Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Lesson From the Reagan Administration

Chris Daemmrich, a 16-year-old junior at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy in Austin, TX wrote the following piece about Ronald Reagan’s administration, which ended January 20, 1989:

“Rarely in American political history has there appeared a man of such contradictions as Ronald Reagan. If I have learned anything from his legacy, it is this: It matters what people think you are, not what you are. If people perceive you as one thing, like an evangelical, God-fearing Christian, it doesn’t matter that you yourself rarely attend church. As long as you seem like someone who would, you can be assured that the Christian right will be on your side.

“Reagan’s mastery of popular perception shows me that to succeed in American, you must be likeable and relatable to the masses. You can achieve this through dress, humor, or actions, and the great part is that in the end, it doesn’t matter what you think, as long as the people who will be voting for you think they know what you think, and they like.”

Chris started out to enter Texas governor Perry’s contest for Texas high school applicants writing a 99-word essay on the merits of Mr. Reagan’s presidential administration. Unfortunately, Chris could not get down to the 99 word maximum. He also had a problem with “liking” Governor Perry on Facebook to offer his entry.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram (Wednesday, March 16, 2011 11A) picked up the story of how this young essayist went in a different direction than most of his peers, as reported by editorial writer Ken Herman, of the Austin, TX American-Statesman. One thing for sure: I couldn’t argue the point when Reporter Herman noted, “I don’t know. I’m not sure this is Chris’ crowd.”

Urging Chris to “write on, kid,” Herman also raised this question after reading Chris’ essay: “Who says the kids aren’t learning critical thinking skills?” Seems to me the young man from Texas hit the nail dead center--middle of the head--and as well-said as any Academic I’ve read in recent years.

From Warner’s World,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I realize this is seriously old, but let me tell you how it all ended. I am the mother of one of the winners (the female representative from Texas) of this essay contest. Yes, entrants needed to keep it to 100 words or less (which was not easy, and required skill). Yes, entrants needed to submit via the Perry facebook page.

It was a life-changing week as the prize was a trip was to "Close-Up" in Washington DC. At week's end, and only after many friendships were forged, the students were asked to express their political leanings. My daughter estimated that less than 1/2 the attendees called themselves conservative and everyone was surprised by the poll.

The theme of the week was "Civil Discourse," and that's what they accomplished. I'm not sure if this student would have been willing or able to be a productive part of such an experience, so it's for the best that he lacked the ability to meet the contest parameters. His essay is very thoughtful and had he been able to submit within the rules, he might very well have won one of the two spots, which may have been a bummer for all the other participants.