November 18, 2009

Would Teddy Roosevelt Bow like Obama?

The blogosphere is all aflutter after Saturday's photos of President Obama bowing the the Emperor of Japan.

Obama grew up in Hawaii, so I'm sure he is attuned to a lot of Asian manners and protocols*. I'm sure he met some classmate's grandparents from the old country sometime way back when and followed someone's lead in greeting them with a bow.

Which got me thinking--what would Theodore Roosevelt, also a US President, also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, also relatively well-versed in Japanese culture (certainly for a man of his time)--have done?

TR was an eager judoka, taking private lessons at the White House through much of 1904. TR also negotiated a truce to the Russo-Japanese War (earning the Nobel Peace Prize for it too).

Then again, everyone is quoting Roosevelt's quip, “If I see another king I'm going to bite him.”

I think TR would've shook the Emperor's hand if meeting him wearing a suit, as Obama did. Roosevelt was such the epitome of the American ideal, that he'd want to promote our country's democratic approach.

But TR would've bowed on the mat if they were wearing gi's. No matter what your "rank" is outside the dojo, you still need to show respect to your sempai. Regardless of the color of your belt or the other guy's.

*so, do the Obamas take off their shoes when going upstairs to the Residence of the White House?

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