Flip Flops in the White House

If you were invited to the White House for a dinner or a photo op or anything at all, what would you wear?

Most of us would probably take a fair amount of time to choose the perfect outfit, because that’s what we do when the event, the people and the moment matter. We dress up at weddings and funerals. We take great care on a first date and on an interview. It’s a reflection of the importance of the event and of the people with whom we’re meeting.

Today, we see a picture headlining on Drudge about the national championship Northwestern University Women’s Lacrosse team visiting the White House with most of them wearing flip flops. No, they weren’t making a statement about any political flip-flopping. The flip flops were merely part of the outfit they so carefully--or not so carefully--picked out.

We can reprimand these women all day long. However, they are simply a product of our culture. While I agree that it is not only disrespectful but also embarrassingly naïve, I believe that we are simply reaping the consequence of demeaning authority and leadership that permeates the culture.

It was a few short years ago that the man who held the highest most respected office in the land participated in illicit and shameful behavior in that very same building. Not very far from there, elected officials refer to the president as a “moron,” and “idiot” and a “liar.” Nationally and internationally, the airwaves are simultaneously filled with condescension towards the president and compassion for the 9/11 killers.

It seems silly to wonder why this team of 20 and 30-something women might think it appropriate to wear flip flops to the White House. The problem stems from a much larger disease. Is the media upset at this blatant display of disrespect? How hypocritical of the media to tell anyone to do what they themselves neither say nor do.


At 7/19/2005 06:48:00 PM, Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I heard about this story a couple of hours ago on Dennis Prager.

I think it speaks a lot about the direction our culture has taken, that some people can't see the tactlessness of wearing flip-flops, no matter how "high-priced" they are. I'd never think of showing up at a formal wedding in a tie-dye shirt; but that, essentially, is what it seems like some of those girls did when they were invited to shake hands with the President at the White House.

A pet peeve of mine is how some people can't distinguish between what is appropriate language amongst friends; and what is inappropriate language out in general public. And I'm sure it's because they've been conditioned in such a way, that they really can't tell the difference. Of course, there are those others who do know better but don't care, and it's their way of giving society the middle finger.

At 7/19/2005 07:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard this story this morning and they also reported that the ladies are auctioning off the flip-flops to raise money for a cancer patient. I guess it was a statement after all.

At 7/19/2005 09:21:00 PM, Blogger Carrie said...

You are so on point! I am a part of that generation , and I remember my 11th grade teacher badmouthing every republican president and even some democratic ones as well in some way, shape, or form. Then of course teachers just can't seem to figure out why students act and talk so direspectfully to them. Our generation needs an immense lesson on respect and submission towards authority.AS of right now there aren't many institutions willing to implement that. Academia, media, etc. have overemphasized individuality so much that it has become self-absorption. We think in terms of "if it doesn't fall in line with my feelings and if it doesn't cater to me, then that person will not recieve any respect or attention from me." Sorry, but that frame of mind lacks principle! I can't help but think that we could have made alot better choices throughout history, especially since the 1960's, if we would have stopped thinking only about ourselves and considered what was best for society and humanity in the generations to come. It's funny that the act of wearing flip flops can say so much! You're awesome Lores!!!!

At 7/19/2005 11:20:00 PM, Anonymous Clayton Bell said...

When I was in college, I was in a fraternity. Now, for the one person out there who knows me, that ain't much of a shock. However, to speak to the issue at hand, I had a fraternity brother who, no matter what the occasion, would wear Reef flip-flops. I mean, we would be on our formal date night, and he's in a suit and wearing flip-flops! I just don't get it. I'm a Gen X'er, not a Millennial, so I don't know how accurately I can speak to the mindset, but I bet those woman thought nothing of it, in terms of it being disrespectful. Knowledge is a very interesting this these days. Those who know history know that our general schooling compares very poorly to the academic rigors of days past. Here is an example: To be admitted to Columbian University in 1785, all you had to do was write and essay about how you would effectively use your iPod if you were given one for free. No, just kidding. (And by the way, if you didn’t know that I was kidding about them having iPods in 1785, how in the world did you manage to turn your computer on?) Actually, the real list of requirements are as follows: Translate four orations of Cicero Vs. Cataline, translate Caesar’s commentaries of the Gallic War, translate the first four books of Virgil’s Aeneid, translate the Gospels from the Greek, change English into grammatical Latin. Yeah, you’re certainly not cramming to get that done the week before it’s due.

