Deeper into Jeopardy! II: Obama-Rama – $1000

Jeopardy! category: OBAMA-RAMA (21-01-2014)

$1000 clue: In 2008 Obama said, “I’m running for president because I want to tell them” these 3 words, his campaign slogan

Correct response (highlight to see): YES WE CAN

The gist: There may not be three other words that are more recognizable in 21st century American politics (maybe even global politics) than Obama’s “Yes we can.” It was slapped on posters (see below), made into a music video*, adopted by the pro-marijuana lobby (“Yes we cannabis”), and so on. The slogan is derived from that of Cesar Chavez, the founder of the United Farm Workers union, who used the equivalent Spanish phrase “Si se puede” (translated by the union as “yes, it can be done!”). In Obama’s “Yes we can” speech, in Nashua, New Hampshire, on January 8, 2008, after having narrowly lost the state to Hillary Clinton (in the popular vote – they both received nine delegates), he stated that “generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes we can.” The pithy statement worked well with the campaign’s other slogan, “Change we can believe in,” in that it was the call to action to make the changes in Washington that represented (back then, at least). Obama and his head speechwriter Jon Favreau (not the movie director of the same name) reportedly decided to recycle the phrase from his 2004 Illinois senate campaign just half an hour before he made his Nashua speech.

Obama campaign “Yes we can” poster with “rising sun” logo above.

The clue: This clue is set up to walk you right to the correct response, from giving you the speech’s lead-up that introduces the correct response as a phrase you’d tell someone, to the number of words in it, to the fact that it was his campaign slogan (although Wikipedia claims his “slogan” was “Change we can believe in,” with “Yes we can” being his “chant.” Not sure what the difference is, myself.) I doubt there are too many North Americans of age to appear on Jeopardy! that don’t remember the phrase. Even if it’s a somewhat easy $1000 clue, it closes the category nicely, just as the slogan itself summed up the spirit of the campaign.

In Jeopardy!: It’s tough to search the J!Archive for a phrase consisting of three extremely common words – searching for”yes we can” returns 284 clues, almost all of them having nothing to do with Obama. Ctrl-f’ing for “Obama,” “slogan,” “president,” and so forth pulls up one other clue that read simply “Yes we can,” and was looking for “Obama.” Not much of history there, then, but like yesterday’s clue, this one is likely to ripen with age and show up more often in the future.

* Not recommended.

Deeper into Jeopardy! II: Obama-Rama – $800

Jeopardy! category: OBAMA-RAMA (21-01-2014)

$800 clue: “Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” is the subtitle of this bestseller, Obama’s second book

Correct response (highlight to see): THE AUDACITY OF HOPE

The gist: Obama released The Audacity of Hope, his second book after Dreams from My Father, in October 2006, about three months before announcing his presidential candidacy in February 2007. The title (not the subtitle) is taken from a speech made by the pastor of Obama and his family’s Chicago church, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose sermons came under ludicrously intense scrutiny during Obama’s campaign. The phrase in Wright’s sermon in turn derives from G. F. Watts’ 1886 painting “Hope,” which depicts a hunched and blindfolded female figure, the personification of the titular Hope, holding a nearly-destroyed lyre, yet, in Wright’s interpretation, still having “the audacity to hope.” Obama also used the phrase, then already changed to “the audacity of hope,” in a speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (apologies for the audio-video issues in that video; take it up with C-SPAN). “Hope,” of course, would be a central theme in his campaign, and would get picked up by the Right later on, along with “change,” as his “hopey-changey stuff.”

The book itself is a personal exploration of Obama’s beliefs, political, religious, and otherwise, and his thoughts on American culture. It would remain on the New York Times bestseller list for 30 weeks, and the audiobook won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album in 2008.

The front cover of Obama’s second book, with his first book mentioned at the bottom

The clue: A straightforward clue about a very well-known book, the only tricky part here is to not get it confused with Dreams from My Father, which had its own subtitle, A Story of Race and Inheritance. Shouldn’t be too hard to keep them apart, though; Obama’s first book was an examination of his own upbringing by his white mother and Indonesian stepfather in the shadow of his African father, so the subtitle certainly fits.

In Jeopardy!: The Audacity of Hope appears in four clues in the J!Archive… and two category titles: THE AUDACITY OF BOB HOPE and THE AUDACITY OF HOPE… which was also about Bob Hope. Maybe the writers ought to be checking the Archive a bit more often? Anyway, if the book hasn’t shown up in too many clues it’s likely only because it’s relatively new – expect it to show up more, especially as Obama’s second term comes to a close.

Deeper into Jeopardy! II: Obama-Rama – $600

Jeopardy! category: OBAMA-RAMA (21-01-2014)

$600 clue: Obama threw out the first pitch of the 2009 all-star game wearing the jersey of this, his favorite major league team.

Correct response (highlight to see): CHICAGO WHITE SOX

The gist: After finishing up his undergrad at Columbia, Obama moved to Chicago where he got a job as a “community organizer,” a position that would raise the ire and ridicule of the Republicans throughout the election season. After three years he left Chicago to attend Harvard Law School, but returned to the city as a Fellow at the University of Chicago in 1991, where he would continue to teach until 2004, including during his tenure as Illinois senator, until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004. Obama’s connection to Chicago, and his love for his Chicago White Sox, has been well-documented.

The President repping his (American League) not-quite-hometown boys.

