A Banda-Larga Public Diplomacy Success

Our Information Section did something really great with social media. I find it almost unbelievable. It came, as many things do, at the intersection of preparation and changing conditions, with a little bit of luck. Let me explain.

We launched our 9/11 commemoration campaign a couple days ago. Our theme is “superacão” or resilience & overcoming difficulties. My colleagues prepared a poster show. We did some media interviews & generally reached out to Brazilian media and people. There is no shortage of attention to 9/11 in Brazil. We don’t have to create a demand.  But we do prefer that the narrative be one of superacão and resilience rather than destruction.  We want to remember and honor the victims, but emphasize the resilience of America.  

Among the things I find most appealing is a program we have set for September 12. Ten years ago, after the attacks of 9/11, a school in Ceilândia, just outside Brasilia, made an American flag for us. All the students contributed part. It was very touching and we still have their work. We will return to the school for a ceremony and have invited the original students, now young adults, and their teachers to join us. Response has been great and I look forward to taking part. But I am drifting. Let’s return to social media.

We launched the campaign this weekend and as of this writing we have more than 106,000 responses. We might have had a few more, but the initial surge crashed our server and we had move to a bigger server. Our theme of superacão was popular with our audiences. They were invited to write their own feelings about 9/11 and/or their own stories of superacão. And they did. Our Facebook page has almost 10,000 new members and we have gained another 38,000+ on our Orkut platform. Orkut is popular with non-elite audiences in Brazil. A video of Ambassador Thomas Shannon talking about 9/11 has garnered 9,260 views as of this morning, but I figure more than 8000 by the time you read this. Today we were getting almost 1000 new comments every hour. I say comments, not visitors and not “hits”. A commenter has to take the time to write something. 

Our initial demographic analysis indicates that participants are coming to us from all over Brazil, even interior towns indicating that Internet has penetrated far into Brazil. Many of our participants are from the less-privileged social groups. This is because the Orkut component is providing them a forum, we believe.    

I want to emphasize again that these are responses, not mere “liking”. Of course, we have been unable to look at all 100,000+ responses, but our sampling indicates that most are thoughtful. Most are also favorable to the U.S. Many of the personal stories of resilience are moving.   

We will follow up with social media and with boots on the ground. I remain a little skeptical of social media that doesn’t yield physically tangible results. One of our initial ideas is to take representative groups from various cities and invite them to programs or representational events when we visit their home towns. This will create a good media opportunity both in MSM and new media, especially in those places were we rarely tread. It makes it more concrete and exciting for the participants and fits in well with our plant to reach out to the “other Brazil”, i.e. those places not Rio, São Paulo or Brasilia. As I wrote earlier, we had planned to reach to the 50 largest cities.  I had to add a few extra so that we could encompass all state capitals, even in places with thin populations and some cities of special significance, such as an especially good university, for example. I ended up with 61, but I think I will find five more so that I can call the plan “Route 66”.

I don’t know how many Brazilians we will have touched by the time we are done with this campaign, but I think we are doing okay so far. As I have written on many occasions, this is a great place to work. The only problem is that we might get tired taking advantage of all the opportunities. 

Up top I mentioned the intersection of preparation, good luck and changing conditions. Preparation is what my colleagues did and have been doing. They built a social media system ready to be used. It needed an opportunity. They also prepared for what they knew would be a big anniversary. But this program would have gone nowhere had not Brazil expanded its internet network, so that people could respond. I don’t think this success could have happened last year or even six months ago. One of the Portuguese terms I learned was “banda larga”. It means broadband. Many Brazilians were learning the term and its meaning the same time I was. Now they have the capacity to log in and they are doing it. New fast-spreading technologies have allowed Brazilians to jump over a digital divide that we thought was as wide as the Grand Canyon. We are lucky to have these conditions.

The New Bahia

Bahia is a big and diverse state and there is a lot more than the well-known images of carnival, capoeira or the images from Jorge Amato novels.  A place like Bahia, which was less developed than many other places, has the advantage in that it can jump ahead, taking advantage of advances w/o having to go through all the mistakes that other suffered along the way. It is the advantage that the sun-belt had over the rust-belt and the U.S. analogy works on several levels. 

