Thursday, April 2, 2009

To the Editor of the New York Times

I just submitted the following letter to the New York Times. I don't know if they'll publish it, so I thought I'd include it here:

RE: "Obamas Give Queen Elizabeth an iPod"

To the Editor:

In giving the Queen of England an iPod, President Obama missed a valuable opportunity. Instead of giving a gadget mass-produced overseas, why not showcase the exceptional range of American artistic talent by giving heads of state works of art such as pottery, sculpture, textiles, painting or woodworking? Perhaps the White House could sponsor a juried competition to find works of American art that would serve as future diplomatic gifts. Such a competition would help artists in a particularly art-unfriendly economy, show the world the brilliance of American craft that has always reflected the spirit of its people and help President Obama find the perfect gift for the head of state who has everything.

Mitch Roberson
Nashville, TN


Anonymous said...

Oh, well said! I couldn't agree more.

dave-o said...

I work as engineer for Apple, and I strongly disagree. The box of any Apple product says "Designed by Apple in California", and this is true. While the components may be assembled by machines overseas, I think this comment belittles the hours toiled by our team here in the USA to bring these products to life.

My intention here is not to disparage American woodworking or other craftsmanship (I am also a woodworker), but any of these pieces would represent the work of one or perhaps a few individuals. The iPod is a symbol of the craftsmanship that the thousands of us at Apple put into our products.

While I am sympathetic to the "art unfriendly" economy and think that your idea is a good one, I just want to point out that using a jig is really "mass production" on a small scale, and that no less craftsmanship goes into an iPod than into a set of dining room chairs.

JP Squash said...

Not to disparage Apple at all, since I think they represent a lot of good values, particularly in creating simplicity through design, but I think the point here is that Queen Elizabeth could send someone out to purchase an iPod at any time, and she could conceivably fill it with whatever music she wanted, all without any help from our new president.

What she couldn't do is find a unique representation of American skill and craftsmanship that was chosen by the critical eye of other Americans to represent what is special to us.

To me, that does add up to a missed opportunity for connecting the values of two peoples.