Born in 1961, Cleveland State University music professor Michael Baumgartner has traveled and worked around the world as a musicologist. He grew up in Zürich, Switzerland, but heard the music and experienced lifestyles of numerous cultures from around Europe. His experiences traveling and working in different countries showed him the significant privileges afforded to people of his identity, white men, versus the disadvantages and prejudice that people of color who traveled the world had to face. He also discusses cultural stereotypes many people have about Switzerland and comments on what is more important to him about his native country, especially its long democratic tradition.


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Baumgartner, Michael (interviewee)


Parcham, Deborah (interviewer)


Cleveland German-American Oral History Project



Document Type

Oral History


44 minutes


Deborah Parchem [00:00:02] Okay. It's October 23, 2021. Can I get your full name?

Michael Baumgartner [00:00:10] Michael Baumgartner.

Deborah Parchem [00:00:14] What was your date of birth?

Michael Baumgartner [00:00:18] ... 1961.

Deborah Parchem [00:00:19] Okay. What was your hometown?

Michael Baumgartner [00:00:22] Pardon me?

Deborah Parchem [00:00:24] What was the name of your hometown?

Michael Baumgartner [00:00:27] Zurich, Switzerland.

Deborah Parchem [00:00:28] Can you spell that?

Michael Baumgartner [00:00:33] Z U R I C H.

Deborah Parchem [00:00:34] Thank you. What was it like?

Michael Baumgartner [00:00:39] Great. But I think have to tell in the beginning, you know– You know, I'm probably not your normal case here. Like, you know, a real immigrant, whatever. I don't see myself as an immigrant actually here. Maybe you have to start at another point. We have to start, why did I– Why did I come to Cleveland? Why did I end up here?

Deborah Parchem [00:01:01] Yeah, go ahead. Anything you want to talk about, feel free.

Michael Baumgartner [00:01:05] It's purely actually for professional reasons.

Deborah Parchem [00:01:07] Mm-hmm.

Michael Baumgartner [00:01:09] Since I'm a college professor, as you may know, in musicology, which is also music history, so it's in this era very difficult to find a job. And you may– You literally have to go where the jobs are. And there are probably, and, you know, for each job which is applied in musicology like it may be also, you know, in history and so on, you have whatever, at least a hundred applications. So, so in other words, you may end up in places which you, you know, may have never heard before or so on. So only to give you an example here, in northern Ohio, you have Cleveland State here. I'm the only musicologist here. So I'm Swiss. So I ended up here. Youngstown State University, another northern Ohio university, the musicologist there is from Poland. And in Bowling Green State University the musicologist there is from from Greece and a music theorist, which they have there, another academic job, is from Sweden. And the third musicologist is actually also German. You might want to interview him, too, if he's interested. So. So in other words the prime reason why I left– No, I have to backtrack because how did I ever come to the United States? That might be another big question. Is because I met– I met a woman in London and we got involved and she's originally from Boston, and that's how it came from Europe to the United States. So it's– The first thing is love and then, obviously, once I was here, I had to find a job and the second was finding a job. And that's how I ended up in Cleveland.

Deborah Parchem [00:03:23] So you came from London to Cleveland?

Michael Baumgartner [00:03:27] Yeah, but London– Not really, because in London, I was– The story is here is obviously more complicated because I was– This was– I was already 39 at this point. And before I basically lived in Switzerland. And at 39, I was going only for a conference, actually, to London and met my future wife there at this conference. And we kept in touch for a long-term relationship for maybe, I don't know, half a year and so on. And then we decided we would like to get married. And this is difficult in a long relationship, but we decided in the beginning, let's start out in Boston, where she was from. And so I moved to Boston and I was there until 2011 when I got the job at Cleveland State, but I still was actually commuting back and forth between Boston and Cleveland. So I think the interesting thing for your project is if you have, like me, you know, people who didn't have to leave their home country for economic reasons, but for other reasons, that's probably newer stories you might get, you know, newer stories of immigration or whatever you want to call it. It's more stories of migration in the end, where you have people literally moving around. So to make the situation even more complicated, my wife is originally from Boston. I am from Zurich, but we both live now in Cleveland, and it's not going to be, you know, a permanent home for us. We definitely will move back to probably Boston and commute back, you know, between Switzerland and Boston. And in between, it's even more complicated. In between, I was for two years in Canada, in Vancouver, as a postdoc, and was there.

