POTUS Podium

Right now Obama is speaking at the Oso Fire Department a few miles from the horrific mudslide that happened one month ago. Throughout his speech, he has kept referring to… Ahso. Darrington, Arlington, and Ahso.

Oso is the Spanish word for bear and I’ve never heard it pronounced any other way than Oh-soh. So I’d like to believe that Oh-soh is how to say it. While many are impressed that he stopped in Oso to meet with survivors and their families on the way to Tokyo, frankly I’m embarrassed that his people might not have taken the time to review the name’s pronunciation. Someone on his staff should have done this; it’s their job to keep him informed. He also referred to Oso Fire Chief Willy Harper twice as the sheriff.

Obama to Oso: Whole country grieves with you, will stand by you

I know that as POTUS he visits countless places and can’t possibly get them all right. Someday I’m sure someone will jump on me for doing the same thing, but hopefully it will involve a complicated Massachusetts name with an “ooster” sound in it. Considering that the Oso mudslide is a major American disaster, it’s been a month since it occurred, he met with families at the Oso Chapel earlier, and he’s flanked by multiple signs that say Oso on them, I’ll admit that I was taken aback by “Ahso.” It kind of felt like when I’m talking to a bank robot in California that says, “we are proud to serve Belly-voo, Readymond, and Sahmah-meesh.”

There’s another element to his talk that started to bother me. Flanked by a who’s who of Democratic leaders, including our governor, he predictably stressed how important FEMA has been in the recovery and relief efforts. It was locals first and foremost who immediately jumped into action and began saving lives. No one waited for the federal government to come rescue them. FEMA has done great work, but there were coordinated efforts going on before they took over. 

This community and the myriad private donations that have been made to assist it have shown what people are capable of on their own. Obama did at least mention the expertise and self-reliance here. Local strength and self-sufficiency is important if the human race is to have a fighting chance in the grand scheme of things and the people along Highway 530 have made a strong show of that. They’re amazing. 

It’s good that the first responders were recognized and thanked and survivors and their families know that their country stands behind them. Personally I think such a statement could have come much sooner, and from afar, but it happened. Admittedly I cringe at visits by any president because the locals often wind up picking up the often astronomical tab for security. So I hope the community is not adversely affected in that way.

Ultimately what should have been a somber and reflective moment was disrupted, at least for me, by hearing the community’s name mispronounced over and over. It was probably awkward for the leaders who stood there with him. “Ahso” (uncomfortable shift to left leg); “Ahso” (forehead scratch with right index finger).

Hopefully the editors of the executive branch will do their homework in the future and be sure that proper homage is paid through a good faith attempt at the area’s name. That way people like me won’t be staring at the banner behind the speaker and thinking, “Ahso Strong? Whaaat?! No way man– Oso Strong, baby, yeah!”


Names are not always what they seem. The common Welsh name BZJXXLLWCP is pronounced Jackson. -Mark Twain


You can help! See Oso Aid for a number of ways to assist both humans and animals affected by this event, through both faith-based and secular organizations. 


©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.




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