On Nov. 4, President Obama greeted the Japanese Emperor Akihito with a deep bow during their handshake. There has been a controversy about this gesture. Some argue whether it is just a way for President Obama to show respect to the Japanese culture, or it if contains more political implications? Politics professor, Dennis Plane, shares his opinions on Obama’s bowing gesture.
Do you consider President Obama’s bow to the Japanese Emperor as a polite gesture?
Yes, it’s simply diplomacy.
How can this way of Obama’s greeting be a political issue?
Well it’s only a political issue if people who are opposed to Obama are making it a political issue. In other words, there’s nothing inherently political about it, and the reason that it’s become controversy is that some bloggers and some media persons have been making a big deal out of it.
Many people think that when Obama’s representing the United States, everything speaks on behalf of our country, but his bow shows more of subservient look. Is it necessary to consider it this way?
Well I don’t think it shows subservience at all. I think it shows respect and diplomatic protocol. That some people on the right are upset shows they want a stronger president in terms of foreign policy, a president who’s going to go out there and be a bold and brash American. So it really depends on where you sit on the political spectrum.
Pamela Eyring, the president of The Protocol School of Washington, said that a bow is not appropriate when national leaders meet. Do you oppose this perspective or support it?
I don’t oppose it or support it, I think what really matters is what the expert in diplomacy and protocol says. But whatever is the appropriate protocol for that culture I think shows respect to engage in that behavior. And I think that even if you get the protocol slightly wrong, it’s better to try that just say we are big, bold Americans. I think Obama gets an A for effort.
Handshaking is the universal way of greeting others. Are there more meanings to Obama’s bow during their handshake?
Well, I disagree handshaking is a universal way of greeting others. Is there a deeper meaning? No. It’s simply the American president trying to be respectful to foreign leaders when he is visiting their countries.
-Helen Hu ’13, Juniata Opinions Online Journalist