SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Given Lubinda jumped off a bridge this week and popped up smiling. Mr. Lubinda is the minister of information, broadcasting and tourism of Zambia; nearly 50 years old, and just a tad podgy, judging from photographs. On New Year's Eve, an Australian traveler named Erin Langworthy made a bungee cord jump off of a bridge at Victoria Falls along the Zambezi River, and the cord snapped, for the first and only time in 17 years and over 150,000 jumps, officials say. Ms. Langworthy fell almost 400 feet into the river rapids - which, by the way, abound with crocodiles - and managed to swim safely to a rocky shore, despite breaking her collarbone and being bound at the ankles by the busted bungee. She is now recovering and giving interviews at a hospital in South Africa. The video of her jump, splash, and dauntless swim has been seen all over the world. The company that runs the jumps says they have removed all bungee cords produced from the same batch of rubber as the cord that snapped, run tests, and it's perfectly safe to resume jumping off that high bridge over a crocodile-infested river.
A lot of people might say, oh really? Thanks, but I think I'll just watch the butterflies. Maybe we'll go to the Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis. A ten-pounder might fall on your toe there, but you won't wind up as snack cakes for a crocodile. Tourism attracts about 800,000 people to the Zambian side of Victoria Falls each year. They spend money on food, lodging, snow-globes, whitewater rafting, hippo-watching, and bungee jumping. The government doesn't want that number falling off - perhaps that's a poor choice of words. So, Minister Lubinda came to the bridge this week and took a bungee nosedive over the Zambezi. Let everyone come and do it, he said. I am hoping that all those who watched a middle-aged person jumping down the bridge and coming back up smiling will be encouraged not just to jump but also to come and visit Zambia.
Now, there's something truly winning about a politician who is willing to jump off a bridge to demonstrate his sincerity. Imagine how it might winnow the field to include a bridge jump in U.S. presidential candidate debates; it certainly would leave more time for follow-up questions. Imagine, for that matter, how our own most devout convictions about work, family, love, caring for others or fixing the economy might plunge off a cliff if first we had to live by the advice we so freely give others. It's refreshing to see anyone not just talk the talk or walk the walk - but jump.
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