2012-01-19 / Editorial

Wanted – One president, no experience necessary


BY SAM BARI BY SAM BARI Election time is here again, and political parties are in a tizzy trying to find candidates that can garner voter confidence. I cannot help but wonder what voters think is important when they vote for a presidential candidate. The job qualifications are not very demanding considering the position.

To be a U.S. president, a person must be a natural born citizen, 35 years old, and a resident of the country for 14 years. The candidate does not even need to speak English. We don’t have an official language in this country.

Anyway – the qualifications do not seem adequate for the task. And history verifies that the people we have elected to the country’s highest post indeed did not have the credentials one might think would be necessary to lead the most powerful nation on the planet.

Nine of our presidents didn’t attend college. George Washington had the equivalent of an elementary school education. He attended William and Mary, but only earned a surveyor’s certificate. Abraham Lincoln had only one year of formal education and was otherwise self-taught. Both Washington and Lincoln proved beyond doubt that the voting public doesn’t look much beyond the fundamental requirements to elect their leaders.

Even recent presidents did not have the credentials one would think necessary for the nation’s top job. Harry Truman didn’t graduate from college. John F. Kennedy earned a B.S. degree in international affairs from Harvard College, attended Stanford Graduate School of Business but didn’t graduate. Lyndon Johnson only had a degree in education. Richard Nixon earned a law degree from Duke University, but nothing more.

After graduating from the Naval Academy, Jimmy Carter did graduate work in nuclear technology and physics, but didn’t finish.

Ronald Reagan earned degrees in sociology and economics. He said that he could have reasonably been “accused of majoring in extracurricular activities.”

Bill Clinton came the closest to studying courses relevant to the job. He earned a B.S. in foreign service from Georgetown and studied government at Oxford. His J.D. degree was from Yale.

President Obama has a B.S. in political science, specializing in international relations with a J.D. degree from Harvard.

I find it amazing that not one of our presidents earned a degree in government administration or management. Does this mean we elect our presidents for an on-thejob training program? Imagine if the American people posted a want ad in the employment section of a few major newspapers. How would it read?

“Wanted, president for a large nation – no experience necessary. Management background or education not important.”

Nonetheless, we are not alone. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was reportedly a mediocre student who was lucky to have earned a law degree. He became a lawyer specializing in business and family law before he was elected president.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano earned a law degree and nothing else. In Italy, the presidential candidate is only required to be a citizen, at least 50 years old and not barred from holding political office.

We might consider looking at a kingdom if we want a good example of a well-run government. Sweden is a good choice. Monarchs train from birth for the job.

After high school, Crown Prince Carl XVI Gustaf, who is now Sweden’s King, spent 2.5 years in the Swedish Armed Forces. Then he completed academic studies in history, sociology, political science, tax law and economics at Uppsala and Stockholm Universities.

To prepare for his role as the head of state, the crown prince studied the court system, social organizations and institutions, trade unions, and employers’ associations. He also studied the affairs of Swedish Parliament, government, and Ministry for Foreign Affairs. As if that weren’t enough, he spent additional time at the Swedish Mission to the United Nations and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

The significance, after all that preparation, is that Sweden is a constitutional monarchy. Although King Carl XVI Gustaf has been the Swedish Head of State since 1973, he exercises no political power and does not participate in political life. His duties are mainly ceremonial.

However, his education and preparation for his position are exemplary for those who are involved in the country’s management. I cannot remember ever hearing about dissent amongst the Swedish people, or anyone speaking ill of them.

Perhaps countries with a divisive history would do well to take note of the advantages of a constitutional monarchy. Sweden’s management system has a long history of working quite well.

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