Deborah Parchem [00:05:50] So what's been your favorite so far?

Michael Baumgartner [00:05:54] My favorite. Good question. I really love Boston, I have to say. I did like Vancouver. It's a stunning location, directly to Pacific Ocean. But it's really expensive to live. But in general, in terms of, I mean, I still love Zurich in Switzerland, but Boston is probably my favorite city of the different cities. And of course what all cities in common where I have spent more time are they're all on bodies of water. So Zurich is on a lake, by far the smallest. Boston, obviously on the Atlantic Ocean. Cleveland on Lake Erie. Vancouver on the Pacific Ocean. So. So I think I like to live at bodies of water.

Deborah Parchem [00:06:49] Yeah, they are nice. (laughs) I hope to as well, yeah. So, what was it like when you first came to America? Like in Boston, you said, yeah.

Michael Baumgartner [00:07:00] Boston, yeah.

Deborah Parchem [00:07:01] What was it like?

Michael Baumgartner [00:07:02] It was not completely new to me. I mean, the first time I– Another piece is I studied in Los Angeles for two years. So that was the first time when I really came to the United States and did music composition. It was interesting because, of course, I knew I thought I knew the United States quite well from films, which is my other big area, which Mark may have told. I'm a film scholar, music scholar. So, I mean, since I was a kid I was watching films, TV series, whatever. And so I had this certain image of the United States, which was, of course, a film image, not the real image. But the first time I came to Los Angeles, I really thought I was permanently in the film (laughs) because just how things looked, you know? You've never seen– You've never touched a real American letter box. You've never touched a real American street sign. But you know exactly intimately how they look from films, and then you see it in front of you. So this kind of, what should I call it, it's kind of a dream image becomes reality. And it can be really as easy as, you know, a letter box or a street sign, pedestrian crossing, whatever. It is suddenly, it's becoming a really real front of you. In terms of people, which is probably more important in the end, it reminded me very much of Switzerland, which is a different country. Switzerland, you know, it's in the middle of Europe. It's strongly– Part of this country speaks German or Swiss-German, actually. Another part speaks Italian. A third part speaks French. And it's kind of an amalgamation of Europe right there with the different cultures meeting. And I thought the United States is very, very similar too that you just have this melting pot in quotation mark, which in reality is more like still, I mean, just different groups of people. But I thought this was interesting. This reminded me very much of Switzerland, that you had this kind of multicultural groups living. So this was peculiar, familiar, so, so, so the people that are familiar in the end, even if they spoke a different language. And the country looked like what I was used to in films. So it was a strange familiarity I didn't expect. So in other words, it, for me, the traveling to France or to Italy or to Spain will be a much larger cultural shock or a cultural change than coming to the United States.

Deborah Parchem [00:10:17] Just out of curiosity, do you have American citizenship? And if so, what was that process like?

Michael Baumgartner [00:10:24] I do not. I do not have American citizenship. I have a green card.

Deborah Parchem [00:10:28] Oh, okay. Well what was that process like, getting that and then coming here?

Michael Baumgartner [00:10:34] This was– This seemed to be in the beginning fairly easy because my wife is U.S. citizen, and then you're more or less automatically, what to say, eligible to get a green card. But in reality, it turned out much tougher because I applied for a green card directly before November 11th. Sorry, before September 11th, 2001. So now they saw to that everyone was just affected and everyone was just, you know, everyone, everything foreign was controlled and done. So I think it just took much longer than we expected it to take. And in the end, my wife and I had to go to a phone interview, which of course was very funny because the woman then– We got married in Florence, Italy. So the woman who was interviewing us from Homeland Security basically was was going on a trip to Italy. And she was primarily just interested in restaurant tips and so on from us. (Deborah laughs) So it turned out to be a really odd thing. But then I was thinking, you know what? Let's be honest. We have to talk too in this interview, I'm a white European male and not– I wasn't a Middle Eastern dark-skinned person, because that would have been a very, very different interview. So I do understand, you know, the privileged position. But by, just by birth, you know, it's I mean, this is part of what are you doing? It's just by birth. I happen to be a white European male, but I could have been any other color and from any other part of the world. And they have turned into a much, much more difficult process.

