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What sort of President does the United States need? January 22, 2008

Posted by Tim in Observations, Politics.
1 comment so far

I was watching a Meet the Press round-table discussion this Sunday (it made me a little late for church).  Of the guests, I found Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan to be particularly prescient.  A conservative, Ms. Noonan’s observations sparked in me a lot of thought.  Consider the following:

“[T]he country is hungry for [a] sense in its leaders that they have thought it through, that they have a philosophy, that they’ve considered the relationship of man and of the state, and considered the moment of history we’re in, that philosophically, they are coherent.”

Which leads me to the question: what sort of President does the US need?  Most people think our country is headed in the wrong direction.  We are tied to unpopular conflicts in lands we are largely ignorant of, our economy (and the world’s with it) teeters on recession, and the political landscape bares the scars of a devisive decade.  People have lost faith in the federal government on all levels, and along with it some have lost faith in America itself.

It is exciting that the campaigns for President have been so dramatic.  Both parties are testing multiple candidates, and many ideologies and leadership styles are on the table.  As much as we can put ideology aside, what sort of President do we need?  Is that sort represented by a candidate in the field?  Obviously, due to the unfortunate tendency of people to be human, none of the candidates is ideal.  But does one offer more hope for building a greater nation than the others?

McCain has a reputation as a man of principles, and brings with it both the legacy and baggage of having crossed the aisle on many votes.  Huckabee is a true populist, a man of the people who both speaks his mind but also refuses to gloss over his religious beliefs.  Clinton is probably the most devisive person in American politics, but has demonstrated herself to be one of the more intelligent and capable candidates.  Giuliani is one of the few candidates who can claim true executive experience, with the record (good and bad) that comes with it.  Obama is one of the few candidates to maintain a conciliatory tone throughout the race, but he himself admits that he sometimes lacks substance.  Romney was a successful businessman and governor – but the baggage from the latter career is backfiring.

I believe most, if not all, of these candidates has what it takes to “be” President.  But filling a desk, reading pre-written speeches, and making appointments is one thing.   Leading a nation is another.  Do we need someone to cross the aisle, make concessions, and bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington?  Do we need a principled or even calculating executive who is willing to trade popularity for what he or she feels should be done?  Should our next President trade our reputation abroad to protect the citizens and Constitution of the US, or should the President lead our nation to make sacrifices for a greater cosmopolitan good?

I don’t know.  I do know that I agree with Ms. Noonan: we need someone who has thought it through, from the bottom up.  And so far, the only candidate I’ve heard offer a clear presidential philosophy happens to rank last in my preferences for President.

What do you think?

The Trouble with Academia October 24, 2006

Posted by Tim in Observations.

NOTE: For my friends who are unfamiliar with WordPress’s set up, you do not have to be one of their users to leave a comment. In fact, you can leave your blog URL andyour name will link there. Here ends the NOTE.

I discussed this a little bit in my post Madness, but the idea has been gnawing at me a little more recently. So here goes.

In elementary school I was recruited to read new AR books and write the test questions for them. In middle school I wrote a paragraph describing a cliff that, when I visited my English teacher years later as a college student, she still had on file and read regularly to her new students. In high school, I took six AP tests ranging from American history to world literature to calculus and got college credit for all of them. Accepted to Duke and Rice by virtue of being a national merit scholar, I enrolled at Texas A&M, majoring in physics with the intent to nab a PhD and teach particle physics at the university level as a career. I aced my honors physics class, but shifted majors to International Studies. I now am a declared International Studies/Russian double major, double minoring in History and Sociology.

As a freshman I was interviewed by Pine Cove to be a camp counselor. One of the questions in the interview was “What are five words you would use to describe yourself?” I had to give that question a lot of thought, but one was obvious: “academic.”

Why do I share all this? Because, as one who is really on the upper end of the bell curve, I am starkly aware of how utterly meaningless it can be. (more…)

Madness October 19, 2006

Posted by Tim in Observations.

My classes are terribly boring. I know, you know. But you don’t. Take my average Wednesday, for instance. Seriously, I’ll trade you my average Wednesday for anything.

The day starts probably later than yours, with my phone waking me up a little after eight. My phone wakes me up because two weeks ago we had a power outage and I still haven’t reset my alarm clock – and given the weather tonight, such an effort now would be in vain anyway. I lay in bed for a while longer, then take a shower, maybe grab a bagel, and head to my first class.

My first class is the class hour of my kinesiology. Easy, you say. Wrong, I retort. The typical class time we go through around nine pages of slides, and this after I’ve condensed the information to probably four or five slides a page. We’re given the slides before hand, but because there are convenient bits of information left blank and three absences equals a drop in letter grade, I go to class. The instructor plods on through mundane nonsense that the State is convinced you need to know – abusing alcohol is dangerous, as is eating McDonald’s or failing to exercise three times a week. The information is useless and yet I scribble in the missing information because who knows how ridiculous the test will be.

Then the class ends and I bike back to my house, where I usually end up watching TV and eating a real breakfast, like cereal or store-brand Eggos. Then I go to my midday classes – Russian and the Russian Novel.

These must be interesting, or at least helpful, or at least tolerable, you say. Wrong, I retort, and wonder whether you see where I am going with all of this. (more…)