Editorial: One good idea goes sour

<p>What was an encouraging, hopeful and humanitarian response to Haiti’s desperate plight in the aftermath of its major earthquake ended abruptly this week in what we suspect was a heap of bureaucratic red tape.</p><p>Middlebury Union High School officials confirmed on Wednesday that plans to accept six Haitian students at the school for a year of study were cancelled when an U.S. Department of State official told MUHS Principal Bill Lawson that complications in obtaining visas for the students presented hurdles too large to surmount.</p><p>The State Department official told Lawson it was “very complicated and expensive to travel on a visa” and that plans to bring 35 students to Vermont — and many hundreds more throughout the country — would have to be cancelled. Lawson said 14 Addison Central Supervisory Union families had graciously stepped forward to host the students for a year — more than twice what was needed.</p><p>We laud the State Department for coming up with the idea on the spur of the moment and moving it forward as quickly as possible. We laud the schools and individuals willing to bring these students into their homes and lives at no cost. </p><p>But that it can’t be done seems ludicrous. </p><p>Schools stepped forward to educate the students at no cost; local families would host them for a year; travel would be an expense but we can’t imagine some foundations (along with the airlines) wouldn’t be able to figure out a way to shuttle students to their destinations for a reasonable fare plus some needed good will for the airlines.</p><p>Yes, it would be complicated and would involve a lot of legwork, but it also would provide a vital year of high school education for students (most would have been seniors) who were among the top in their classes and wanting to finish high school so they could on to college. They would likely be tomorrow’s leaders for their country and the region, and the imprint of such generous help would have made a lasting impression.</p><p>How is it possible that our government&nbsp; — led by a president as gracious and worldly as Barack Obama — can’t function well enough to pull off what seems like a reasonable solution to this very real problem facing Haiti’s youth? Yikes. It’s hard to imagine how things can be so complex, when the idea seems so simple and the potential outcome so profound. </p><p>Unfortunately, such incompetence feeds the growing cynicism among a national citizenry that is losing faith in government’s ability to get things done. And if we can’t follow through on this relatively simple gesture, how can we possibly balance the budget, slow global warming, disarm Iran or neutralize the Taliban?</p>

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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