Deborah Parcham [00:12:27] Very true.

Michael Baumgartner [00:12:29] So in general, it was a fairly easy process.

Deborah Parcham [00:12:33] Do you still feel like, I mean, definitely a lot of what you said about privilege, very true. But do you feel like, even just as coming over from Europe,do you feel like you've faced any discrimination, stereotyping in the United States or anything like that? Or was it mostly okay?

Michael Baumgartner [00:12:56] No discrimination and absolutely no. And also no– What was the second point? Discrimination and, oh, stereotyping. Stereotype [inaudible] and this still goes on. One thing is when they hear Switzerland, they think of– Well, one thinks of chocolate, of cheese, you know, watches and so on, or money. The other one is, you know, if you– It depends what kind of a social class you speak. If you speak more, you know university academic, they say, Oh, you must have a huge Swiss bank account, just joking and so on, stuff like that. But that's of course okay. The other thing is, if you speak to, let's say less educated people, they always mix up Switzerland with Sweden. So they tell, you know, it must be very cold up there where you come from. And until two years ago, when I was for the first time in my life in Sweden, which is a country I love, I said, you know, I don't know how Sweden is. I'm from Switzerland, which is a different country. But interesting enough, speaking of, it was interesting when I was in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, early 1990s, I, you know, I– Primarily all my friends were white Caucasian I had. I may have had one or two African American friends, but most were white Caucasian and most were students. But then the thing would come up, you know, you had a little more conservative people and they would say, oh, your problem with immigration here, particularly California and so on, it's not that great. And so on. And they and so on the other and blah, blah, blah, blah. And I said yes, but I'm also foreign also not from United States and so on. So, you know, you should look at me from the same point of view. They say, Oh, no, no, no! You're different. No, no, no, no! You're different. So this was something which already, and back then I was in my, you know, big twenties, whatever, and just was shocked to see that, you know, that there was a clear difference in, you know, where you come from.

Deborah Parcham [00:15:19] Definitely. Can you tell me more about your work? Musicology? I don't know a lot about it. Like, how has it been impacted, especially by the different places you've been?

Michael Baumgartner [00:15:37] Musicology is actually the same like art history. It's music history. It's thinking, you know, but it's thinking about, if you think about classical music or what you may call Western art music or whatever. So you're studying, you know, the history from the Middle Ages up to the 20th century, 21st century. See what happens. But of course, particularly in the last 30, 40, 50 years, musicology has become much broader. You also look at popular music, at jazz. You're getting– History, of course, is one of the disciplines which is important. Philosophy, but also more and more sociology. You're looking at how is music made? What is the circumstances under which music is played and done, particularly if you look at popular music, at jazz, it's more, maybe as a political– You can look at it from a political point of view. You can look from a religious point of view. So. So it's just, and it has anything to do with music making in the end. It's much more than just music history. That's why I think the word is musicology or, German. It's a direct translation from the German, Musikwissenschaft, which is the science of music. So how did– How did the different places influence it? The problem, of course, is one thing. You're always in universities. So, I mean, it started out in my home city of Zurich, studied at the University of Zurich. So, you know, you are amongst scholars. It's international by definition. Then I was– I got my Ph.D. from the University of Salzburg in Austria and in the city of the Mozart lived so it's a city full of music, actually. But again, you were kind of like in an ivory tower and the same in Vancouver, Boston, or Cleveland. So it's not that I was very much influenced by local music scenes, usually. It's not like when I started and that's how Mark Cole and I met. We started at the same time at CSU. There was a third scholar, I think, it's also a friend of Mark's, who I think is an historian or an urban scholar, whatever. He was– His previous job was in New Orleans, and he studied the whole city of New Orleans, and then he came to Cleveland, and now he studies the city of Cleveland. So for him, environment is really important. This is less the case for me. I mean, I was interested all the time in American music, popular music, but also American classical music and obviously American cinema. So, but this, again, is not really specific. So I'm not studying, you know, bands in Cleveland. But obviously to a certain degree you start to take advantage of the local, the local potentials like, like here in Cleveland I'm definitely very much interested in the Cleveland Orchestra. But at the same time, I have also started a partnership between Cleveland State and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But again, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is very international. It's not, not just Cleveland-based. I mean, it's Cleveland-based, but not Cleveland concentrated.