We bought a Ford Fiesta for Mariza. I noticed it was made in Brazil; now I know it was made in Bahia.  The plant opened in 2001 and started to make cars for the U.S. market a couple years ago.  It is a new plant and one of the most productive in the world.  It doesn’t have the so-called legacy costs of older-plants. The equipment is new and up-to-date and so are the workers, who are trained and accustomed to the up-to-date equipment.  BTW – I didn’t know that all the Mercedes-Benz “M Class” vehicles are made in Alabama. So the American car (Ford) comes from Brazil and the German car (Mercedes) comes from America. Who can keep track?

There are lots of new things in the old state of Bahia. Money is pouring in because of good business opportunities in general but also because of the pre-salt petroleum discoveries off the coast.  Some of this oil will come ashore in Bahia and the petroleum industry will require billions of dollars of support activities.   Bahia also is set to become a leader in the biofuels industry.  Sugar cane is one of the most efficient crops for producing ethanol and sugar cane in a prime crop in Bahia. They are also experimenting with other crops to be used to make oils and biodiesel.

Western Bahia has become some of the most productive farmland in the world, thanks to better ways to manage soils and new crop varieties.  The remaining problem is infrastructure.  Roads are bad and railroads almost non-existent, but the Brazilians are building a railroad across Bahia, from Tocantins to the sea to carry the grains of the inland farms to the ports of the world.   

I knew that corn and soy could be successfully grown, but I was surprised to learn that they are growing grapes for wine in Bahia. The season never really ends and with the help of irrigation they get two and a half harvests a year from their vineyards.  I thought that wine grapes could not be successfully grown too far into the tropics.  I recall that there was some doubt that a successful wine industry could be established even in Rio Grande do Sul.  But it worked there and now it is moving even farther toward the equator. I also heard that EMBRAPA is developing pears that grow well in the valley of the Sao Francisco, in Bahia. Pears are/were also a cool climate crop. The wonder of modern agriculture is how we keep on developing new varieties of crops that grow in places where nobody thought they could.  Actually, it is the wonder of human imagination.  Somebody always figures out ways to overcome those who tell us things cannot be done. 

One of the complications of development for a place like Bahia is that a lot of the work is done by newcomers and many of the benefits are gained by them. The farmers in the western part of the state, for example, are often immigrants from states like Rio Grande do Sul & Paraná. They brought their know-how with them and developed it to a higher level in the new land of Bahia. Sometimes transplanted ideas and methods work better. 

My first trip to Bahia only gave me a start. Salvador is only a small part of the state.  I have not been to western Bahia, but I plan to go and see those productive farms in places where a few decades ago everybody said could grow nothing but poverty.

My pictures show Salvador from the ocean view, a new area of town (notice the new buildings under construction) and the last picture shows students at the Federal University of Bahia. 

Live fast; die young; leave a nice looking husk

I didn’t know much about coconuts and much of what I did know was evidently wrong.  I thought that inside the coconut was a whitish liquid – coconut milk. No, inside the coconut is mostly water. The Brazilians call it aqua de coco. It tastes a lot like ordinary water except it is thicker & is supposed to be good for you. I was offered coconut water lots of places in Salvador and one of the hosts told me the story of coconuts. Many people also like the white coconut meat. I happen not to, but I suppose if you are hungry enough it would be good. I also thought that the coconut was a big seed. It isn’t. There is a single seed inside the nut.  When conditions are right the seed sends roots and stems out those weak spots in the shell, the things that look kind of like a face on the nut. With all these attributes, you can see what a useful thing this would be on the proverbial desert island. 

The coconuts come in a green husk that floats. That is how coconuts get distributed throughout the world.   The thing falls or is washed into the sea.  The sea-journey and the salt water don’t hurt the coconut. If it washes up on a hospitable beach in a reasonable amount of time, a new coconut palm can be born. That is why coconut palms ring the tropical seas and are a symbol of tropic beaches. 

Coconuts do not live very long, at least for trees. But they grow fast. This is another adaptation to life on the beach.  Roots cannot sink too deep into the shifting sands and over the course of a few decades it is almost certain that a storm will come along that is strong enough to disrupt even a well rooted tree growing not very far above the tide line. So the coconut’s strategy is to live fast, die young and leave a nice looking husk.

My pictures are from along the sea in Salvador. The top two show coconut palms.  In the second picture you can see an agua de coco stand where you can get fresh coconut water.  Notice the big dunes of white sand behind the stand. I don’t know the details of how it gets deposited there, but some places along the coast these big dunes block the ocean. Some are covered by vegetation, like the ones in the picture, others are just sand.

