I have six children, whose ages range from kindergarten to high school, and their interests and aspirations vary as widely.
My oldest child is a 10th-grader and well on her way to being a designer, although a recent summer camp has expanded her focus to include consideration of industrial design and, perhaps, architecture. My oldest son is an eighth-grader and fairly well set on becoming an automotive engineer. My soon-to-be 11-year-old is less precise with his aims; he's 50/50 between becoming a lawyer or a preacher right now, citing those vocations as ones that would make good use of his love of talking and desire to help people (money isn't in his calculations, thankfully). My youngest son vacillates between being a scientist (botanist? nuclear physicist? We don't know) or a professional football player. Depending upon whether I use my heart or mind, I'm not quite sure which of these answers was calculated to please me. My 5- and 7-year-old daughters, younger still, have understandably fuzzier goals. For now, we'll write "teacher" and "gymnast" on the board, in chalk. What they all want to do, ultimately, is their decision and fine with my wife and me, as long as it's honorable and honest.
As parents, we speak to the kids about life choices, goal-setting and planning for the future. We're quick to express to them that their possibilities are endless right now, that they are brimming with talent and potential, and can achieve almost any goal they set for themselves and work toward. One phrase glaringly absent, however, from our homebrewed career counseling is the eponymous "You can even be president!"
That's kind of a big deal. As black folks, I think we've been almost required by the Civil Rights Act of 1965 to tell our children this, regardless of whether we believed it to be true. The same sentiment has been de rigueur for parents of post-women's lib daughters as well, I'm sure. The campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton notwithstanding (or Shirley Chisolm if we want to ring the bell for the "two fer" and the historical antecedent), I'm loath to hold up the Oval Office as a goal to which my children should aspire. As with any wannabe athletes and entertainers among my progeny, I feel compelled to tell any would-be president of mine, "That's fine, but aim higher."
Remember that our primary criterion for signing off on one of our children's goals is that it be honest and honorable work. A frank assessment of the current commander in chief and his recent predecessors calls those requirements into question. the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks has me somewhat reflective of where the country has gone since that pivotal point in our nation's history.
During George W. Bush's time in office, he has:
I could continue, but there is space for only so many words. I know I've left out many, many scandals, improprieties and downright venal acts from his curriculum vitae, but that's not necessary for those who've been paying attention the entire way. Nor would it make any difference to the near-record low (yet downright incomprehensible) 33 percent of Americans who still claim to approve of the job this man is doing.
I'll admit that I've suffered from a sort of scandal fatigue with this administration—each of the new exploits more scurrilous than the last, and prompting me to ponder whether analysis or critique is even needed when just the raw news stories are so damning. But what is disturbing is that, among the 64 percent or so of the populace who disapprove of what the president is doing, the majority seem to endure these spectacular mistakes (or crimes, as you see fit) with disinterest and disaffection.
It says something profound and sad about the level of diversionary tactics that exist in our "democracy" when there is more public outrage and opprobrium over athletes and entertainers who break the law than when those elected and sworn to uphold said law commit gross miscarriages of the public trust.
People are "dissatisfied" with the president but mad at Barry Bonds and Lindsay Lohan. Common sense has been inverted in this country to the degree that we expect more character from persons paid millions to entertain than those entrusted with stewardship of trillions of dollars of our collective resources and authority over the lives of the men and women of our armed forces.
Celebrities and athletes who run afoul of the law are forced to make public apologies, if not by their consciences, then by their PR handlers. If they are not deemed contrite enough, apology and contrition specialists (I'm not making this up) grade their press conferences and make calculated conjecture about their veracity. Meanwhile, those we elect to serve us, uphold our national reputation and shepherd our future legacy, when called to justice, are allowed to rattle off a never ending slew of "I don't know," "I don't recall," and "Not to my recollection."
And, as a country, we seem to be OK with that.
The more I think about it, I've been too harsh in limiting my children's career aspirations. If I'm as concerned as I say about them being honorable, honest and accountable for their actions, I really should relent ... and tell them they can play professional sports.