There is a great deal of debate going on as to whether the current presidential candidates are “qualified” to hold the office. Good question, but the answer is a bit more ambiguous than we might want to know.
The American system of representation is not based on educational or experience qualifications. It is, instead, dependent on general popularity of the vote. There is no list of professional requirements to run for either president or congress, arguably two of the three most powerful branches of government.
To be president, there are age and citizenship requirements. We’ve heard enough from Donald Trump over the years challenging President Obama’s citizenship that the actual law warrants a look. The U.S. Constitution, in Article II, Section 1, reads as follows.
“No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.” Other than that, the office has fewer qualifications than someone applying for a job as a Walmart stock boy (woman, person, whatever).
The point is that no one is really qualified to do the job until they’ve already done it. The only people who have the practical experience to be President of the United States have already sat in the big chair. If you don’t believe it, let’s review the backgrounds of some of the most prominent presidents in history beginning with the man who most Americans would agree was our greatest president – Abraham Lincoln.
Now we’ve all heard this tale a million times. A Kentucky-born backwoods boy grows up in hardship, teaches himself to read and goes on to become president during the bloodiest time in American history. He had spent most of his young life in manual labor having also spent time as a lumberman, shopkeeper and postmaster.
It was only after having been elected to the Illinois state legislature – again with no formal education whatsoever – that he became a self-taught lawyer. The rest, as they say, is history. Lincoln is forever seen as one of the greatest Republicans who ever lived. But when he was elected president, he had served on a state legislature, so he was more qualified than many others.
Our next case study into presidential qualification is, in an effort to be fair and balanced, the Democrat favorite – Thomas Jefferson. In many ways Lincoln’s socioeconomic opposite, Jefferson was born into one of the most prominent families in Virginia.
He was provided the best education, studied Latin and Greek and spent leisure time (something Lincoln would never have had) practicing his violin. He grew up learning from some of the elder statesmen and scholars of the time, formally studying law as an apprentice before being examined by the bar as a fully qualified attorney; again, a sharp difference from his presidential counterpart here.
Of course Jefferson went on to draft the Declaration of Independence and played a pivotal role in the separation of the colonies from England. But the point of all this is that here are two completely different men upon whom fate and providence moved to sweep them into the history books.
But for all their differences, they had two things in common; characteristics that should be the most important qualifications of anyone seeking the highest office in the land. Both were very smart men and both were compassionate and cared about the fate of their country and its citizens.
There was no glory seeking or publicity hounding in these men. They believed they had an honorable duty to carry out and the people agreed. Today we choose candidates because of race or gender or the gibberish they spew from the debate podium. The only way to make America great is for our citizens to wise up and demand more from our leaders.
There are still Lincolns and Jeffersons out there but their voices will forever be squelched by the unqualified noise of the media-obsessed political machine. Integrity, intelligence, humility, humanity are the best qualifications for president.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Listen to Deer In Headlines on air at MyGreeneRadio.com, October 2016. More at www.deerinheadlines.com.