A Swedish high school student wants to go to high school in a small city in Texas so he can closely follow stem cell research, according to Metro here in Stockholm.
This is perhaps the clearest example I have seen of the Obama effect on Europe, taking an unfriendly, torturing meanie of a superpower and turning it once again into the beacon of all things good.
A Texas high school. Stem cell research. Hmmm, good luck there, guy. I hope you like American football and beer, too.
But this unfortunate idealist is not alone. Applications to study in the US are up 30 percent in the Nordic countries, and interest in Sweden has grown by 20 percent, says Metro. Placement agencies are calling it "Obama fever."
Another kid -- headed to a little town outside Dayton, Ohio to live with a gay couple -- said Obama had a more Swedish way (please, don't tell Bill O'Reilly!) such as protecting the environment and being against war. He said America was more open to outside ideas now (oh no! Please do not let Rush Limbaugh in on this!).
Now, I do not want to burst too many bubbles (especially on that war thing), and I have not been in the US since Obama was elected, but I somehow doubt the nature of high school life in Dayton and Texas has shifted greatly.
I hope I am wrong, that even as the country threatens to fall into economic despair, that there are all kinds of positive social movements sprouting in the halls of our high schools, such as balanced, nuanced discussions of stem cell research.
But, likely, these Swedish kids will get the nearly the same experience in 2009 as they would have in, say, 2007.
But it just sounds cool again. To go study in Obamaland.
And this is good. America needs this. We need the magic back. We need Swedish kids to recognize that American stem cell research is important and moving fast, and controversial, and why it is controversial. We needs kids around the world to be curious about the possibilities of our future.
It will make our life easier, for starters. But, also, isn't that what we are about? Isn't that our best self we are trying to be for the world -- credit cards, fast food restaurants, Hollywood bombs and weapons manufacturing aside?
Did you know that almost half of all European exchange students in the US come from Germany? Another huge chunk come from Scandinavia, with the rest of Europe filling out about a third.
This explains a lot. For instance, why are the exchange students in movies always attractive blond girls or dorky German guys?
Well, maybe because Spanish and Hungarian and Greek kids just don't come to the States.
Hmph. Why don't they like us?