In fall 2005, I was studying at Radboud Universiteit in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. In one of my classes, International Political Economy, I was the only American (indeed, I believe I was the only non-Dutch student in the class). The professor asked me to do a presentation on American cities, and this PowerPoint was the result.
The presentation focused on the three American cities with which I was most familiar at the time:
For Washington, D.C., I gave my classmates a tour of the city. I highlighted its classic Baroque plan, with broad diagonal streets, such as Pennsylvania Avenue, that connect the large civic buildings housing America’s political institutions. It is a city that endeavors to be an appropriate stage for public engagement and public protest as the capital of the world’s foremost democracy.
For Charlotte, I veered away from the urban plan and layout of the city to a broader discussion of the city’s status and history, explaining to my classmates that, in many ways, Charlotte is a very typical American city, without any particular historical narrative, distinguishing role, or geographic feature for which it is particularly notable. Yet, as such, it has a complex history and plays an outsized role on the world stage.
I presented Salt Lake City as a study in contrasts with Washington, D.C. D.C. is a political capital while Salt Lake is a religious one. I presented a tour of Temple Square and its design, the architecture and roles of its buildings, and how it interacts (or fails to interact) with the city around it.
The closing portion of the presentation deals with two issues my classmates asked me to discuss. The first of these was gun violence in the United States. I presented recent local news reports from Charlotte (all of the reports were, I believe, from within about a week or two of each other) about gun violence and its victims. I then led a discussion on gun control in the context of the United States Constitution and the Second Amendment.
The second was on the role of patriotism in building a national identity and community, especially in a nation as large and vast as the United States. This discussion used the Pledge of Allegiance—an oath which has few, if any, parallels around the world—as a starting point.
I wanted the presentation to be as multimedia as possible, so a number of video and audio clips are used throughout:
- Excerpt of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, 1963 (3:31)
- Charlotte Chamber promotional video, 2004 (5:44)
- Charlotte Regional Partnership promotional video, 2004 (12:48)
- Pioneers and Progress: A Brief History of Salt Lake City, 2001 (13:30)
- Symbols in the City: The Salt Lake Temple, 2001 (19:10)
- News 14 Carolina reports on gun violence in Charlotte, 2005 (21:43)