Thursday, September 11, 2008

More American folk lore for my younger readers

Recently you have observed heated discussions about "being qualified" to be President or "a heartbeat away from the President." I want to give you, young readers, a perspective that used to be held by everyone in the United States, and has now virtually disappeared.

Kids who grew up in the 1940's and 1950's all heard America praised as the place where "Anyone can grow up to be President." This is true and it has been demonstrated to be true, and it is the shining example that was the exception to every other country in the world. Quite literally anyone of any back ground, rich or poor, privileged education or not, could grow up to be the President.

In the course of this coming true various "ceilings" have been or are being broken regarding the electability of candidates from various groups (Catholics, women, Afro-Americans). But remember, that is the electability of a given candidate; it was never a blockage to their being able to launch and run a serious political campaign. When asked what they want to be when they grow up, many children when I was growing up said "President." No one replied, "Well, you will have to do this list of things to be 'qualified.'"

So this grates me about the rancor, especially about Governor Palin, in this Presidential race. It was exactly the American dream that anyone who was a good citizen (like a small town mayor) could and should aspire to the Presidency!

America during the 1940's and 1950's was a totally different, more common sensible and yet more idealistic and optimistic time than it is now. In fact, today is unrecognizable in total to those of us who witnessed those times. Here is an example. When my dad returned to the United States after serving as an Army paratrooper in World War II, he was immediately sworn in as a deputy sheriff. Many of our veterans stepped directly into law enforcement, governmental and other jobs with no other 'qualifications' than their maturity and their armed forces service. You, dear young people, do not realize that you grew up benefiting from a time when the American dream was active and real (although with glass ceilings that society had to address), where the "average Joe and average Mary" did aspire for public service and walked directly into those jobs based on their character, maturity and some demonstration of ardent public service, such as the armed services or, for many women, the PTA. You all, dear young people, inherited a thriving and optimistic country (though it no longer is) because government and business positions were packed with these men and women who walked into the jobs with 'character' and 'maturity' being their 'qualifications.'

I cannot emphasize how the expression, "Any child can grow up to be President" was such a common and real part of everyday speech during those times. It was one of the most frequently mentioned shared values of our country during that time.

So I really object to the creating of the "experience aristocracy of arrogance" in both our public service offices and also as I have encountered it in business. America, far from having less glass ceilings and discrimination, has gone backwards in this regard. Despite two hundred years of spectacular results in the "average Joe and average Mary" aspiring and receiving every office, including the highest office of the land, the Presidency, now there is a mythology of "qualifications." Qualifications in the sense of experience to recommend them to office is one thing, but we all know that there are many who resent maturity and character being the drivers of their aspirations. This is one reason I have not bashed Barrack Obama for his "experience," but I question his maturity. Those are two very different things. Thus, I am annoyed that liberal operatives bash Governor Palin's maturity while trying to mask it in "questioning" her "experience."

When we look at the mistakes of past Presidencies, both Democrat and Republican, they were all mistakes of maturity and character, not of "experience." Think about it. The mistakes that both parties have made in the Presidency did not occur because "they didn't have the right stuff on their resumes, or they missed the classes that would have taught what they needed." Both President Bush and President Clinton have made very serious mistakes based on lack of maturity and character in certain areas rather than "having missed out on some enriching job experience." Think about it.

I hope that my readers, especially the young people, can, through me and what I am explaining, recapture some of the birthright of optimism and excitement that America used to have, back when everyone truly believed, and saw it happen, that "any child can grow up to be President," and how our fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, walked from real life "living" experience straight into jobs and responsibilities of great importance based on their life experience, character and maturity. Those are the people who kept this country thriving, and it is their passing and marginalization that is costing this country dearly and plunging it into this loss of genuine values.