Sunday, December 28, 2008

Experience can be overrated

In today's Washington Post, freelance writer Anne Glusker addresses the Caroline Kennedy Senate controversy with wisdom and insight. The constant harping on the need for "experience" in politics, by which proponents seem to mean years and years and years on a vertical ascent, moving from dogcatcher to city council to county commissioner to state legislator to--you get the picture--has always irritated me, especially this year. Barack Obama brought to the Presidential race a terrific education and luminous intellect, a gift for clear and inspiring expression and a remarkable diversity of experience, encompassing community organizing, teaching at a prestigious law school and brief stints in the state legislature and US Senate. Yet because he hadn't served 20 years moving steadily up the ladder, he was routinely mocked and dismissed as "inexperienced," "unqualified" and "not ready" for the White House.

Especially in this day and age, when the bipolar, Cold War world and its rules are no more, when globalization has put an end to the 35-year career at the same workplace and when the kings of the world are nimble-thinking, tradition-disdaining software engineers, it would seem that people would recognize that a non-traditional set of skills would be a plus rather than a minus for the people who want to represent us and make our laws. Caroline Kennedy is a lot like Barack Obama--she was educated at two of the world's top universities, she has written two excellent books, she has spearheaded a fund-raising campaign to improve public education in her city. What she doesn't know about the nuts and bolts of the process, her staff of legislative professionals will be able to teach her. She's eminently capable of representing New Yorkers and offers a real-world example of what lots of aspiring legislators like to proclaim about themselves: she's not a career politician!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Palin and Obama have shown us recently, it's not quantity, but quality of experience and individual that really counts.

1:04 PM  

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