The Star Tribune's Oct. 16 article about the final presidential debate of this campaign implied that Barack Obama hurt his performance by coming off as "professorial." You'll have to forgive me if I'm a tad defensive about that criticism: I'm a professor.

In my popular culture class recently, we dealt with the myth of American anti-intellectualism. For as long as Americans have existed, our feelings about intellectuals have been mixed at best, as the popular arts are quick to illustrate. From Fred MacMurray's absent-minded professor to the professor on "Gilligan's Island" to Prof. Fink on "The Simpsons," these folks are portrayed as too brainy for the public good. Or, to paraphrase a common standup line from the '80s, if the professor was so smart, how come he couldn't repair a 3-inch hole in the castaways' boat?

Is it possible that this is our greatest concern about Obama? On top of the Shakopee woman fearing that he's an Arab and Michele Bachmann fearing that he's anti-American (if she were in my class, I'd assign her to watch "Good Night, and Good Luck"), is the country terrified that he'll turn out to be -- gasp! -- a professor? If so, maybe this is the inaugural address some are afraid he'd deliver:

My fellow Americans -- and when I call you Americans, of course, I am using a misnomer because the notion that Americus Vespuci, after whom we are named, actually discovered this country is utterly fallacious. For that matter, to call you Columbians, after Christopher Columbus, would be just as erroneous, since he did not really discover the country, either. The Native Americans who were indigenous to this great land already had a fair amount of data about it, I assure you.

But I digress. Whatever I decide to call you -- and my "President's Edition of Roget's Thesaurus" gives me a lot of choices, options, alternatives -- we are gathered together on the twentieth of January, the month named after the Roman god Janus, whose name derives from the Latin "ire," which means "to go."

At least that's what Cicero thought. On the other hand, we should recognize that Wikipedia believes the word comes from, and I quote, "a possible relationship with an ancient form Dianus, then to be connected with the goddess Diana, and thus also stemming from the Latin term dies ('day')." One or the other of these etymologies I am sure we can agree upon, whether we come from red states or blue. Or whatever color, hue, tinge your state happens to be.

Regardless, we are gathered here in Washington, D.C. Now, from this fair city to Chicago, where I started my political career, is a distance of 660 miles. And if a Washington-bound train left Chicago at 7 a.m., traveling 80 miles per hour, at what point would it meet a Chicago-bound train, traveling 100 miles per hour, if the latter train left Washington at the exact same time? This is one of the questions confronting us today.

Please remember to show your work. Thank you and God bless, consecrate, sanctify America.

Craig Hergert is a professor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.