A few years ago I was attending a house party with some friends. The music was on, the mood was good, and people were laughing and having a great time. I love a great party where people are happy! I took a seat at the kitchen counter to indulge in some conversation with my friends and an acquaintance of mine began to speak. We’ll call her Sally. I always change the names to protect the innoncent. She said, “I don’t think anyone without a college degree should be allowed to run for office in this country. I think a person should have a good well-rounded education in order to serve in government. Plain and simple.” Some in the group nodded in agreement.
She continued, “I just think college educated people are better at making tough decisions.” As a person who doesn’t have a college degree, I was offended by her comments. I decided to speak up for smart people without college degrees. I said, “Sally, let me ask you something. You went to school right?” “Yes. I just finished grad school.” She said. I continued, “That’s awesome! Congrats! That must have been super tough.” “Yes it was very tough.” She replied.
I continued, “I never finished college. I have a high school education and about 60 units under my belt. Not exactly anything to brag about. But, let me ask you something. Do you think you’re more qualified to run for office than I am simply because you earned a degree and went to grad school? Be totally honest with me.” “I do. Not to sound mean or snobbish, but I’ve proven that I could pass courses and earn a well-rounded education in a respected university. I think that qualifies me.” She replied.
I asked her if she would be willing to take a small test of mine to prove her point. At the urging of her friends, she agreed to give my test a shot. I flicked a dime at her and asked her to name the President on the dime. After staring at the dime for a few moments she said, “Harry Truman?” I explained to her that the President on the dime was FDR. I also explained to her that he was also the founder of the March of Dimes program. She wasn’t aware of that.
I asked her, “Who holds the record for the longest filibuster in the history of The United States Senate? Now keep in mind, a filibuster is a legislative speech making maneuver to obstruct the passing of a bill. It’s not the name of a fountain drink at 711. (Sorry but I had to throw that in there to have some fun with her in a jokingly way). Who holds the record and what was the Senator arguing against?”
She stood there for a full minute totally silent, facing down, and unable to answer the question. I answered it for her. “The record holder for the longest filibuster in the history of The United States Senate is Strom Thurmond. He argued for twenty-four hours and eighteen minutes against the passage of a Civil Rights bill.”
I continued, “You went to grad school and have two degrees. I have a high school diploma and a boat load of passion for politics and history. Based on this test, who do you think is more capable of running for public office and doing a better job, you or me?” She stood in silence glaring at me. She was very upset. I was having a Goodwill Hunting moment as the group looked on awkwardly; I decided to share a few more important facts with her.
I said, “Did you know Abraham Lincoln barely had any formal education? He learned how to write and speak with great skill by reading borrowed books. Did you know Harry Truman didn’t have a college degree either? Bill Gates was another person that dropped out of college. I don’t mean to be so harsh with my test, but I want you to know something. Not everyone has a desire to go to college. That doesn’t mean people like us aren’t capable doing a good work, making tough decisions, or achieving great things. Gates is the richest man in the world because of his passion for computers. Lincoln prevented the break up of our nation and ended slavery. Truman made one of the most difficult decisions in the history of the world when he used the atomic bomb to end a war. Not one of these people had a degree. They just knew how to lead, read, and think for themselves. Cut us some slack and stop underestimating people like us.”
Later that night after cooling down, she approached me to apologize for her comments. I graciously accepted her apology and asked her to think twice next time about making such comments. I also asked her (jokingly of course) if I could have my dime back. She smiled and flicked it back to me. She said, “This is for the education you’ve given me tonight.”
I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about my views on education. I think college is great and I’m always happy for anyone that earns a degree. In this day and age education is paramount. I may not have a degree, but I’ve had a deep passion for politics and history since I was a small child. I read, think, and breathe politics. I learned about politics and history from the smartest person I know, my father. He’s a concrete mixer truck driver who taught me all that I know about politics and good morals. He doesn’t have a degree either, but damn he knows his stuff and he taught me well! I like anyone else, should have the right to run for office if I want to regardless of whether I have a degree or not. If the framers didn’t want people without formal education to run for office, I’m pretty sure they would have made that part of The US Constitution’s requirements for office holders. Thankfully, they didn’t.