Afro-Brazilians in Old Salvador

Old Salvador is an interesting place because of the interesting architecture and charming streets, but much more because of the interesting life on the streets, the people, in other words. Old Salvador comes with a soundtrack.  There is the constant sound of drums and singing, as well as the usual human activity sounds you would expect on streets where the pedestrian still trumps the car.  You get a feeling of community.

We were in this part of town to visit an African Brazilian organization called Olodum. Olodum is known mostly for its music, with strong percussion. In fact, Olodum members were responsible for some of the drumming and singing I heard. Some of these people were featured in a Paul Simon Album and Michael Jackson came to Salvador & Rio to record a music video “They Don’t Care About Us”. I understand that he did not to the moon walk. I suppose even for the King of Pop it would have been hard to do a smooth moon walk on the rough cobbled streets.

We are interested in Olodum more for its community outreach than for its music. We are hoping to broker a partnership between the BNC ACBEU and Olodum to teach English in the local Afro-Brazilian community.  The community is interested in this because of the general utility of English, but also because of the specific demands of the World Cup, which will feature games in Salvador in 2014. With English, community members could more easily find good jobs related to foreign visitors.  We see this as a good opportunity to help a group that has often been excluded and to make new friends, in the networking way I have written about on so many occasions. 

We went to the other side of town to Senzala do Barro Preto with a similar aim. This is another Afro-Brazilian organization. They told me that they were inspired by the civil rights movement and you could see that in the pictures of leaders like Martin Luther King and Barack Obama. Leaders at the Centro are more interested in a partnership than in English teaching per se and it makes sense. They don’t want to just have a one-time infusion, but rather want to develop community members who can sustain the effort. It makes sense to “train the trainers”. It complicates logistics a bit, but we can probably figure it out. Things just work better when the community gets what it wants and is committed to working for the results.

My pictures show various scenes from Old Salvador. They are fairly self explanatory. I took the Coca-Cola truck, since I don’t want to go anywhere where they don’t have Coca-Cola. I don’t think there really are many places like that in the world these days. The bottom pictures show a street in the other part of town and the other part of town. It is less charming but it is the place where lots more people live.

Below is a the neighborhood.

Old Salvador, 500 years on.

The old part of Salvador reminds me of Lisbon, which come as no surprise given the direction of colonization.  The Portuguese landed here at the height of their empire. The Pope divided the world between the Portuguese and the Spanish in 1794, the Treaty of Tordesillas. It was interesting that they thought that the Pope had the right to broker such a treaty and give millions of people and undiscovered lands to two Iberian nations, but they took it seriously. The dividing line gave most of the Americas to Spain. Brazil was yet undiscovered, but the tip of what is now Brazil – now Salvador – juts out into the Portuguese zone. This technicality is one reason why Brazil speaks Portuguese today. 

The Portuguese empire has always fascinated me. It seems like an oxymoron. Yet little Portugal used to be a big deal, as you can still see from the spread of their language and cultural traits from East Timor to the Azores.  Portugal didn’t have the population or national heft to maintain an empire, but that didn’t stop them from doing it for more than 500 years.

They hugged the coasts in most places. Brazil was an exception to some extent. The Portuguese still hugged the coast, but their descendants & others pushed way into South America, which is why Brazil is so big today.

Salvador is an example of the old coastal empire. It was a rich place, as you can tell from the existing architecture, especially the opulent baroque church of São Francisco. We went to visit it just before one of our appointments and it was worth the trip. A little old guy called Paulo met us on the way in and gave us the fast tour.  I forgot most of what he said, but it was worth having him at the time. He didn’t ask for any money, but we gave him some anyway and he didn’t even make a pretense of turning it down.

Most of what I remember is that the tiles are from Portugal and a great example of that sort of art.  You can see in the pictures that Paulo was telling the truth. That gold encrusted vision you see in the picture is wood.  He said it was pau-Brasil, for which the country was named. Pau-Brasil was the country’s first big export item, before the sugar cane plantations got started.

Salvador was Brazil’s first capital. It has a kind of charming decadence today and I think it probably s had a charming decadence from the day it was founded. There was not really anything like a new big building until relatively recently in history.  Monumental buildings took generations to build and people used and occupied them as they were in the process of being competed.  I know this is a small point, but I think it is important to explain some attitude differences in the past. We expect to start and finish things in a way they did not.

