Commentary

Snow: Career choices of young Americans

March 8, 2014 

I’m in the doldrums again. My 11-year-old grandson doesn’t want to be president.

Down through history, Americans have grown up with the refrain, “Any kid in America can be president of the United States.”

Ignoring the fact that such a statement is an outright falsehood, I nevertheless thought: “Well, then, why not my grandson?”

The pay is not bad – $400,000 a year plus a $150,000 tax-free expense account.

Then there are also perks – PLENTY of perks. Imagine having your own rose garden. Or your own army.

True, the president’s pay is small potatoes compared to that of new General Motors CEO Mary Barra’s $14.4 million or most college football coaches. But that’s America for you. We like to keep our priorities straight. What’s more important? A smooth-running Corvette or a smooth-running government?

Wade’s disdain for the top job might have had something to do with the fact that he’s already been president.

Of third grade.

With no pay, no bodyguard, no special perks and nobody asking for autographs at recess, the job didn’t ring his chimes.

Well, in all fairness to the youngster, he cited some good reasons for turning down the Washington job, if offered.

“I couldn’t stand the lack of privacy. And I wouldn’t want to send men and women to be killed or injured in war. I wouldn’t want a Secret Service person risking his life to defend me in an assassination attempt. And, really, being president involves too much work!”

So what does a boy who doesn’t want to be president want to be? A movie critic.

A movie critic? Why a movie critic?

“Because you get in free and get to eat all the popcorn you want,” he said.

Reviewing movies is a step up from his earlier career choice of selling peanuts at Tampa Bay Rays’ baseball games.

I must remind my grandson that he must first find an employer to pay his way into the movie before he can become a critic. Ethically, he can’t accept free admission or popcorn in exchange for a flattering review.

I’m not worried that this bright lad is ready to waste his talents sitting in a dark theater watching bad movies and munching stale popcorn when he might be the leader of the free world!

He’ll find his true calling. All I want for him (and probably what you want for your young) is to be happy at whatever profession he chooses, even if it’s working as a $990-an-hour lawyer at my alma mater trying to get to the bottom of the university’s academic-athletics scandal.

My grandson isn’t the only kid on the block who doesn’t want to be president.

Novelist Brad Meltzer in a recent Parade Magazine article cites the results of a poll conducted by his publisher, Penguin Young Readers. The poll revealed that only 27 percent of readers between ages 10 and 16 give a fig about becoming president. The percentage drops to 13 percent among 15- and 16-year-olds.

The article explained that President Barack Obama’s current drop in the popularity polls has little to do with the decline in the office’s appeal among young people. The job was only slightly more popular when President George W. Bush was in office.

So what professions appeal most to today’s youth?

Surprise! Pro athlete is the top career, followed by teacher, veterinarian, scientist and doctor.

Asked to name their hero, only 2 percent of those interviewed named the president.

At age 11, did you want to be president? I doubt it.

At that age I wanted to own Pearl White’s little country store a mile down the road.

Why? So I could eat all the Baby Ruth candy bars I wanted. On my weekly allowance of one egg to trade for candy, I didn’t lose many teeth to sweets.

I have no idea what Obama wanted to do with his life at age 11. But I wouldn’t be surprised that during many sleepless nights. tossing and turning and hoping the red phone won’t ring any moment, he wouldn’t mind being a movie critic munching popcorn in some movie theater in small-town America.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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