There was a time, not that long ago, that every young person imagined that they might become President of the United States. Well, to be fair, many of those same kids hoped that if they ate their spinach that they might become Popeye. Nevertheless, we were taught from the earliest school days to aspire to the vaunted and esteemed office.
Sure, a few struggled to conceive of themselves breaking free from their own real or constructed limitations. But generally, it was a time of great expectations. Decades later, one wonders if my kindly, nonetheless quite elderly first grade teacher, Mrs. Nichols, honestly expected one of her class of mostly poor farm kids to make the jump to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Yet, she made us believe not only that we could but that we should.
Today, we are more, as some might argue, evolved. We’re highly cynical – less wide-eyed in our optimism. However, some continue to promote a message of aspiration. Our best years remain ahead of us! The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site is now accepting applications for the Future Presidents of America Youth Leadership Camp in late June. Touted as “a fun and innovative one-week summer camp for smart, engaged young adults (12-16) that builds individual confidence, civic literacy and good citizenship,” it interactively tells the story of a local boy who made good but also inspires its attendees to imagine how they might make the journey to the White House.
In these months of name calling and assuredly sophomoric behavior from our political elites, one can fully understand why no good parent would encourage their sweet progeny to seek a role in the sausage factory. But, can we imagine a world without a willing and participatory democracy? Any student of history will exclaim – yes, we can imagine and it isn’t pretty.