Sunday, December 06, 2009


When he visited Emperor Akihito of Japan in November, President Barack Obama bowed as he shook the emperor's hand. The State Department said that diplomatic protocol mandated the bow, which is a traditional Japanese courtesy, but some in the United States protested that an American president should never bow to any foreign leader. Republican Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate, labeled the bow "offensive."

Assuming that the gesture was in fact dictated by protocol, was it nonetheless wrong for Obama to bow to Akihito? Or was he right to honor Japanese tradition by bowing?

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at

You can also respond to the poll with this question that will appear on the right-hand side of the blog until polling is closed.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 620 Eighth Ave., 5th floor, New York, N.Y. 10018.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


Anonymous said...

Sixty-Eight Years ago on Monday,December 7th.,1941Japanese bombs began falling on the U.S.militairy installations in Hawaii.The attack killed 2,390 sailors,airmen,soldiers and civilians and officially drew America into World War 2.Until September 11th,2001,that attack was the deadliest on America soil.(2,976 died on Septemner 11/01)
On August 15th,1945 President Harry S.Truman accepted the surrender of the Japanese and one of the terms of surrender was thatEmperor Hirohito would be allowed ro remian on the throne.
General Douglas MacArthur first met Hirohito on September 27,1945,casually dressed towered over the diminutive formally attired Hirohito.What does that say? It says:"I'm General MacArthur,supreme commander of the Allied Forces and I'm in charge."

Sebastian Stockman said...

I agree with Anonymous. I think Obama's bow reversed the 1945 surrender and has made us subjects of the Japanese emperor.


Joe said...

I think the reference to what General MacArthur did at the treaty signing has an entirely different intent than that of Obama meeting with the Emperor in a social setting. Anyone who thinks that a mutual bow between leaders intending to show respect to one another, is a sign of subservience by either one of them must be very insecure and is certainly off-base. A slight bow, nod or tip of the cap is not genuflecting or kneeling and kissing his ring! Give me a break!!

Joe Read
Anaheim, CA

ECS said...

Are we THAT arrogant? Why? What makes us better than anyone and everyone? How scary-- no wonder we have become so unpopular in so many places. of course ha was right to do what was polite and respectful. We are not at war with Japan!