The clue: This one’s fairly trashy, to be honest. It’s something of a you-know-it-or-you-don’t. The argument could be made that if you know Obama’s connection to Chicago you could come up with the answer, but let us not forget that Chicago is one of three cities that has two baseball teams (along with New York and L.A.), the White Sox in the American League and the Cubs in the National League, so even knowing that only gets you to a coin toss without some more info. I’m not really sure either if following sports or following politics would help you with this one more, and while I’m generally a fan of cross-disciplinary clues, this one isn’t the best I’ve ever seen. Oh well. Trash can be fun too, and I’m sure the producers like to appeal to the (recently) 5th largest city in North America.

In Jeopardy!: The White Sox only come up in 25 clues in the J!Archive, less than half that of the NY Yankees and a quarter of the Dodgers (Brooklyn and L.A., that is). Many of the clues are about the thrown 1919 World Series and that year’s team dubbed the “Black Sox,” and a fair number are your usual sports fare of naming naming players (“Shoeless” Joe Jackson comes up a few times) or stadiums (formerly Comiskey Park, currently U.S. Cellular Field) and looking for the team. If you want to study up on your baseball, the White Sox are are somewhere above the middle of the pack in importance, but better to start with the bigger fish.

Deeper into Jeopardy! II: Obama-Rama – $400

Jeopardy! category: OBAMA-RAMA (21-01-2014)

$400 clue: President Obama’s father, Barack Sr., was born in this country & was eventually a senior economist in its government.

Correct response (highlight to see): KENYA

The gist: Obama’s namesake father, as we discussed yesterday, was born in Kenya and moved back to that country after going through a divorce from the President’s mother. Although not as famous as his son, Barack Sr. was no slouch himself, earning a Master’s degree in economics from Harvard just before returning to Kenya and marrying his second wife. He eventually earned a position in the Kenyan Ministry of Finance but was fired following the assassination of Tom Mboya, Minister of Economic Planning and Development and Barack Sr.’s boss,  and the subsequent souring of the relationship between Barack Sr. and Jomo Kenyatta, first president and founding father of Kenya (and father of current Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the two of them being among the easiest-to-remember world leaders given their surname). Barack Obama, Sr. died in a car crash in 1982.

The clue: Another clue, like yesterday’s, whose correct response has probably been propagated more by the birthers than by civic awareness. There are no real clues to help you figure it out if you don’t already know the answer, but thanks to the crazies most Jeopardy! viewers probably do. Even if you’re only superficially familiar with the conspiracy theories, you’ve probably heard Kenya used in connection to Obama’s father as ostensible evidence for the President’s alleged birthplace. I do like that the writers threw in the bit about his being a senior economist, a nice little addendum used to teach while asking.

In Jeopardy!: Again like yesterday’s clue, Kenya’s apparently never been asked about in connection to Obama until last week. Maybe with Obama in his second term the writers are more willing to delve into “controversial” territory with some birther-baiting, or to make oblique reference to such theories? Your guess is as good as mine. Kenya, of course, as a populous and relatively prosperous African nation, has appeared in a good number of clues (171), so you might read up on it if you have a few minutes – the most common topics are the capital Nairobi and safari-type wildlife.

Deeper into Jeopardy! II: Obama-Rama – $200

Welcome to the second week of Deeper into Jeopardy! here at Three Roads Trivia. I’m going to muck with the layout a bit from last week. There’ll now be three sections for each clue. In “the gist,” I’ll give a brief background to the clue’s subject matter to try to put it in some context. In “the clue,” I’ll discuss the clue itself – how it’s phrased, what sorts of tricks and hints the writers put into it, things like that. Finally, “in Jeopardy!” will be where I look into how the clue and its correct response have been used in the show in the past using the J!Archive. So with that out of the way, this week we’ll be looking at…

Jeopardy! category: OBAMA-RAMA (21-01-2014)

$200 clue: (Robert Gibbs reading) From 2009 to 2011 I served as President Obama’s press secretary; in 2008, while our families were vacationing together in this, his native state, he served as babysitter for my 5-year-old son.

Correct response (highlight to see): HAWAII

The gist: Obama was, of course, born at Kapiʻolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. Although a prepared Jeopardy! contestant ought to be familiar with the birthplaces of the U.S. presidents, Obama might be the most well-known of all because of the proliferation of “birther” conspiracy theories, claiming he was actually born in his father’s native Kenya. Obama’s parents met at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where they were both taking Russian classes. They got married in early 1961 and Obama was born in August of the same year – in 1964 the two would divorce and Barack Obama, Sr. returned to Kenya (more on that tomorrow). The Hawaii vacation the President apparently took with (at the time) future Press Secretary Gibbs took place in August 2008, a few months before that year’s election. One can imagine it would be a stressful time, and the President apparently spent most of it golfing and lounging on the beach – an extremely boring photo gallery can be seen here, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The clue: A $200 clue about a current American president is likely to be a softball, and this one doesn’t disappoint. So long as you can toss out the junk about Gibbs and the family vacation and hone in on what the question is actually asking (“this, his native state”), it shouldn’t present a problem to most viewers or contestants. Certainly, though, the birther conspiracies and the absurd amount of coverage they received from the American press contribute to this clue being so easy. If the same clue was asked ten years ago about George W. Bush, I suspect that far fewer people would give the correct response of “Connecticut,” especially with that president’s carefully manicured “Texan everyman” image.

In Jeopardy!: Amazingly, Obama and Hawaii only show up in clues together three times, and in one of them it’s a passing mention on the road to Illinois, where he worked after attending Columbia University and would eventually be elected senator. Must be that the writers found asking about Obama’s birth state too easy even for previous $200 clues, although I’m surprised they couldn’t have found ways to mask it into a bit more of a thinking clue. In general, though, knowing Presidents’ birthplaces is one of the more important lists to memorize to succeed in Jeopardy! (here‘s a Sporcle quiz to help out), so keep on knowing the answer to this one. One fewer to memorize.