So the President of the United States came to speak at my school a couple of weeks ago. With everything going on, I haven’t have time to blog about the experience until now. I was excited because I’ve never had a chance to see a President in real life before. For the record, I would be excited to see any President in person because, well, that person is the President of the United States. Vice-President Al Gore visited my high school campus once to run on our track. I guess it’s hard to get exercise when you’re out and about. That event was also exciting. While both of these individual were democrats, that’s not the reason I was excited. Again, I think it’s neat to see the people who run the nation live and in person. I would have been equally excited to see either Bush Sr. or Jr., and still have great memories of watching Reagan on TV in school when I was young.
This isn’t a post where I get all heated about political topics. I’m not really that person. When elections come up, I watch the debates, read opinions and voting history of the candidates, and vote for the lesser of the evils. I do not remain loyal to party lines and have voted both directions and sometimes consider independents. When I was younger, my vote came down to one or two issues. I didn’t read or think through voting. I looked for the person with whom I agreed on those two issues and ignored the rest. As I’ve gotten older, it’s more about the whole picture to me. The person who I think will do the best job of representing the whole of what I think is right. Sometimes that isn’t the person with whom I agree on those original few issues. I don’t expect there to ever be a candidate with whom I completely agree, but I do believe in exercising my freedom and responsibility to vote. I agreed with some of what President Obama said in the speech he delivered on my campus, and I think there were some problems with what he said. This is not a man with whom I completely agree, but he is the man currently running the country.
The President talked about how education opens opportunities: “Higher education, whether it’s a four-year college or two years at a community college, is the clearest path we’ve got to the middle class.” While I agree with this, I think it’s important to remember that the type of degree is also important. There are numerous news stories about the 50% of people with degrees who are still under or unemployed. The days wear you could get a job by simply having a degree are over. The joke used to be degrees in underwater basket weaving would get you no where, but I know plenty of people with degrees in English, History, and Liberal Studies who can’t get jobs to support their families. I also think the push toward higher education diminishes the fact that some people are very successful without higher education. I could say a lot more on that, but that’s not the point of this post.
The President also made this comment: “Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.” I don’t know what other people have in student loans, but I’d be in a world of trouble if my credit card debt was higher than my student loan debt when I finished college. Maybe my experience was different, but I thought this comment to be a little odd. I also felt that he misquoted a Republican congresswoman to make a point. Not cool and while he told the audience to Google her, I know the majority of people in that audience didn’t and won’t consider whether his representation was fair or not. Also, I sadly think that some people do take out student loans for poor reasons. I know people who took out student loans to buy engagement rings, take vacations, or shop more at the mall. I myself probably took out more in student loans than I needed to, and I probably could have paid a good part of it along the way if I’d thought of it. I blame part of this on simple lack of education about my options and about student loans in general. It was just kind of what you did to me. I didn’t consider other options. I’m blessed that what I have left in student loans is our smallest bill. It will not be something that burdens me for the next twenty years, but it will be for plenty of people. Some people will have that burden because of irresponsible lending, others for lack of education about their choices, and others because they simply had no other option available to them to pursue a higher education and a chance at better employment.
I did appreciate the way President Obama mentioned that my parents helping me pay for college not only invested in me, but invested in the country. In a couple of years, I will hopefully have a little one. We will also make a plan to hopefully pay for college for that kid. I want to invest in his/her future, and my investment in that kid will also be an investment in my country. The comment I most appreciated from his address was this: “when I was running for this office, I said to people, look, I will not be a perfect man or a perfect President, but here’s what I can do: I can work every single day as hard as I know how to make sure that you’ve got a chance, to make sure you can live out your hopes and your dreams.” I know some people will look at this comment and mark President Obama and slick and what he wooed me with his rhetoric, but what I see is humility. Someone who acknowledges that he isn’t perfect, but that he’s doing his best to do a good job. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?
Romans 13, Hebrews 13, and 1 Timothy 2 direct me to respect those in authority over me and pray for those who lead me. To me, this included my parents when I was younger, my spouse now, the bosses I have had and will have, and those in government authority over me. This is true no matter what I think of the job they do. Barack Obama is the President of the United States. That’s an office I respect. Thus, I respect him. Respecting that office and the person holding the office doesn’t mean that I agree with everything he says and does. To me, it means that I acknowledge the burden of the presidential office and the weight the individual filling it bears by interceding on his [and maybe one day her] behalf.
I haven’t decided who I’m going to vote for in the next election. One of my many to-dos for the summer is read through both candidates stances on the issues and watching the debates in the upcoming months. In the meantime, I’ll pray for our current leadership and those who will hold those offices come next year.
Please excuse my poor appearance. We had to wait for several hours outside in the heat and then with about 11,000 other students in the events center. It was a little gnarly. Also note that my logic in waiting this long was that I waited around for about the same amount of time to watch a taping of Glee. I figured if a TV show got that kind of time, the President could too.
If you want to read the full transcript of the speech, you can do so here.