The economy came to depend on sugar cane, which the Portuguese introduced. Sugar was an extremely profitable crop, but growing it was labor intensive and the labor was hard and dangerous. The Portuguese grew it with slave labor imported from Africa. Portuguese colonization was different from the English colonization in North America. The English came in large numbers and often as families and most intended to stay in America.  Fewer Portuguese came to Brazil and they often came as single men often with the intent of making money and going home.   This had predictable demographic and economic consequences that you can still see today. Bahia is demographically very much like Africa and the people of Bahia have retained many cultural aspects of their African heritage. Please see the next post to find out more about that.

My pictures are all from the São Francisco Church in Salvador

Seventy Years in Salvador

Our BNC in Salvador, ACBEU, celebrated its seventieth anniversary. It was founded when much of the world was already at war and only months before the United States would be dragged too.  The context is not coincidental.  The founders understood the need for the two greatest nations of the Western Hemisphere to come together in the face of all of this rising sea of trouble.  They wanted to make their contribution. 

I say “our” BNC.  The accuracy of the usage depends on what you mean by the word “our.”  It is certainly “our” in the sense of U.S.-Brazil and it is our in the sense of the U.S. government representing the U.S. nation. We helped.  But it is mostly theirs.  It belongs to the people of Salvador, who over generations have built ACBEU to the institution it has become.  The thing that impressed me most about ACBEU, what has impressed me about all the BNCs I have visited, is the depth of community involvement.  There are people who have been involved with this BNC for two generations.  The son of one of the founders spoke at the anniversary celebration and around the room were leading members of the Salvador community.

I talked to a guy about my age who runs a charity that helps a thousand poor kids with education, medical care and general direction. He proudly told me that he had been a student at ACBEU many years before and that it has helped shape his life.  This is an example of a long term impact. The Chairman of ACBEU Board estimated that they have around 420,000 alumni, many like the man I mentioned above doing important work in Salvador.

ACBEU has around 6000 students this year.  It is the usual BNC mix, with mostly young people but also adults and professional students.   ACBEU supports an EducationUSA advising center; they have strong partnerships with local businesses and governments and the reach out to the community, giving poor kids scholarships and holding some classes in the poor neighborhoods.  These are all great things that most BNCs do.  An unusual aspect of ACBEU was its American student contingent. 

ACBEU hosts around three-hundred Americans each year who come to learn or perfect their Portuguese.  We talk a lot about two-way exchange, but it more often is Brazilians going to the U.S. Brazil is a great country and getting more important all the time.  We need to develop a bigger group of Americans who understand this country, its language and customs.  These students mostly come through linkages with American universities.  American students want to come to Bahia and the cultural experience is great. 

We also met one of our ELFs – English Language Fellows.  This particular ELF, Jennifer, is housed at ACBEU.  Among the things she does train high school English teachers, obviously another high-leverage activity since they will in turn train thousands of kids.  We are trying to expand this program in Brazil to help satisfy the seemingly inexhaustible demand for English language.  We currently have only two in the country: one in Recife and the one in Salvador that we met.  But next year we should get four more funded by ECA and another one funded by the public affairs.   In addition, the Secretary of Education in the state of Pernambuco wants five more ELFs and he says that he will pay for with his own funds.  ELFs have always been hosted by local partners, but I don’t think this type of full cost-share has ever happened before and it is certainly the first time in Brazil that we have had that kind of partnership.  Our English Language Officer in São Paulo is figuring out the details.  You always know when somebody really wants want something when they put their time and/or money up.  

ELFs are is a great way to reach young Brazilians, a high leverage activity, since we are helping them get what they want and we get a self-selecting group of highly motivated people, who are likely to be influential in the future. 

I have marveled at how easy it is to work in Brazil. It is because of these programs implemented over many years that we can so easily do our business in this country.  The polling data give us their ephemeral numbers of how many like us and how many don’t. Currently we are well-liked in Brazil, according to the polls.  I read polls and I pay attention to them, but I understand their limits.  People have opinions that they report and they have things that they do; these are often not closely related. I know that through good times and bad times, we have friends. 

