Thank Goodness Teenage Girls Don’t Write Speeches for the President of the United States 

I know plenty of women who can write, Helen. I know women who can blow the walls of brick buildings. This sounds like a girl.” -Sam Seaborn

At times it is hard to imagine a liberal today daring to say something that could be so easily misinterpreted. What was a simple distinction made in the early 2000’s is a war cry today. Our society doesn’t frown upon a toddler who isn’t making her family dinner. Yet by no means does this suggest she can’t. The one thing that this line really boils down to is this: Progress.

Not the progress of nations. Not the progress of political ideology. It is the progress you see in children from the time they are born to the age of six. Then the same thing again from twelve to eighteen. The mental, physical, and emotional developments that are seen during these stages of life make me wonder why anybody says that “people can’t change”.

This concept of progress is also seen in math. Children are taught how to count, then given meaning to numbers. They are asked to grasp something that is infinitely definite and they do. One can be one grain of sand, one feather, one ton of bricks, but it is all one. By giving meaning to one concept, a foundation is built on which the world can stand. Not much later after that, arrays are made with M&M’s and Goldfish crackers. Multiplication is learned. We can see that it works.  So we accept that and move on. There is a progression to algebra, geometry, and maybe even calculus. A learner can amount to whatever they want to. The amount of progression in anything is a choice.

This begs the question of “what if you just can’t”. People struggle with math, or reading, or [Insert Here] all of the time. What’s up with that? The easiest way of explaining is there is a gap in the staircase of progression. You find this a lot in public education. A student can often be pulled up to the next step without fully understanding a concept. This can get someone through a lesson, unit, or even entire courses. However, there can become a point where a new concept requires an old one (or several old concepts) are used that were never learned. This can cause the next step to be so high for the student that they can neither climb up it themselves or be pulled up. Often, it is at that point that people accept defeat. So, how exactly do we overcome?

CS Lewis best explains it when attempting to achieve our final destination in life. In the preface of “The Great Divorce”, Lewis describes life as a tree, starting at one point then branching outwards. One branch is taken, then another, and another. Making just one wrong turn can prevent us from getting to our destination. But we can always go back. That is hard.  Not everyone can do it, and some can hardly bear to think about it. Yet using this analogy, it is seen that sometimes the quickest way forward and to progression is to actually go backwards. It is vital to recognize when the basics are needed again.

Recognition of shortcomings is the key to an unshakable foundation and the greatest potential. When a firm foundation is created, the next step is to build a beautiful masterpiece. Before commencing is the time to check the foundation. But if the foundation does crack and the building is destroyed, there is no reason not to start again. It can be easy to be satisfied with a house, but the land around it is capable of so much more. As a foundation can grow into a house, a house can grow into an estate. The greatest amount is achieved in life by realizing that now leads to later and there is always something to contribute.

In the West Wing episode “The Fall’s Gonna Kill You”, Sam Seaborn meets with the Progressive Caucus  to discuss a line the caucus wants in one of President Bartlet’s speeches. Sam refuses to use the line and the following dialogue occurs:

SAM
First of all, it’s bad writing.

HENRY
What’s wrong with it?

SAM
It sounds like it was written by a high school girl.

HELEN
Is there something wrong with the way a woman writes?

SAM
There usually is when she’s in high school.

It was never about being a woman. That’s the thing that a lot of people miss these days. It was a statement of progress that happened to have a female as the subject. Everyone is at different stages of progression, but it isn’t a measure of what the end result will be. Rome fell and children who weren’t supposed to live longer than twelve hours have grown to adulthood. There is a time and place for most everything, yet there is a want and an expectation for good leaders to present an estate, not a foundation. Misplaced, heavy expectation does indeed break a perfectly good foundation. It passed by for the moment, for a different time or a different purpose. And there is no shame in that. Remember the reality of now. There is much more that can be accomplished in life than a high school research paper. So, thank goodness teenage girls don’t write speeches for the President of the United States.

~Ali

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