College Students, Wake Up!

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January 21, 2010 | Comments

The results of Tuesday’s election in Massachusetts have left me thinking about a conversation I overheard this last Christmas.

Our family was flying west to California for the holidays as we do every year, this time with stopovers in both Las Vegas and Reno. On the flight between those two cities, I was seated in front of an older woman and a young female college student. As we took off over the glittering lights of the Las Vegas strip, the older woman introduced herself to her younger seatmate (and, by extension, to me) as a medical-school professor, a recent transplant to Nevada from the East Coast.

Sounding almost like a young schoolgirl herself, this mature professional woman chirped with abandon about her love for her new state. Compared to her life spent entirely in the east, Nevada was in every way living up to its reputation as “the wild west,” she said, a genuine “frontier.” Her enthusiasm for her new home was so infectious, I wanted to jump off the plane and enroll in her medical school.

Anyway, the young woman next to her, a native of Reno, she said, was in her first year at a small Massachusetts college – an International Relations major (whatever that is). The physician spoke to her about her own years training, practicing and teaching in Boston, and they chatted a bit about living in the Bay State. Then the doctor popped the big question: “So how does it feel moving from a state that has no income tax [Nevada], to a state that has one of the highest tax rates in the country [Massachusetts]?”

“Well,” said the girl, “I’m in college, so it doesn’t really affect me.”

I grinned, imagining the wise smirk the International-Relations major’s comment must have inspired on the face of her seatmate. “Oh, it will affect you,” said the doctor. “And I’m sure it’s affecting your parents, and the new federal taxes coming are going to affect them, too.” (As a parent myself, I would not be very happy to think my daughter considered punishing tax burdens as something that “doesn’t really affect me.”)

The girl’s ensuing silence indicated that she didn’t want to talk about this anymore (not a good sign for someone who wants to relate internationally). I’d like to think that once she got home, she made a similar comment to her parents, who in turn decided to look in to the education they were financing for their beloved daughter. If nothing else, I hope the physician’s statement at least gave the girl some food for thought.

It certainly gave me food for thought, as I now think back and wonder if Tuesday’s election in this young student’s adopted state has in any way “affected” her. How has it been presented and discussed, I wonder, in her probably elitist, liberal, kumbaya International Relations classes? I have my assumptions, of course, but do she and so many others like her now realize the gravity of what is at stake for her and for all of us in this country? Do they realize that this election “affected” the state in which this girl now resides, but also in her home state? And my home state. And yours. And every other state in the union.

Perhaps before this girl embarks on her career in International Relations (whatever that is), she should learn about the dangers her own country is facing at the moment – including the tax burden that will await her once she graduates and embarks on that career. I’ll wager she is learning nothing like that in those International Relations classes of hers. We can guess what she is probably learning: the Blame-America curriculum embraced by the President and his advisers and colleagues during their formative years.

As someone more in line with the American-Exceptionalism curriculum, I ask you college students out there to start thinking beyond the walls of those classes. Before you agree to packing your university auditoriums to cheer on the President and provide him with a backdrop for his latest photo-op, as happened last Sunday in Boston (and will surely happen when he campaigns for Harry Reid next month in Nevada), think about the effect this man, this Congress and their agenda could have on your long-term goals, your long-term hopes and dreams. Battles are being waged right now in all of our own backyards that you think “affect” only your parents at the moment, but if this President gets his way, the outcomes of these skirmishes will profoundly affect your future – and not in a positive manner.

So look to Massachusetts and be grateful for what happened there on Tuesday, despite what your professors may be telling you in class. Time to see the big picture and your place in it. Time to think about long-term consequences and, to paraphrase JFK, what you can do, not for this President and his colleagues, but for your country, your family and your future.

In short, wake up. It does affect you.

Betsy Siino | Comments