The top picture shows  Associação Comercial Bahia. Below that is me at the commemoration trying to look good. The next two pictures show murals at ACBEU. They have an art gallery space. New artists can show their work there.  There is no money charged, but the artists have to leave a work of art at ACBEU.

The Goal of the Process is the Process

I watched “Remember the Titans” today. The story is a common one, retold since the time of Homer or Gilgamesh.  Different people, maybe even enemies, come together to achieve a common goal and in the process of working toward the goal they become a team.  They learn to respect each other by working together. Winning the championship is not the story; becoming a team is the real theme and long-lasting mutual respect is the long-term outcome.  

A successful public diplomacy program is like that. We don’t win friends in the long run by always being right or by convincing people of the righteousness of our cause; we win friends by working together on a common cause.  And the process of doing the task is often more useful than the final outcome. Creating a process IS the goal if your purpose is to make friends for the long run. The key to finding joy in this endeavor is to find a worthy common purpose that will absorb the energies of the participants and capture their imaginations.   I mentioned our school principal exchange before. I didn’t know a thing about it a few months ago, but I love this program.  It takes top-performing Brazilian public school principals and sends them to the U.S. where they work with American counterparts for three weeks. Then they come back to Brazil to report on their experiences to their Departments of Education and their colleagues.  They hold their big conference in a different city each year.  It will be in Recife this time on November 5.This year we will have representatives of twenty-four of the twenty-six Brazilian states. They usually do not come from the biggest cities in Brazil and they do not go to the biggest cities in the U.S.  It is a heartland –to-heartland exchange as well as a heart-to-heart emotion.  Next summer, after keeping in contact over the intervening months, the American principals will come to Brazil. I wrote a little about the principal exchange in an earlier post. This is a great process in  and of itself and if we achieved the goal of bringing the principals together I would consider it a grand success. It puts Americans and Brazilians in a common quest to improve public education in our two countries.  But it is even deeper than that.  The Brazilians and the American institutions involved take the selection process very seriously. Dozens of Brazilian principals vie for each opening. Thousands of people are involved and I believe they are improved by it.  

Our youth ambassador exchange is celebrating its tenth anniversary next year and it keeps on getting better.  It started out when then U.S. Ambassador Donna Hrinak wanted to do something to reach a youth audience in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.  Our PA section came up with the idea of sending twelve ordinary young people from public high schools to the U.S.  It was a modest start and it is still not a program that reaches masses of people, but it has grown.  Now we send thirty-five and work with 7500 students. And again the process is what touches most people.

This year we got around 7500 applicants, as I mentioned above. All speak English and are good students. They apply through sixty-four of our partner organizations throughout Brazil, all of Brazil including little towns in places like Acre or Rondonia, where we can rarely tread.  This partnership is valuable. They are BNCs, education departments and schools, all of which are willing to devote many hours of their people’s time to the service of what they consider a worthy cause.  Everybody is a volunteer and they do it for the love of learning and the future of their country.  In the process we build friendships.

The applicants write essays about American topics – in English, which are judged by boards that include university professors, teachers and BNC officials. They narrow the field to 180 finalists. After that a board in Brasilia made up of our CAO, our lead Brazilian employee plus some other people from consulates in Brazil. Thirty-five get a scholarship to visit the U.S.  This year, since it is the tenth anniversary, we want to send “plus ten” or forty-five. We are looking for corporate sponsors for this addition, which is another opportunity for partnership.

All the finalists get something. Those not chosen as youth ambassadors get a week of English immersion at one of Brazil’s great BNCs.  I wrote about the last time  here and here.

The lucky winners go to the U.S.   During their first visit in 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell took the time to meet with the group. He spent more than a half hour with them, which is a lot of time for a busy guy like him at that time.  Subsequently, they have met other Secretaries of State plus people like Laura Bush and Michelle Obama.  It is a class act.

We always get a lot of great press in Brazil, which magnifies the reach of an already great program.  This year we believe we will get the winners announced on one of Brazil’s most popular TV variety programs.  It will reach millions of Brazilians with the kind of excitement generated by American Idol. I am not at liberty to reveal details now, since we are still in negotiations, but I am reasonably certain that we will make a big noise o/a October 22.   So this is a great program in terms of tangible PR results, as is the principal exchange. We get press and we get noticed.  By I return to what I consider more important, the lasting relationships. We have friends all over Brazil who have worked with us on these programs and recall our common success.  Long after the newspapers have composted and the television glamor has faded, these relationships abide.