Deborah Parcham [00:19:59] So what got you into musicology?

Michael Baumgartner [00:20:02] Oh, uh, I think it has to do that my father was a huge jazz fan. Classical music. So I basically sense since I was a baby, I was exposed to music and he got this interest from his uncle, who was actually film music composer. So so I when I was a teenager, I thought, you know, after I went through the pilot phase, I wanted to become a pilot (laughs) like probably every boy goes through this phase, but when I got a little more reasonable and the pilot and actor was gone, I decided I probably would like to either, you know, go into the film business or into the music business. And then it just seemed easier to start with music. And that's why I started to study music.

Deborah Parcham [00:20:58] Do you play any instruments yourself?

Michael Baumgartner [00:21:00] Yes. Piano.

Deborah Parcham [00:21:02] Oh, neat. Growing up in Switzerland, did you also grow up speaking English a lot or was that mostly later in life?

Michael Baumgartner [00:21:18] No, not at all. I come from a kind of an international family. I mean, both my parents spoke English and French and Italian. I started traveling early, particularly to France and Italy, a little bit to Germany, Spain, England. My grandmother lived in England during I think the 1930s and she was basically a native speaker. Her aunt spoke– Was also a native, almost a native speaker. So I was around it, but I did not learn a second language until I about probably was about 12 so on, and which in Switzerland it's– If you're German speaking, you learn French. If you're French speaking, you learn German. So I started with French, which I hated. And then maybe two or three years later I started also with English and then Italian too. So English was just one of three, you know, non-German languages I studied at the same time. But I got proficient in all three languages.

Deborah Parcham [00:22:51] I guess–

Michael Baumgartner [00:22:54] So in other words, I think when I came to the United States the first time, which was actually on vacation before I came [inaudible], I knew English well. Very well, actually. And, you know, if you're non-English speaker and you want to study in this country, have to do the TOEFL test, a test of English as a foreign language, which I passed without the problem.

Deborah Parcham [00:23:24] Would you say there is anything that stands out to you as, like, part of your Swiss kind of cultural heritage that you still like try to make a part of your life, like where you go traveling and all that?

Michael Baumgartner [00:23:44] Interesting. I mean, of course, you never can run away from the place you were born, and I have– Somehow I have an ambivalent relationship to Switzerland, which is, of course, crazy. I mean, it's, you know, basically the oldest democracy that exists and very, you know. Some stuff is similar, like this country, freedom, liberty and all that stuff and so on. But I had a tough time as a teenager and as a young before teenager in my early years. And it had a lot to do with my parents. They were actually, again, particularly my father, and that part of the family was very international. I was never really– I'm probably not the typical Swiss, but school was very tough for me, particularly, you know, all this discipline stuff and so on and authority and so on. I wasn't really happy about it. So I didn't have a really great– I actually had a good childhood but everything that had to do with with school wasn't really great. So I kind of got to try to go against anything that that would be typical Swiss, Swissness. And the problem is also, if you think of Switzerland, you think of this huge snow-covered mountains and the blue sky with the sun going down and skiing, all that stuff. And I hate skiing. I hate snow. That's why I like Cleveland, because there's not that much snow usually. And I was born in Zurich, which is actually maybe 2 hours away from the mountains, which is in a hilly part of the country, which is cosmopolitan city. So I just hated any kind of Swiss images, you know, with mountains and was against that the whole time and still like to kind of advertise a different Switzerland. You know, something more, which is funny sometimes, more like Cleveland is, you know. Zurich is similar to Cleveland in terms of weather, once you get, you know, to like now, late October it's just gonna be cloudy until mid of April, whatever. Then the cloud goes away. So this kind of, you know, ever cloudy winter, a little rain, a little snow, maybe somewhere hovering around 32, you know. So anything but just white mountains. So I wanted to and still like to do that, disseminate a different image of Switzerland than the one that the people have because it's much closer to my experience, how I experience Switzerland. Because I hardly ever went to the mountains. And recently I've been going because my wife likes mountains and we've been. But I'm not a fan of it. I like the ocean, I like water, I like flatness, so that's what I like of Cleveland. I don't like mountains, so you know, I'm going to rebel and go against that and against the cliché. So I'm not– I'm not your, you know, your maybe average immigrant as, oh my God, it was so nice back in Bavaria and blah, blah, blah. Not that. And at the same time, of course, I do love my country and I don't know how political I can get here, but what happened within the last four years, and particularly on January 6th, I was just thinking, I'm so glad I'm a Swiss citizen, because one thing is, of course, I usually tell this to my American friends, what is happening if you go to Bern, which is at the capital in front of the White House of Bern, which is the federal house, you would take the Swiss flag and burn it there, throw your passport into it. What would happen to you? Nothing. I mean, people would look at you and think, oh you're crazy, What's wrong with you? But nothing. And then the next day you realize, Oh, I actually want to travel to Germany. I think I need a new [passport]. What happens is you go to the passport office and get a new passport. So I think, I think after all, I think Swiss Switzerland has a healthy– It's a healthy working democracy because you really, in the end, have freedom of speech and can do what you want. And it's not an out of control patriotism, which I think it's a bit the problem in this country.

