I'm a second-year graduate student at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, the first university in the United States to offer a graduate program in international affairs. The Fletcher School is recognized as one of the world's top master's programs for a policy career in international relations, where building bridges between stakeholders is essential. I don't say this to boast, I just want to give you an idea of the context in which I study.
As a Canadian studying international relations in the United States, I have followed the elections closely. I saw these elections as a symbol. A symbol of the world's polarization between equality and inclusion, versus protectionism and radicalization.
On election night, I chose not to follow the race and go for a drink with a friend instead. I was cheerful to notice that the Montréal Canadiens beat their rival Boston Bruins. With a little luck, I thought I could avoid the whole election-media bonanza. By 10 p.m., I started feeling jittery and I couldn't help but look at my phone to track the results. Key swing states like Florida were on the cusp of turning red. Unable to resist any longer, I paid the bill and left to watch the elections at a friend's house.
The mood was dire. I tried pulling a few jokes like: "Oh look, the Canadian Immigration website crashed!" but clearly that didn't work out very well. As the New York Times and Bloomberg announced Trump's anticipated success by 11 p.m., most of my American friends were in denial. Just thinking about the possibility of Trump as president was unfathomable. They stared blankly at the screen.
The following morning, dejected classmates were offering free hugs in the school's corridors. Upon entrance in class, I noticed worn-out, disheartened expressions all around. Our professor threw out the Xerox case study and we spent the next hour and a half talking about the results. Things quickly took an emotional turn. The entire room was tearful. "I don't recognize myself anymore in this America I hold so dear," one friend said passionately.
Massachusetts' liberal "bubble" prevented us from seeing the dynamics at play in the rest of the country. For most of my classmates, the prospect of working for an American government under Donald J. Trump is broken. Our professor asked us: "What are the next steps?"
The term "mediation" was on many lips, a term which we often use as a remedy for seemingly intractable conflicts. Is mediation possible with a president-elect whose vision clashes so blatantly with inclusivity and access to equal opportunity?
What about the implications on the Northern neighbour? I cannot help but reflect on Jean Chrétien's comments prior to the Canadian elections in 2015. "Canada must reclaim its role as world leader," he alleged. His words take on a whole new meaning today.
Canada, the so-called "example to the world," is far from perfect, but it will be crucial for our country's leaders to act as mediators in foreign affairs. We need to promote values of tolerance and equality. We need bridges, not walls.
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