Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Importance of Being Earnest: Making Something of Your Education as a Qualification for Holding Office

I have spent some time ranting in Prairie Pondering about the effect of belittling education on our political process. Yesterday I received an e-mail forwarded by my father, a strong advocate of quality education, both as a father and as a State Senator, that, more eloquently and succinctly than I, poses relevant questions about the role of education in the selection of our leaders. As it does so, it also poses questions about issues of inherent racism that are undoubtedly coming into play in the Obama vs. McCain popularity contest.

Here is the e-mail. My additional thoughts appear at the end.

Subject: Qualifications and racism

What if things were switched around ?
...think about it.

Would the country's collective point of view be different?

Ponder the following:

What if the Obama had paraded five children across the stage, including

a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?

What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe

disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while

he was still married?

What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain

killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five?

(The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption
in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings
and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

What if Obama couldn't read from a teleprompter?

What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included

discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?

What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many

occasions, a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?

What if the Obama had adopted a white child?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality,do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes

positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in
another when there is a color difference.

Educational Background:

Barack Obama:

Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in
International Relations.

Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:

University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.

Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)


John McCain:

United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:

Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester

North Idaho College - 2 semesters - General Study

University of Idaho - 2 semesters - Journalism

Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester

University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

Education isn't everything, but this is about the two highest offices in

the land as well as our standing in the world. You make the call.

It probably goes without saying that it requires something comparable to graduating from Harvard Law School Magna Cum Laude for an African American to be taken seriously in our highest levels of political competition. Apparently, for a Caucasian, family lineage suffices in the event the scholastic record is less than stellar.

Keep in mind that both Senator Obama and Senator McCain had to work diligently to achieve their respective levels of success in school. Whatever affirmative action might have been in play to offer Senator Obama admission to Harvard Law School, it had no bearing on his ability to compete and excel as he pursued his law degree, taking on the prestige and responsibility of editing the Harvard Law Review along the way. His success is a testament to his drive, focus, intelligence, stamina, willingness to sacrifice and ability to balance competing demands on his time. I view these as important qualities in one who would be president of the United States.

Similarly, whatever family connections might have been in play to offer Senator McCain admission to the U.S. Naval Academy, they had no bearing on his decision to treat the honor with contempt, waste the resources the Academy had to offer and put his own pursuit of self-indulgence ahead of service to country.

I graduated from high school, college and law school. I finished in something like the top 20%, 30% and 40% of my respective classes. I edited my high school newspaper and worked during most subsequent educational tenures. I knew that, with a little more effort and focus on school, I could have done better academically during each step along the way. Instead, I exerted enough effort to get by and into the next phase of life. I did not have anyone carrying me along. I did not have the luxury of becoming a complete slacker if I expected to avoid welcoming shoppers to Wal-Mart (forget the anachronism, you know what I mean).

On the other hand, either Senator McCain made absolutely no real effort to pursue his free education in Annapolis or he is a moron. To finish in the lower 0.0055% of your class, it's one or the other. Period.

I cannot help but feel that those McCain supporters who point to his family's military heritage
, without honestly assessing Senator McCain's performance in adding to, or detracting from, that heritage, would prefer a monarchy to a republic, government by divine right rather than by democratic determination. Monarchs need no résume other than bloodline. Monarchs ascend to the throne regardless of academic performance or pre-coronation performance by any standard.

Dullard? A product of in-breeding and necessary by-product of the selection system.
Ruffian? Better an ill-tempered bully than a prissy politician like Barney Frank.
Adulterer? Boys will be boys.
Aged? Patience is a virtue and the timing of ascendancy to the throne is God's will.

If society has degraded to the point (AFTER eight disastrous years under a president who similarly disregarded his personal education and relied, instead, on family connections to persevere) that it is willing to seriously consider handing over the reigns of government to a person with John McCain's résume (regardless of his opponent), we may be too ill-equipped to engage in a meaningful discourse, ponder constructive criticism of one another's viewpoints and make choices about our country's future that rely on something other than distrust of all opposing positions.

I'll continue my pondering in a day or so and expand on the issue of racism in the campaign.


James said...

Thank you for your enlightening and passionate pondering. I have been so very discouraged at hearing so many disparaging remarks about Obama's "elitism." It is sad that our country has become so uneducated as to diminish those who have succeeded in the halls of our finest institutions despite the pathetic primary and secondary schools we provide.

fred kamm said...

sam, thank you so much for taking the time and making the effort to pass on your dad's're a lucky man. while we've never met, i almost feel that i know you, because of all the things charlie has told me about you...and from reading your blosgs for the last couple of months...please, keep on.
fred (an old man in denver)

Howard said...

We know who one candidate really is, what do we know of the other? I beleive the issue should be which one is best suited to guide our country and be trusted.