The election is over. It was one that many in the international community here in Accra, Ghana increasingly thought would go to Hillary Clinton. Most people, including my students who come from may different backgrounds, thought there was no way the United States would elect Donald Trump. How could they? Surely, Trump was acting the part of entertainer and not politician. The polls seemed to confirm this viewpoint.
We were all shocked. My students who have just been studying values and thinking about their own values were asking “What do Americans value?” “What are American values?” As there teacher I was left scratching my head. I am not sure anymore what our values are. Maybe values lost this election. Students were pretty sure they had different values than Americans.
The international students in my classroom are from all over the world, Africa, Asia, North and South America, Australia, and Europe. Many of them have spent there young lives as immigrants. They have moved multiple times to different countries before the age of 12. Each time they move they have to find out where they fit in their new community. They are not sure now if they would fit in in the United States. They would all love to go to a college or university in the United States but they would be immigrants of different colors and religions. They paid attention to the election and they heard loud and clear that immigrants are not welcome. Where will they go for College or University?
Students looked to me to explain what happened. How could this have happened? I thought about all of the technical things to say about polls, data, geography, policies etc. but I really had no good answer for them. What I told them was that people did not make their decision based on information. They made an emotional decision. It did not matter who had the most experience, ideas, best policies, or leadership. Base instinct had more to do with the outcome than rational thought. Many intelligent people made a decision with their gut.
I asked my students what they thought should happen now. They all looked at each other and wondered, lost for an answer. I suggested that they do more of what they already do well. International students are quick to make new friends, to reach out to others, to open themselves to others, to welcome a newcomer. Finally, if they want to see a different world with different people in power they are going to have to make sure their voice is heard at the ballot box and elsewhere. They are going to have to get to work.
I am not sure that I was much comfort to my students but they left the room a bit quieter than they had entered. There are so many things I wanted to say but I am struggling to find the right things to say.