Visitors from Overseas Provide British Perspective on U.S. Presidential Election

Credits: Richard Lee

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – This week’s Souper Monday brought the attendees a glimpse into how Europe sees the American presidential election, courtesy of Alan and Barbara Mackenzie, who have returning to the area as scholars with the Lenna Endowed Visiting Professorship.

“It is very, very important to the British people who you elect,” Alan Mackenzie said. “For millions and millions of ordinary people who have never been to America but see television and movies – even well-informed ones – they tend to view America, the condition and health of America, through the filter of the White House.”

The couple went on to say that the large majority of the media overseas who want Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to be elected president next Tuesday, going as far as to say that the media is actively worried about Trump being elected.

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“I think he (Trump) is looked at with great anxiety,” Alan Mackenzie said.

“We think it probably would,” Barbara Mackenzie, answering a question on whether foreign relations would break down under Trump. “It would depend on how he behaved as president after the election, and how eventually the country was organized and led.”

They said that European media like President Barack Obama, though the media did take issue with the NSA wire-tapping scandal.

“There are no secrets now, and I think there is a shell-shock about that kind of stuff … a major news story, but the reaction was ‘we are powerless anyway,’ “ Alan Mackenzie said. “There was much more fuss about Rupert Murdoch when he used his newspapers to wire-tap police, politicians and all sorts … that was a bigger scandal.”

The Mackenzies first came to the campus in 1992 to visit friend and journalism/mass communication department faculty member Mary Hamilton and were invited back to the university as Lenna scholars in 1993. Established in 1990, the professorship is funded through gifts from the late Betty S. Lenna Fairbank and Reginald A. Lenna of Jamestown and designed to bring scholars of stature in their field to St. Bonaventure University and Jamestown Community College for public lectures.

They fell in love with the area and, in 1995, accepted the offer to return to the university as full-time visiting faculty members. They stayed through the 2000-2001 academic year, then returned home to England because their visas expired.

To provide context to their visit as Lenna scholars, they explained where they come from and the changes in political climate there since they taught at St. Bonaventure.

“The United Kingdom is made up of four separate nations: Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England,” Alan Mackenzie said. “There was a civil war in Northern Ireland called The Troubles. It was a war in the north that lasted for a long time, from 1969 right through 1998. That is now peaceful, and we go down quite often, and it is great now to wander through streets where guns were fired and it is peaceful.”

He added, “Another difference in the United Kingdom is my country, Scotland, which in 1993 was actually very happily a part of the United Kingdom family, and is now seeking independence. Perhaps the main one that has changed is Brexit.”

He defined Brexit as Britain’s exit from the European Union, and noted that the EU has been moving toward a “federal condition” like the United States. And he noted, “Britain has actually, in a referendum just this year, broken from Europe and will stand alone now.”

They also compared the way Britain’s government works to the way America’s does, saying that the Queen has no real legislative power – that lies with the prime minister, whose position they compared to that of the speaker of the house in the U.S. Congress.

The couple noted that they had a split decision in the Brexit referendum; he voted to stay, and she voted to leave. Barbara Mackenzie said she felt that border control issues and having to follow rules that were not created within the British legislature led to her decision. Alan said he understood the concerns but felt the problems were fixable.

The Mackenzies have been operating a bed and breakfast in Lancashire, near where the British Open is held, since their return to England in 2001. Barbara Mackenzie also spent 10 years as a founding member of their town’s board.

Their public lecture “UK: State of the Nation” is scheduled for Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University.

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