Deborah Parcham [00:28:41] I have to agree with that, yeah.

Michael Baumgartner [00:28:43] And I think it has to do also with, you know, how long Switzerland has been around. I mean, it has been a democracy for 700 years. So it's really– If something positive I can say, I mean, it's obviously one of the richest country in the world, but that's probably not that positive because the student that was fighting for that, you know, with all the money which is around in Swiss banks, which probably much of this money's dirty money, we have to be honest, not all but a lot, but if something is positive, it's just this is kind of truly democratic system, which is rigidly somehow ingrained in Swiss citizens, which is part of your DNA, and it's a healthy democracy. So it could not happen that overnight. Switzerland will become a, you know, an autocracy or something like that. It just wouldn't happen. People would not let that happen.

Deborah Parcham [00:29:57] Do you feel like that's something that could happen in this country?

Michael Baumgartner [00:30:01] I thought it couldn't. But after January 6th, I think it could.

Deborah Parcham [00:30:10] Would you say–.

Michael Baumgartner [00:30:12] I think it has to do with the system. I mean, it's funny. Switzerland actually works very close to the United States. It's a federation with two chambers, united states. But the difference is that Switzerland has a multi-party system. So this means. One party is never going to have the majority. So this means you have to make a coalition with all the parties in order to form a government. And I think this is that the foundation of any kind of democracy that you have to compromise and to a certain point and you have to work together. And I think that the problem in this country is that you only have two parties. So there's never a need that you have to work together with another party. Because one party, be it the Democrats or the Republicans, will always have the majority.

Deborah Parcham [00:31:18] That's very true. If you don't mind me asking, just looking through different questions and whatnot. What religion were you raised in, if any?

Michael Baumgartner [00:31:30] Yeah, I was actually raised, and this is something very particular to Zurich. Zurich was one of the first cities where the Reformation happened. And this happened 15 whatever, 18, I think 1920. And the local reformer was be the name of Cwingli, C W I N G L I, and he was actually corresponding with Luther. And he was also very instrumental for Calvin, who then became important reformer in the city of Geneva. And I think Zurich kept that kind of very, in this country you may talk about the kind of a WASP mentality, like work, no pressure, like that. And I think that that stayed on. At least you still can kind of feel it even today. And I was– I'm– Actually, in the book, on the books, Protestant, Cwingli was certainly Protestant, which is very close to Lutheran, but not really. But both my parents were not very religious. My father was basically kind of an atheist. And I think I'm not not a very– I'm definitely not a practition– I mean, I'm not practicing. But but religion is important, I think, in order to– Because it's part of our history, obviously. It's part of our philosophy. And I think it's it's very important to look at the religious aspects. But for me, it's almost much more a historical unit than religion for religious purposes.

Deborah Parcham [00:33:38] Yeah, that certainly– Would you say, coming to America, how would you interpret or, you know, just the religious culture in America, what did you feel about that?

