Forward Thinking

Mr. Obama, Your Selfie Sent All the Wrong Messages

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Thank you, Mr. President.

You’ve just made it harder for me and every other parent and educator to convince young people that taking selfies at memorials and on solemn occasions is not okay.

Just what were you thinking when you leaned in close to Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron to snap a group self-portrait at the memorial service for the late great South African Nelson Mandela on Tuesday?!

The folks behind the “Selfies at Funerals” Tumblr blog said it best: “Obama has taken a funeral selfie, so our work here is done.”

Sadly, I fear, that the image of you grinning in to the lens of that mobile phone you held up together with Thorning-Schmidt is going to be recalled far more clearly and much longer than anything you said in your well-written four-and-half-minute-long eulogy for Mandela.

I completely understand that you were too busy to read my piece about the unfortunate and misguided (some would say disgusting) trend of young visitors to Holocaust sites and memorials in Europe taking cheery (and sometimes sexy) selfies and posting on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. But for parents like myself and educators, a world leader setting this example only reinforces that these pictures are ok for teens to take.

I’m sure your wife Michelle also didn’t have a chance to read my piece, but from the look of disapproval on her face, it seems she didn’t have to in order to know how a world leader should act at a memorial service.


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