I have always maintained that the president of the United States should be the “Educator in Chief.”
This is a play on Article 2, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution which lays out the law of the land and states that “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.”
By logical extension, the vice president of the United States should be the second most important educator in the country. If the president and vice president want their policies to succeed and want to gain popular support, they need to teach, i.e. educate, Americans about what their policies and agenda items are, why those policies are critical for the country, how they will achieve their policies and, most importantly, who will benefit from those policies, with the obvious answer being the citizens of the United States of America.
Putting aside a score card which would tally the successes and failures of our present president and vice president (which might be the topic of another column) I was stunned as I watched Vice President Harris take a question from a student in a classroom at George Mason University in Virginia.
The questioner challenged United States aid to Israel. The questioner identified herself as half-Yemeni and half-Iranian. She challenged the VP and the U.S./Israel relationship. She referred to Israel as conducting an “ethnic genocide.”
This is how the young student phrased her question:
“You brought up how the power of the people and demonstrations and organizing is very valuable in America. But I see that over the summer there have been protests and demonstrations in astronomical numbers standing with Palestine. But then just a few days ago, there were funds allocated to continue backing Israel, which hurts my heart because it’s ethnic genocide and displacement of people, the same that happened in America, and I’m sure you’re aware of this.”
The student challenged America’s priorities and asked why money was going to Israel and Saudi Arabia instead of to solve social issues in America.
As she sat in her chair, speaking in a quiet voice, she looked at the vice president standing at the front of the room and continued: “The people have spoken very often of what they do need, and I feel like there’s a lack of listening, and I just feel like I need to bring this up because it affects my life and people I really care about life.”
To the questioner’s credit she was very respectful and while her words were damning, her tone was subdued.
And throughout, the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, nodded her head in approval. Vice President Harris nodded in approval as a young woman, a student in an American university, used the phrases “ethnic genocide and displacement of people” in describing the State of Israel.
As the questioner came to a conclusion, I expected to hear the vice president explain why the U.S./Israel relationship is so essential. To explain why Israel is neither committing genocide nor displacing people. To speak about why it is so important for the United States to support Israel and how Israel is defending itself against terrorist bombs and that Israel has not only the right but also the responsibility to protect their country and their citizens as they do.
Instead, what was the vice president’s response, what did she say? In response to s question lambasting, lampooning, maligning Israel, Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States said: “Your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard.”
Harris spoke about how democracy is strongest when everyone participates and is weakest when anyone is left out.
The vice president continued: “That’s not only about being physically present but that your voice is present. Our goal should be unity, but not uniformity. Unity should never be at the expense of telling any one person, ‘For the sake of unity, oh, you be quiet about that thing.’ That’s not unity. Then we see where that ends up in a healthy debate about the issue.”
About the student’s reference to U.S. foreign policy and interests in the Middle East, Kamala Harris said: “We still have healthy debates in our country about what is the right path, and nobody’s voice should be suppressed on that.”
I was stunned. The vice president had the perfect opportunity to use this moment as an educational moment, and instead she turned it into a missed educational opportunity. History and reality be damned, she made it about personal empowerment.
The same week that Harris met with the students, Israel’s prime minister addressed the U.N. General Assembly.
When Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressed the august international body, he referred to those who condemn Israel and those who do not bother to even open their eyes to see and understand Israel’s point of view as “lazy.”
This is his exact quote. It is the beginning of his concluding statement: “Attacking Israel doesn’t make you morally superior, fighting the only democracy in the Middle East doesn’t make you “Woke”, adopting cliché’s about Israel without bothering to learn the basic facts, well … that’s just plain lazy.”
Vice President Harris, there is much you can learn from Prime Minister Bennett, a true Educator in Chief.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.