Thursday, December 6, 2007

From Kindergarten to the Campaign Trail

I remember writing a "short story" in fifth grade, in which I was the President of the United States. As I recall, the plot was either unconventional or uninteresting, depending on your point of view: I stopped at a McDonald's and wound up being mobbed by the adoring crowds before sneaking back to the White House with tattered clothes and a half-eaten cheeseburger. Another report came out this week that suggests that my story - or even the remote possibility that my teacher, Ms. McNamee, remembers reading it - may come back to haunt me, should I ever decide to run for public office.

Kids, be careful what you write about wanting to be president. Those refrigerator gems are now fair game. As reported in the Chicago Tribune this weekend, the rhetoric between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama has turned into something resembling a recess spat. This weekend, Clinton's campaign issued a press release that cited these alarming anecdotes:
  • In third grade, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled 'I Want To Be a President.' His third grade teacher: Fermina Katarina Sinaga "asked her class to write an essay titled 'My dream: What I want to be in the future.' Senator Obama wrote 'I want to be a President,' she said." [The Los Angeles Times, 3/15/07]
  • In kindergarten, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled 'I Want to Become President.’ "Iis Darmawan, 63, Senator Obama's kindergarten teacher, remembers him as an exceptionally tall and curly haired child who quickly picked up the local language and had sharp math skills. He wrote an essay titled, 'I Want To Become President,' the teacher said." [AP, 1/25/07 ]
They were part of her rebuttal to Obama's claims that, unlike himself, "others" in the field have been priming their careers and angling for the presidency for decades. Sure showed him, I'd say.

This new strategy notwithstanding, I have no regrets about that fifth grade story. I've since become a vegetarian, tend to shun suit-wearing whenever possible, and feel okay with not being president - but there is something affirming about having been able, encouraged even, to write a story like that. In fact, I'd suspect that Little Hillary has a few of these in her past, too. They are hallmarks of hopeful childhoods that have had at least some modicum of encouragement, whether that be from a family member or from someone like either Ms. Darmawan or Ms. Sinaga (in Obama's past) or Ms. McNamee (in mine).

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