Change we don't believe in ... yet

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Two months into his presidency Obamamania is still going strong, but I ask students to discard their “Yes We Can” shirts for a moment and jump on a new bandwagon. I call it CHAKMAmania.

Usually I am all for breaking the infamous “Western bubble,” but I feel this is one time where Western students should turn their attention inwards and focus on events taking place on campus. Why buy into the hype of another country’s president when we, the Western community, are about to inaugurate an awesome president of our own?

Dr. Amit Chakma, the soon-to-be university president may not be gracing the cover of People magazine like his American counterpart, but Chakma has more in common with President Obama than just his job title.

Firstly, both are visible minorities. Obama may be the first African-American President of the United States but Chakma is also the first Bangladesh-born president of Western.

Second, while the university isn’t planning any major faculty bailouts anytime soon, or dealing with a financial debt in the trillions, it is facing a budgetary crunch. Like Obama, Chakma is inheriting a presidency already plagued by financial woes and potential job loss before ever having made an administrative decision. Though neither president is realistically expected to solve their attributed financial difficulties alone, if any implemented plan should fail, the responsibility would fall back on them.

Next, both presidents are fighting for the environment. While Obama has promised to fund and help implement new “green technologies” to fight climate change, Chakma has been down in the trenches actually engineering those advancements. As a former chemical and petroleum engineering professor he has used his brainpower for good by working on natural gas treating solvents intended to tackle global warming.

It also is no secret that Obama can demand the attention of any room " his charisma has been his trademark since the day he stepped onto the primaries. But ask any member of the University Students’ Council who heard Chakma speak at a council meeting a few weeks ago and I’m sure they will agree that when Chakma speaks, you want to listen. He is poised, intelligent, funny and his accent is just thick enough to make him charming.

Furthermore, both presidents have maintained their approachability with the average person. Many have commented on Obama’s ability to maintain a humble demeanour, despite his high-power position and superior education and still come off as a normal guy. Unlike other university presidents whose sole focus is on administrative dealings, Chakma has remained open to students. His current open-door policy with those at the University of Waterloo has garnered him respect and popularity with students and as unrealistic as his promise may be, he has vowed to carry on that policy as the president of Western.

So if such a large number of people can collectively agree that Obama is a modern day hero, wanting to rebuild a better America in the face of adversity, why not spread the love and show some appreciation for Chakma’s similar, yet local efforts?

Stay on the Obama train if you must, but don’t forget the leaders of lesser power but equal potential.

Chakmamania " once it catches on, it’s going to be big.

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