The education of our president

Dear Mr. President,

I am graduating from college after a fair amount of sacrificeand struggle. I go to Portland State University, a fine institutionthat has done a lot for me, and I have attempted to do as much aspossible for it. When I began, I felt so optimistic about thechanges that I was seeing all around me. It was a time of greatpurpose and I felt a calling to serve my community in a way that Ihad never felt before. It was an exciting time. Don’t get me wrong,Mr. President, I have not given up. It is just that everything hasturned out so differently than the clear depths of promise that weall once enjoyed. This is the reason that I invite you to attend myuniversity for a few days of classes. Portland State University,while not the most loyal compatriot to you, will offer you aneducation that you have, by all accounts, been lacking in youradministration and in your decisions.

It disheartens me, though, that you dismiss my education, myplanning and my purpose as elitism. This is especially confusingwhen you attended the most exclusive institutions in the world,while dismissing this fact as not worthwhile. I know of so many whostruggle just to pay their electric bills, while dreaming of thechance to be educated in the way that you were. I am equallyflummoxed by your political reasoning, which rejects differences ofopinion and condemns a truly breathtaking feature of democracy: thepress. For these reasons, as well, I look forward to you sittingbeside me for a day as a PSU Viking (Vikings were fierce warriors,you know).

On Day One at PSU, we will attend the classes that I mentor inthe general education program. Our goals, in these classes, are tonegotiate ideas across rifts of opinion, to explore the reasons andsocial thinking that accompany categories of difference bothlocally and globally, and to communicate effectively using not onlywords, but all the media of technology, in presenting and arguingour evolving perspectives. The fundamental goal is to create aspace of academic safety, not intellectual comfort, where we canchallenge and inspire each other. On good days the room is filledwith light, on others, like the day we discussed the torture at AbuGhraib, we feel heavy and caked with the danger that you havefoisted on our own fledgling democracy. You will be received withcare, though, and knowing the intense consideration that my peersutilize with each other, you will be received with fairness. Butyou will be required to explain your actions; you will be requiredto clearly present your argument for all the things you do; youwill be graded by your use of logic, not rhetorical flourish.

I am concerned that, due to your busy schedule, we may have justone day together at Portland State. In that case, let me prepareyou for a few questions that you may be asked after yourpresentation. One of my gay students would like to marry; he willmost definitely ask you why his love would bring down westerncivilization. Another student is very concerned about the deepinfluence of companies like Halliburton on your policy decisions.He is also very concerned about the manifest deception that Cheneyhas fostered concerning his connections to the companies that nowrun your war. One of the most politically conservative students islikely to ask why your administration has violated the basic tenetof conservatism by championing the Patriot Act. Another student,who exerts great effort in raising her child and attending schoolfull-time, would like to know why her estranged parents receivedsuch a large tax break (when they clearly did not need it) whileshe is barely able to afford child and health care. She is alsoextremely worried about the rumors of implementing the draft.Another student, who is in the National Guard, awaits her warpapers, while desperately trying to ignore the utter collapse ofthe organizational and command structure that you promised would beparamount in this effort.

Mr. President, I would like to know why your campaign spits theword “educated” and “liberal” in a shoddy attempt to create anenemy at home to cover your own actions abroad. I would also liketo know, Mr. President, how you conceive of your actions asconservative when they more closely resemble Evangelical andZionist zealotry. Mr. President, I invite you to my universitybecause I would like you to see that we remain hopeful, not becauseof what you have done, but in spite of what you have done. Wereminds ourselves, through the labors of liberally educatingourselves, that the shallow register of promise and potential thatis definitive of your presidency will soon wash away.