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   Oxford’s Preposterous Proposition

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5/3/2007 3:00 pm

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Opinion

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Entered 5/3/2007, Updated 5/3/2007

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Last week, I appeared at the Oxford Union to debate the proposition: “This House regrets the founding of The United States of America.” Such is the extent of anti-Americanism out there that this was considered to be a reasonable debate topic by Britain’s best and brightest. It was an exhilarating and daunting experience. I do a lot of campus speaking and yet, going in, this felt like the functional equivalent of Rose Bowl. Ultimately, it turned out otherwise. But I only really realized that in retrospect. In fact, I haven’t been that nervous before a speech or debate in years. One of the things that makes the whole thing so intimidating is how unrelentingly British the entire affair is. You debate in black tie. The President of the Union, a very sharp young man who looked like a cross between Harry Potter and Elvis Costello, wore a kilt. The pre-debate cocktail party is held in the Oxford Union library — or one of them — the shelves groaning with leatherbound collections of The Economist and other journals going back more than a century. The pre-debate dinner is quite formal with toasts to the queen and ceremonial beatings of the Irish. (I made that last part up.)


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