustration I had felt for some time.  And at 4:15 in the morning, we continued the debate about what America should do in Iraq, whether they should keep it going in the Middle East, why anything really mattered.

From my point of view, it was a real blessing to have had these discussions and it was an important step to open the air and dispel some thoughts – with a based foundation and some without.  I think that no matter how much I appreciate being abroad for these chats, I still somehow take the experience for granted.  And, as many of us noticed, he completely forgot about the Gulf Coast.  Also, he could have incorporated some of my (or Derek or Ali’s) 2009 dream speech (http://www.aidemocracy.org/dreamspeech.cfm).

And on the matter of U.S. foreign policy, all these different beliefs from my friends here really put me in a loop.  We did all agree that the President’s plan for a surge was not the right way.  The dialogue was divided into (1) that’s not enough troops to really change anything, (2) the tactics themselves are flawed as the Iraqi Government is losing all control, and (3) a troop surge would needlessly risk more lives.  Where do you stand on that matter?  Congress seems to think the same way as we did.

Finally, to end of a happy note.  When Speaker Pelosi was introduced, fellow students were very impressed.  Consistently, I heard that ‘there would never be a woman leader that high in my country.’  So there are some positives in America these days, despite all the clear negatives.

What are your thoughts on the State of America?

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