The Life of My E-Reader…

This post is part of an archived series of blogs called The LeVine Line, written by former Ambassador Suzan G. LeVine during her time at U.S. Embassy Bern.

12 June 2014

Yesterday, my e-reader became a part of the permanent collection at the Museum für Kommunikation.  I was profoundly honored to have been asked to donate my device, but even more so after I heard the remarks that Jacqueline Strauss, the director of the museum, shared regarding rituals.   What I took away from her comments is that, while rituals are intended to connect us with the past and to mark a moment of significance, there are times when those rituals evolve and change and when they transcend the physicality with which they’ve been conducted and become the more ephemeral thought, sentiment, or in this case, bits.

The words of the US Constitution (and the ideas formulated by those words) were what was ratified on June 21, 1788.  Not the paper.  On May 30th, Vice President Biden administered the oath and I swore in with my hand atop the US Constitution (and,  yes, it was turned to the 19th Amendment – more on that below).  It just so happened to be composed via 1s and 0s – not with ink and paper.  Rituals.   They can evolve – and still respect the sentiment and meaning.

Frankly, having the opportunity to do a Swearing-in at all is incredibly meaningful and I hope that anyone who is blessed to have that opportunity chooses to do it in a way that is significant to them – whether over a book/paper version or an electronic version. (note – I chose the Constitution, but plenty of others use Bibles or other documents).  Don’t get me wrong – I love the tactile feel of paper – especially when accompanied by a decaf Americano, a nice breakfast and an unscheduled Sunday morning.  But, in this instance, I used my e-reader.

As for the 19th Amendment – I deliberately chose that as a way to pay homage to women’s empowerment and to Leaning In.  Specifically, as I share in my remarks below, my action in becoming an Ambassador is my doing just that.  The work that the women suffragists did to get the 19th Amendment passed was the ultimate Leaning In.

Now – a lot of people have asked about the ceremony itself.  SO – I thought I’d share my remarks and a couple of the pictures from that day.  Here goes…

I was surrounded by amazing friends, family and new colleagues and it couldn’t have been a more empowering, warm and uplifting experience for me and my family.

Excerpts from my remarks:

  • First off, thank you so much Mr. Vice President. It is especially significant to me to have you here today because of your lifelong efforts to help women’s empowerment and education – areas in which I’ve been personally and deeply affected. One could argue, in fact, that my going into this position is the ultimate Leaning In
  • My appreciation also goes to President Obama and Secretary Kerry for the trust and confidence that they have placed in me with this position.
  • As you just saw, I chose to do my oath over an electronic copy of the Constitution on my e-Reader. I did that for three reasons.
                  1. It was what I had
                  2. As cool as a copy of the Constitution from the 18th century would have been, I wanted to use a copy that is from the 21st century and that reflects my passion for technology and my hope for the future
                  3. Most importantly, it symbolizes for me the very best of our nation – especially around innovation, entrepreneurship and the voice that each of us has in our democracy. For example:
      • Think about how forward thinking our founding fathers were when they penned the original document – designing something that could adapt to the changing needs and conditions in our great nation. I love that, in the digital copy – it shows, in line, where amendments affect articles and sections and literally demonstrates the portability of the constitution.
      • Or, think about how, instead of parchment and/or pages, I can have a full copy on a tiny little device designed and developed in the United States
      • Or, how, through “highlights” that can be added to the digital text, every reader can add their voice– just as how the Constitution itself codifies that every individual has a voice in our nation.

In other words – as one of, if not THE first person to take this oath over an electronic device, I am honoring American Innovation, entrepreneurship and the fact that each citizen has a voice in our democracy – and more and more tools through which to make that voice heard!

And now – I get to represent that very best of our nation to the people and governments of the Swiss Confederation and the Principality of Liechtenstein.

I am so humbled and honored – especially given the incredible connections between our countries and how deeply those align with who I am and how I’ve spent my life.

Whether it’s Rousseau and Piaget’s studies that laid the ground work for early learning brain research, Daniel Bernoulli’s discoveries around fluid flow and pressure that helped us design vehicles that can actually fly, George de Mestral’s invention of Velcro that equipped everyone from Astronauts to little kids to more easily open and close items to CERN providing the inspiration for the creation of the World Wide Web – our sister republics have a long and vibrant history of building on one another’s innovation and invention.

Mr. Vice President, Representatives, Friends, Family and Colleagues – I wake up every day thinking about Tikkun Olam –– and what I can do that day to repair the world. With this responsibility with which you have imbued me, I am getting a chance to do that on an incredible scale and I commit to work hard every day of my appointment and will serve with integrity, humility, and a ton of energy.