Over the next 30 days, we will be bombarded with partisan propaganda as both major political parties hold their presidential party conventions. Following the conventions, the vicious personal attacks and unbridled rhetoric will dominate the airwaves and the American psyche. In fact, much of the mudslinging has already begun.
As President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney saddle up for their bumpy partisan rides, I am presumptively assuming the role of speechwriter and offering the following opening remarks to their upcoming party nomination acceptance speeches with the hope that either or both will give consideration to the suggested words and tone below.
"Mr. Chairman, and my fellow Americans, it is with a humble heart and a deep sense of duty that I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States. At the outset, however, I am compelled to take a departure from the standard nomination acceptance speeches. While there are stark differences between my vision for America and that of my opponent, I must speak to an issue that affects us all, without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, social status or partisan politics. In fact, this issue impacts the very core and fabric of our nation, even though it has been largely ignored and painfully politicized.
I am talking about education in America. Friends, the truth is we are falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to the education of our young. And sadly, for those who do fall through the education cracks, we offer them little hope for a productive future. The statistics are staggering. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) the U.S. ranks 14th among 65 countries in reading literacy. Our country also ranks 25th among those same 65 countries in math literacy; 17th in science. My friends, these sliding rankings coupled with the declining rates of high school completion are depriving our nation of college-educated and trained workers needed to keep the American workforce competitive globally.
This reality has led to lost opportunities and heart wrenching misery for countless citizens. But what is more profound has been our inability to take on this issue honestly and forthrightly as Americans.
It is no wonder that the great early American and third president Thomas Jefferson placed so much emphasis on the value of education. He firmly believed that the biggest threat to our democracy was ignorance; that our form of government could only survive tyranny if the people were educated. Education, Jefferson maintained, was needed so citizens could fully appreciate the responsibilities and duties associated with citizenship and their freedom.
As nearly half the children of color in this country fail to graduate and our world education standing continues to slide, our failure to master books, not missiles, stands as the greatest threat to our democracy.
Still, my fellow Americans, we can, together, get back on the right track.
So today, as I accept my party's nomination, I issue a clarion call to my opponent, his supporters and to all of you. Let's agree to take the politics out of the education discussion. For the rest of this campaign, I pledge to depoliticize the issue of education in America. All of the proposals, suggestions and statements coming from my campaign on the issue of education will be constructive, bipartisan in scope and geared toward what is best for all American children. I will not discuss education in a debate format, but rather, suggest that my opponent and I agree to sit down together for a one-on-one meeting and construct the beginnings of a joint education policy approach that we will both support irrespective of the November election results.
From this day forward, all elected, business and community leaders should stand together dispassionately to do what is best for our children. Any president, whoever that may be, must use his or her office as a bully pulpit to foster a positive culture of learning and maximize the human capital in this country. In accepting this nomination, I am pledging to help lead the effort for us to move in that direction for the sake of our children and for the future of this country.
Many years ago, President Lyndon Johnson said these words:
"Every child must be encouraged to get as much education as he has the ability to take. We want this not only for this sake-but for the nation's sake. Nothing matters more to the future of our country: not military preparedness-for armed might is worthless if we lack the brainpower to build a world of peace; not our productive economy-for we cannot sustain growth without trained manpower; not even our democratic system of government-for freedom is fragile if the people are ignorant."
Those words, spoken over forty years ago, ring even more true today. Getting education right is our new national imperative. It is time to lay aside all the barriers to embracing the rich potential of our young. Join me as we work together for our children and our country's future."
As opposed to the divisive rhetoric we have heard thus far, wouldn't it be refreshing to hear a presidential nomination speech along those lines?
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