A lot has been written about what Barack Obama's election symbolizes. For sure, Obama's ascent as U.S. Prez spells victory for many: African Americans, Democrats, young voters, believers in race-blind politics, liberals, peaceniks, those worried about America's image abroad, the sons and daughters of single moms …
But to me, the ultimate message delivered by Obama's election – especially for today's kids – is this: The smart guy wins.
Obama has a lot of traits our society worships. He's athletic, young, handsome, an articulate orator. But his best attribute is what rests between those great big ears of his. Obama is an open, out-of-the-closet practicing intellectual. He's a powerful symbol to kids of all colors that brains can get you where you want to go.
Yeah, professional athletes and movie stars will always turn heads, but the anti-intellectual forces that have gripped America for too long are finally broken. Forget about "Be Like Mike" kids, wouldn't you rather run the country?John McCain is no slouch. He accumulated years of wisdom serving as a U.S. senator. But, in many voters' minds, his persona was more about military brawn, not brains. McCain, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, admits he struggled with subjects like math and was ranked near the bottom of his graduating class.
Obama, on the other hand, is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was a scholar of constitutional law and president of the Harvard Law Review. Some spin doctors unsuccessfully tried to convince people in Small Town America that Obama couldn't represent them because he was an elite intellectual. As if book smarts acquired at two of the country's best colleges is a bad thing.
Obama is interested in big ideas, big thinkers, big words. An obscure fact from the last presidential debate: Obama spoke at a 9th grade level, while McCain spoke at a 7th grade level, according to Global Language Monitor of Austin, Tex., which analyzes political linguistics. Maybe as a country we'll reach the 12th grade by the end of this administration.
Watching the 60 Minutes interview with Obama on Sunday, it was refreshing to hear an intelligent discussion about the economy and our future. He was thoughtful, precise and at ease with making references to American history and policy. When I grow up, I want to be like that.