That it’s to say that people today are stupid. I believe that most educators would admit that even though people don’t have as much general knowledge, people actually more expertise in specific areas that they have in ethos past. Today’s college students have a tremendous passion to see the world changed, and do quite a bit of research to understand certain issues that they are dealing with. Unfortunately, they generally lack the historical perspective to understand the current situations and battles they are fighting in light of battles that have been fought along the same lines in the past. All that to say, I think these college students were trying to be respectful, some of them went out and bought new clothes, but they just didn’t understand what they were doing. That inability to have a perspective on the proper attire is tied into a larger lack of perspective for historical and socially appropriate actions, as was mentioned above. The good thing is that there is a generation of people who are hungry and passionate to change the world. The bad part a lot of them are unwilling to understand their situation in society and history and then act accordingly.

But while we’re on the subject, I think that is time that we address a situation that is direr than flip-flops at the White House: black shoes with brown belts, and vice versa.

I can take flip-flops at the White House more than I can take this. This is one of the worst phenomena in this country today, and if there is one complaint that I have against President Bush is that he hasn’t diverted enough federal money to educating people in this area. Now, I know some of you hard-line conservatives out there might say that the federal government isn’t responsible for this area of social responsibility, and that we should be handing out voucher for people to get trained at the haberdashery of their choice, but it has become such an epidemic that we’ve got to take drastic measure to correct this situation. NEVER WEAR BROWN AND BLACK TOGETHER WHEN IT COMES TO SHOES AND BETLS! In fact, unless you’re wearing black or grey, or have heavy black trim in your shirt/pants, you should always wear brown shoes and belts. Khakis and a blue blazer? Brown belt and shoes. Jeans and a brown shirt? Brown belt and shoes. Khakis, blue shirt, and black blazer? B..lack shoes and a black belt! And let me just add this tip: your brown shoes should be the same color as your belt. Whichever one you have that is nice, take that with you when you go shopping for the other and match them up. Just do it.

Last fashion tip for the men out there: NEVER NEVER NEVER button the bottom button of a suit jacket, unless you have a custom-made suit that is tailored to have a flat edge. If you have a three-button suit, here is your rule: top button is to be buttoned sometimes, the middle one always, the botton one is NEVER. EVER. NEVER EVER!

Gosh, I feel so much better now. What did we start talking about?

At 7/20/2005 04:13:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

I'll say the same thing i said in ER's blog about this.

The world is going to hell in a handbasket and the media is the carrier and we are concerned with footwear? give me a break.

At 7/20/2005 04:32:00 AM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

Hey Mark, who is "ER"? What's the site?

At 7/20/2005 06:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree it's disrespectful, but where are there guidelines anymore? You seldom have dress codes at public schools, and certainly not at universities anymore. I think every one of them thought they were dressed up.

At 7/20/2005 03:00:00 PM, Blogger Guppyman said...

I have to jump up and disagree with the popular sentiment here. I'm sorry, but I just can't get that worked up over this. They wore flip-flops. They met the President. OK... who cares? I don't care who is in office, he's still just a citizen of this country. He is no better than any of the rest of us. Why shouldn't they wear flip-flops?

At 7/21/2005 02:07:00 PM, Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


If you had to see the queen of England or the Emperor of Japan, would you still dress any way you please? Beach flip flops and a Bob Marley tie-dye t-shirt perhaps?

You're right in the final analysis, in one sense, it's not a big deal; but in another sense, you are wrong as well, and it's representative of an overall problem. The fact that "you aren't getting it" and see nothing wrong, is a symptom of the same cultural malaise that the LaCrosse girls who wore flip-flops are victims of. To say that "the President is no better than the rest of us" is true, yet also wrong.

It's about having some frickin' respect for the office of the Presidency, and some class. Is it appropriate to use improper language in a Kindergarten class? Why not? It's not a big deal, right? They've all heard it before, or they will eventually hear it one day, right?

Would you wear flip-flops to your best friend's wedding? Why not, it's a free country, right? There's no laws that say you have to.

Why have so many schools turned to requiring their students to wear uniforms? Why have the Japanese required such formality from their own students for decades? Why do schools here, that don't even have uniforms, still have dress codes?

Why, in the military, are you required to say "yes sir, no sir" instead of just "nope" and "yup"? Why would that be considered a big deal?

Flip-flops at the White House in itself may not mean a whole lot in the grander scheme of things; but it is reprentative of something that is wrong with our culture that some of us can't even tell that it's a big deal.

If you can answer these questions, then you have the answer to your own question.

At 11/19/2005 04:14:00 PM, Anonymous Bud Truesdell said...

I really appreciate people like you who take their chance in such an excellent way to give an impression on certain topics. Thanks for having me here.


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