Michael Baumgartner [00:34:00] I'm surprised from the very first time I came here that a lot of people are very religious here and are really practicing, going to church on Sunday, and so on. And the more I got interested in it, or the more I looked into it, I got interested to the whole idea of this, hundreds and hundreds of different denominations of churches and started to look a little more into why this happened. And it turned out it is just boiled down for this interview, I mean, I could talk much longer, but just boiled down, it's that you have these kind of extreme religious groups in Europe who basically were thrown out and ended up here because obviously somewhere in the 19th century, maybe even 18th century, and they were able to prosper over here and continued to go on. And, of course, and at the same time the large, big organized religions like the Catholic Church is still very, very strong here, obviously like it is in Europe and other parts. Plus, Judaism obviously is also very, very strong and going and recently, of course, Islam as well. So but but, of course, this is all interesting. I'm just a bit worried about, you know, evangelic groups and evangelists and so on and about the narrowmindedness that happens within this, kind of an indoctrination that goes far beyond religion and far beyond giving you your own freedom of practicing your religion and also living your life. And this definitely goes back into and into the 18th or even the 19th centuries [00:36:05][inaudible]. [0.0s] But I was surprised to the contrary to Europe, hardly any of my friends or, I mean, they would say on paper I am, you know, Catholic, on paper, Protestant, or on paper I'm Jewish, but in reality, I'm not practicing my religion. So secularized.

Deborah Parcham [00:36:31] Well, you mentioned when you were applying for the green card, it was right before September 11th. Um, do you feel in the 20 years since then, the process, like from what you know about it, from what you've heard, do you feel like it's gotten easier? Do you feel like it's gotten harder? Stayed the same? What do you think?

Michael Baumgartner [00:36:56] To apply for citizenship or apply for a green card?

Deborah Parcham [00:37:01] Both, either. Just from what you know about your own experiences.

Michael Baumgartner [00:37:06] I don't know. Personally, I didn't have an experience because, you know, if you look at a green card, I think it's valid for ten years or 15 years. So I may have renewed once. But I'll tell you another story that happened recently, and again, it somehow made me angry. But at the same time, I thought, okay, it worked well. So. But what happened is this. You may know that you're at the airport and you have to wait for hours to get through security, but you can get something which is known as global entry or preferred access, so you don't have to take off your shoes and you can leave your computer in the back and so on, and you just can go through the line much quicker. But you need to get that like a global entry, you get into United States, you don't even have to show your passport. You just put your card machine, have to fill out a few few questions electronically and you're in the country and this is given to people without, either to what they call a U.S. person, which is either you have a passport or you have a green card. And you have to pay a fee of $400 for five years or something like this. And the first time you apply for the card, you have to go for an interview, which is again, a joke. You go there and he just looks at your papers and says, okay, fine, stamps it and done and you're done. Unless, again, I think if you're, you know, if you have a criminal record, you can't do it. Or if– Oh, yeah, yeah, about that. So anyway, I had to renew that card recently and I was able to do it online and they said that you may have to go for another interview. And that, I mean I, you know, did that, took a half an hour, sent it off. Two days later I get approval. You're approved. No interview, nothing. Just two days later you're approved. Done. So I was thinking, you know, they're looking at this and saying, oh, he's a white guy from Switzerland, a non-threatening country. He's white, he's male, he's a university professor. He lives in Cleveland. He works at Cleveland State. There's nothing suspicious. Let's give it to him. So, you know, it's kind of, to answer your question, it's kind of that one group of people are seen as suspicious. Another group of people just have a huge, you know, kind of leeway to give them a huge leeway to just assume, you know, Europe, Western Europe,you're West European, there's probably nothing wrong. So it's like they're measuring with two different measure sticks.

Deborah Parcham [00:40:02] Yeah.

Michael Baumgartner [00:40:03] Because a friend of mine and he's actually at Harvard, of all places, and he's a U.S. American. He's born here. Raised here. But his mother is Egyptian and he has an Egyptian background and is a political scientist. Every time he enters the country, they take him out and ask him questions. I mean, he's– Look, he's as privileged as I am. But the only difference is his skin color. So. So to answer your question, I think it's just, Homeland Security generally is probably biased to a certain group.

Deborah Parcham [00:40:58] Mmm. Before we–

Michael Baumgartner [00:40:58] The process can be very easy or very difficult. Depends. Depends on your origin or on your origin.

Deborah Parcham [00:41:05] Yeah, definitely. Before we wrap up, is there any moment, experience, or just any memory that jumps out to you as your, you know, as a person who's traveled to so many different countries, worked in so many different countries? Anything– I don't know, does anything jump out to you?

Michael Baumgartner [00:41:30] You know, right now, let's end it on a positive note. So. What– Something great about the United States is still, I think there's still a great belief in democracy and so on, despite what all has been

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