My pictures show the city of Sao Paulo from the offices of the Lemann Foundation and the SP State Ministry of Education. 

Places of Aspiration

Brazil is a big and diverse country that has changed remarkably in recent years. That fact is so obvious that it can be overlooked; it can hide in plain sight.  History and tradition conspires against seeing the big picture.  Rio is so attractive and São Paulo so dynamic that it is easy to think that Brazil revolves around this axis.  Add Brasilia, and you could spend a lifetime in this Brazil w/o paying much attention to the rest. It is not only Brazil.  I know another big and diverse country where some people don’t really notice much beyond the East Coast (i.e. New York and maybe DC) and the West Coast (i.e. LA and maybe a little around SF). But in both countries, much of the energy is outside these formerly central places. 

My admittedly still limited experience with Brazil leads me to believe there is a strong parallel with the U.S. in what we can expect in future development. Demographer Joel Kotkin identifies such “cities of aspiration” in the American heartland as engines of growth and cultural expression in the next decades. I think the same thing goes for Brazil. Cities like Manaus, Cuiabá, Campo Grande or Tres Lagoas are Brazilian cities of aspiration, places where people go to get their piece of the country’s success. It is musica sertaneja replacing samba. It is new infrastructure opening up new places and new people enjoying social mobility. We cannot forget the old places, which are and will remain important, but we should also be in the new places. 

I can think of lots of reasons to stay in the office. Office work creates its own gravity. It is hard to get out and if you are out of the office a lot some people think you are not working, but we are not really doing our jobs if we DON’T get out … a lot. If we didn’t need to get out among Brazilians we could just stay in the U.S.  Most Brazilians are far away from us, since it is such a big country, it takes time to get to them but we can get to them. Some are close enough to drive, although that takes time too. Some of the areas and satellite cities around Brasilia are places of aspiration, so are some places in Rio and Sao Paulo.  They are not all away from everything. They are not all far off in the countryside. My car will come soon, I hope. I can drive from Brasilia to Goiania in about three hours and from Goiania I can get to Uberlandia etc. 

Anyway, I think that most of us agree about the need to get out. We can all identify the problem. We just have to do it, and not just me.  It is an exciting time to be in Brazil, as I have said on many occasions. There is enough Brazil for everybody.

The picture is a landscape in Goias.  There is lots of room. 

Beautiful JK Bridge

Among the many things in Brasilia named for Juscelino Kubitschek is the bridge in the pictures. It is a real work of art and looks good, as you can see in the pictures.

You notice from the grass that we are getting into the peak of the dry season.  The air is as dry as Death Valley. and it won’t rain again until September. After that it will rain every day for the next couple of months. You can read more about the bridge at this link.

Born Knowing Algebra

I recently had the honor of speaking and giving out some diplomas at a Casa Thomas Jefferson graduation ceremony.  536 students of various ages and programs got diplomas. The diplomas are symbols hard work, but do note confer any special privileges. Yet the students came for them and so did their families.  Everybody was proud. It was the affirmation of a community that made the difference.

Rituals have a place in our lives that we often forget or neglect. My speech was not very interesting and nobody expected it to be. You don’t come to a ceremony like this for stirring oratory. I was playing my role, as were the others. The fact that we were doing it mattered, not the ostensible content. We marked the achievement and the transition of the students.  

IMO, we have abandoned too many of our traditions and rituals. We like to think that we are too sophisticated and that we see through these “empty” gestures. There are indeed empty gestures, but many of the traditions that mark transitions or recognize achievement are not empty. They are full of meaning as structures that define our lives and hold our society together.  When people neglect their roles, society starts to fray.

The Casa Thomas Jefferson students were admirable and they deserved the recognition that the ceremony gave them.  Many of the adults work all day and study at night. They know that English is an important asset for their success. We Americans don’t appreciate how lucky we are that we learn the world language as our first. One author said that it is almost like being born already knowing algebra. Others understand the power of our native language and are willing to sacrifice to learn it. 

I have a lot of respect for those who learn my language & I am glad that they do.  I have had a lot of fun learning my Portuguese, Polish and Norwegian, but since I can’t learn all the languages of the world, I am delighted that so much of the world has decided to learn mine. And if I can celebrate their achievement and take part in their traditions, it sure makes me happy.