Folks who read this blog over the next three weeks may notice a certain enthusiasm for things I'm observing in the United States that may seem uncharacteristic for me. The nerdy enthusiasm for policy in general, yes, that is undeniably me. But some have occasionally told me I can seem stubborn and naturally skeptical of ideas, and here I will be advancing new ideas to consider with the bubbly enthusiasm of an actor in one of those Cialis commercials.
So, let me explain.
An exchange trip is a different type of experience. When I travelled as a minister, I had a number of goals to advance that required me to focus only on New Brunswick's immediate interests. If that meant making a speech which stuck to our perspectives at a roundtable, or if it meant quietly pouring shots of bai-Jo into a potted plant so a smart senior official in China couldn't toast me into submission, well, that was the job.
Here, I have the gift of seeing something new for three weeks and considering it with no interest. I love to share the strengths of Canada, but I also love to hear what others are proud of, how they see the good in their country. This is how we learn from each other.
When the creators of Bugs Bunny were developing cartoons, they insisted on a Big Yes Session. That was just a time when no idea could be dismissed. No one was allowed to say "no" or "for heaven's sake, Jim!" You had to first think about how to make it work.
Like Canada, the U.S. has challenges. As with us, their public service is full of decent but human people who struggle with the scope of some challenges. Yet, also like us, they have solved some problems with good will, hard work and creativity. So, on this trip, I want to see the good through their eyes and think first about how to make it work at home.
I'm trying to apply the Big Yes Session to the trip as well, so new experiences are getting embraced. My first afternoon here, a beer at a local sports bar led to chatting with folks next to me and soon, five of us from three different cities were enjoying Indian food on a rooftop patio (I also have an invite to Louisville, Kentucky). A Canadian pilgrimage to Adams-Morgan led to some brave Canucks entering a reggae club because the bouncer called out to us -- and we found a $5 all-you-can-drink bounty inside. (Yes, restraint was shown). Crystal City microbrews are great.
Anyway, this leftie Canadian is looking for everything to say yes to in America. I haven't lost my talent for healthy skepticism. But maybe, somewhere amidst the monuments of the National Mall and the obvious, unspoiled emotion they evoke in our American neighbours, I've also been reminded that both our nations were founded upon a hearty dose of optimism as well.