Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation. — John F. Kennedy
In modern politics, since Harry Truman, every American president has been a college graduate, with our last three presidents all holding post-graduate degrees.
Modern campaigning and politicking has shown that what a future president writes in college papers and theses can come back to haunt them, often placing incredible judgement on a candidate for something written years earlier. Presidents are usually very cautious about what they put into writing, especially in long prose that can be easily parsed or manipulated.
The final year of a presidency is often where incumbents seek to leave a legacy, whether that comes from pet legislation, unpopular pardons or commutations, or even becoming more opinionated and less cautious about the political impact of their words being parsed.
But never before has a sitting president left the profound mark of having a scholarly journal article on the state of American health care reform published in a major, nationally-acclaimed journal.
The Executive Department issues policy statements all the time, so why is this really any different?
Really it boils down to two answers, one academic and one political.
Academically, the article is a solid piece of scholarship filled with publicly available information condensed into a series of graphs. It offers a balance of history and retrospection on its implementation, coupled with personal insights on the future of health care reform.
And, like it or not, it fundamentally represents the views of the largest physician’s association in the United States.
Politically it gets a bit trickier.
Executive policy statements rarely outlive the president’s tenure, unless the presidency is won by a candidate of the same party with same ideals and goals (this isn’t always a given in American politics).
The next president will have to face the successes and failures of the Obamacare program, either scraping the whole legislation or trying to improve upon the existing program. One thing is certain, it won’t face merely the status quo of doing nothing.
By publishing the president’s article, the AMA is sending a clear signal to the next program — they expect progress on health care reform, not a regression or summary scraping of the nation’s health care policy.
Prose of this type takes a lot of time, thought, and editing, but what it does for President Obama is give him a lengthy platform to develop a single idea to crystal clarity, something the 15-second sound bite media is less than willing to accommodate.
While people may chip away at his statements, it provides insight for both voters and future officeholders to consider.
Most importantly, this entire piece reminds us that we have a long history of our nation’s policies being discussed in prose, in the media, pamphlets, and books. These mediums laid out political ideas and visions in a format that is well thought out, not just the soundbites of ‘scrap Obamacare’ or ‘free health care for all.’
When America has become more prone to hyper-partisanship, we need more prose like this from both sides, fully presenting the ideas and persuasion for each side’s philosophy.
America works when we hold our political ideas, but at least understand the other side’s philosophy.
Because anything less becomes a political system ruled solely out of manufactured outrage and confirmation bias. Something that definitely won’t contribute to JFK’s vision of an educated nation, providing for a ‘greater strength for our nation.’