Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Winners and losers

Mrs Rigby isn't the only person to have noted the slightly acidic expressions on the faces of runners up in an American University Beauty Competition. She thinks it's a pity that these girls haven't learnt how to be very good losers, and notes that some of the audience voted with their feet. Instead of applauding the winner ...
... as the pictures were being taken, several dozen spectators walked out of the university’s main auditorium.
It really isn't a very good example is it, especially at a university that claims to "promote diversity and education among minorities".

Mrs Rigby took a stroll round the internet and was quite surprised to learn that Hampton isn't by any means a new university. According to the Wiki page it was founded on 1st April 1868 by Mary Smith Peake. The university has the motto
"The Standard of Excellence, An Education for Life."
Mrs R can't confirm either date or motto from the University's own pages, although she can find some HU Facts. She's picked a few bits and pieces to quote, you can read them yourselves and form your own opinion.
Hampton University, a dynamic, progressive institution of higher education, is a privately-endowed, non-profit, non-sectarian, co-educational, historically black university. It is located in southeastern Virginia and boasts one of the loveliest campuses in the nation, with a picturesque waterfront and historic buildings and landmarks. Hampton University has grown into a comprehensive university providing a broad range of technical, liberal arts, pre-professional, professional, and graduate degree programs. We also offer cultural entertainment and athletic events keep you in touch with the other students and members of the Hampton University family.
Hampton University is a community of learners and educators. It is a place that will challenge your intellect and nurture your spirit; broaden your outlook and expand your opportunities. A place where you can meet people from a diversity of backgrounds and establish friendships that last a lifetime. HU's strong roots reach deep into the history of this nation and the African-American experience. But the University's sights, like yours, are set squarely on the horizons of the global community of the 21st century.
It is a place that believes in integrity, honesty, respect for oneself, respect for others, decency, dignity, responsibility and fairness.
Their Mission Statement includes this
A historically black institution, Hampton University is committed to multiculturalism. The University serves students from diverse national, cultural and economic backgrounds. From its beginnings to the present, the institution has enrolled students from five continents North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe and many countries including Gabon, Kenya, Ghana, Japan, China, Armenia, Great Britain and Russia, as well as the Hawaiian and Caribbean Islands and numerous American Indian nations.
Mrs Rigby really can't work out how a university with such a diverse background and apparently welcoming ethos can possibly encourage the sort of attitude shown by both the contestants and, presumably, their parents and/or friends when they realised that the winner of the competition wasn't who they expected it would be.
The following day Ms Churchill was heckled at a college football game and a previous Miss Hampton University said she was “very shocked” there was a white winner. “We’ve never had one before,” Patrece Parson said.
They were obviously disappointed, and didn't seem to care how much they might hurt the feelings of the winner who wrote to Mr Obama - and managed to annoy university authorities so much that ...
The president of the university’s student body summoned Ms Churchill to explain herself onstage at a special meeting in the student centre theatre. [Ms Churchill] took the opportunity to apologise and thank the majority of students for their support.
Making the complainant apologise for being upset does seem to be an unusual way of resolving a problem.

Let's scurry back to Britain and see if there's a British parallel to this sort of beauty competition. And there is, because Mrs R can remember that the lovely Rachel Christie recently won the Miss England title, which is probably a whole lot more important than any university's competition. She was lauded as being the "First Black Miss England". Mrs R can't find anything wrong with that, because it's true. There's a whole page of pictures of her and other competitors, and not a sour face in sight. Take a look at The Miss England site - it's a delight to see.

Mrs Rigby wonders if maybe, just maybe, some people in some parts of America can learn something from Britain after all. Wouldn't it have been better if Hampton University could have hit the headlines with, "First White Miss Hampton"? It would have been something of a coup, surely.

Maybe Hampton University, that ...
"... values scholarship, talents and achievement."
and says,
"It is also a place that values character. It is a place that believes in integrity, honesty, respect for oneself, respect for others, decency, dignity, responsibility and fairness. It believes in providing an "Education for Life" to the whole person"
... should also encourage its students to learn how to make a winner feel pleased with themselves and also how to be a good loser.

There is, after all, usually only ever one winner in any competition and many, many people who fail to get through the earliest parts of a selection process. Most of the time these people are generous loser, but every so often it's clear they can't hide their upset, so maybe they should try taking Dorothy Fields' advice in the musical Swing Time, they should learn to - "Pick Yourself up", dust yourself off, start all over again.

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