Two days after the U.S. presidential election, my American Politics class was fortunate enough to meet and talk to Juan Alsace, the United States Consul General in Toronto. Alsace is a highly respected diplomat and senior Foreign Service officer who is subordinate only to the American Ambassador to Canada. In his 29 years of service, Mr. Alsace has worked all over the world, fulfilling a multitude of important roles. He worked in Iraq as Team Leader of an embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (2009-2010), as Economic and Political Counsellor in Santiago in Chile (2006-2009), and as Consul General in Barcelona in Spain (2003-2006).
During the class, students were given the opportunity to ask Mr. Alsace a variety of questions, most of them relating to the recent election of President-elect Donald Trump. Mr. Alsace did not dodge any questions, but remained impartial and neutral while giving his answers. He was articulate, considerate, and cordial. He adequately represented the upper echelons of American public service.
I could drone on about the importance of civic duty, or the catastrophe-in-waiting that is the Trump administration, but I will not. Instead, I wanted to write about Mr. Alsace’s visit to illustrate an important yet often overlooked point: while the Electoral College may have betrayed the country this election cycle, there remain hundreds of senior elected and appointed officials in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of American government who do not reflect the current state of affairs, and who carry themselves in a diplomatic and respectable fashion.
I feel the need to be cautiously optimistic because I believe in the fortitude of American intellectualism and liberalism, and in the legitimacy of the U.S. Constitution. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”. The next four years will test the resilience of American political institutions, but will not demolish them. Instead, the country will recover, and this era will be seen as a hiccup on the path of greater equality, equity, and acceptance. During this week of remembrance, lest we forget that the worst examples of human behaviour have often been followed by incredible feats of selflessness, courage and determination. The darkest hour is just before the dawn.
Special thanks to Consul General Alsace for giving his time to speak with our students, and to Professor R. Persaud for organizing this noteworthy event. Dr. Radha Persaud is also responsible for organizing an event of a similar nature back in September, involving two former United States congressmen (Martin Lancaster and Steven Kuykendall).