Tag Archives: Education

The Average American?

23 Jan
President Barack Obama

I am writing today in response to a question put forth by Jarred Rego, host of “The Jarred Rego Show” on Colorado Springs 740 KVOR.  Today Jarred asked his listeners whether they felt that Barack Obama could relate to the “average American”.  I called in with a bevy of facts and quotes at the ready. However, my call was not answered in time and I remained on hold for upwards of twelve minutes. Due to this mishap that I suspect could be a mishandling of calls, I will reassemble my argument here. 

 Jarred, what exactly constitutes the “average” American?  On your show today you implied that Barack Obama is an elitist simply due to the location of his upbringing: Hawaii. You asked, “I’ve never been to Hawaii. Have you guys ever been to Hawaii?”  By portraying the state of Hawaii as an exotic vacation destination (which to only a certain extent, it is), you are completely marginalizing facts about Hawaii that the “average” American will remain unaware of. I feel that your argument boils down to the claim that Barack Obama is an elitist who was fed liberal-Marxist propaganda due to his educational background.  

Do you want to know about the public education system in Hawaii? Only 21% of 8th grade students are proficient in math; a similar 20% figure accounts for proficiency in reading. In 2003, Hawaii’s public elementary schools ranked 44th out of 50 states on the Nation’s Report Card. In 2009, the Hawai’i Department of Education slashed the yearly number of instructional days from 180 to 163, which is the least amount of instructional days anywhere in the U.S. You may also want to note that the poverty rate in Hawaii is 10.4%, which places the state as 27th in poverty rankings.  The per capita income of Hawaii ranks 40th in the U.S. Hawaii is not a state composed of only the wealthy.  It is also vital to note that 73% of Hawaii’s population is non-white, and many of these persons are of indigenous origin to the Hawaiian islands.  

Students in Hawaii are not receiving the best education they can, but Barack Obama had the support of a family who wished for him to succeed. He attended a private preparatory college in Hawaii.  This is the key to Barack Obama’s success. We live in a country in which your education will either lead to amazing opportunity or massive failure. Even though there are many people who are successful without a college education, the idea that a college education is integral to success in America is poisoning mainstream ideals. Barack Obama chose success.  

I feel that I can comfortably state that I can relate to the “average” American. I can also relate to Barack Obama. My maternal grandparents arrived in the U.S. in the 1930’s as children from Cuba and Puerto Rico. By no means do I come from a lengthy line of wealthy people; my grandfather worked as a longshoreman on the docks of the East River and my grandmother worked as a cleaning woman.  

I know that the success I have had so far in life is due to the sacrifice of my grandparents and parents. My father grew up in an impoverished segment of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, while my mother lived in the projects of the Bronx.  My mother dropped out of college in the 1970’s to pay for an operation that my older brother desperately needed.  

However, each of my parents performed very well in school and were able to recognize that the best future for both myself and my sister was not in the New York City public school system. I know what it feels like to have to see your parents choose between which bills to pay for the month. I know what struggling truly is. I also recognize the great fortune that has been bestowed upon me in this life. Not only do I hold two degrees from one of the greatest universities in the world, but I also have the opportunity to achieve whatever it is I choose. There are people in America who will never dream of the things I have achieved in only a short 22 years. Is my success due to my racial background? (I am 1/8th African-American, if you must know.) Is my success due to my having a uterus? Is my success due to being raised in Colorado? There is not one factor that can be pinpointed as the source of my achievement. Do not single out Barack Obama’s home state of Hawaii as the source of his success. Most importantly, do not patronize Barack Obama for being a good student.  

As Nathaniel Hawthorne once scribed, “families are always rising and falling in America.” Barack Obama happened to catch a large tide. Do not assume anything about an individual’s background or upbringing.  

I ask you this question: Do you relate to the “average” American? And who is the “average” American?

UPDATE: Jarred Rego responded in the comments below but failed to answer any of my posed questions. How convenient of him.