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    “If I Was President”

    July 15, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    Every time my mother-in-law visits us, she brings a bunch of magazines with her for us to peruse. I always enjoy this, because she brings publications I do not have the opportunity to read on a regular basis. Along with the likes of Country Woman and Time, she often brings a copy or two of The Tennessee Magazine, which is published by the Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation.

    The Tennessee Magazine is always enjoyable to read, if one likes magazines with a more local {rather than national or worldwide} focus. Every month, the magazine sponsors an art contest with a different theme. There are two age categories: 1 to 9 and 10 to 14. Each group has their own first-, second-, and third-place winners.

    The theme for the July edition was “If I Was President.” There were six winners, three for each age category. First, I will describe the winners, with their explanation in the words of the artist.

    1- to 9-Years-Old

    • First Place: The picture contains a background of a blue sky with a yellow sun, and brown ground below. Floating in the air are little strips of grass on which there are a cow, a baby chick coming forth from an egg, a pig, a horse, and also what appears to be a set of four little unhatched eggs. Written on the piece is, “HELP THE ANIMALS,” and the quote from the artist relays the same by saying, “If I was president, I would help the animals.” This was drawn by an 9-year-old.


    • Second Place: The picture contains a background similar to the first, a blue sky, complete with little white clouds, and brown earth below. Depicted is a magnificent jungle gym, and a little girl sipping water from a drinking fountain. The caption reads, “If I was president, I would build more parks for children.” This was drawn by a 8-year-old girl.



    • Third Place: Once again, we have a blue sky with blue clouds and a yellow and orange sun, and this time a green hillside beneath. On the left, there is what I assume is supposed to be an American flag atop a flagpole with a blue square in the top left and red, white, and blue stripes. Beneath the flag stands a mommy holding a baby carrier containing an infant. Next to her is a little girl, and then a man in uniform. At the top is written, “Bring home our troops.” The caption reads, “If I was President, I would bring home our troops.” This was drawn by a 9-year-old.


    10 to 14 Years Old

    • First Place: This appears to be a 9-11 inspired picture. Against a green background, the bottom has grey angular pieces I assume to be broken metal. A man dressed as a firefighter is hoisting a {correctly drawn} American flag up a makeshift flagpole. The caption reads, “If I was President, I would show more pride.” This was drawn by a 13-year-old boy.


    • Second Place: The background shows a blue sky and green grass. There are two flagpoles reaching into the sky, one flying the American flag, and one flying the Tennessee state flag. There is a woman {well-drawn, by the way} standing behind a podium atop a platform. The podium has a “seal” that says “U.S. President,” though it is not the actual presidential seal. To the right of the woman is a gas pump and on it is written the price for gas this year and last year. To the left of the woman is a whiteboard on which is written the words, “I will lower gas prices. April: $3.19/g May: $1.10/g.” The caption reads, “If I was president, I woud lower gas prices.” This was drawn by a 12-year-old girl.



    • Third Place: The central figure in this drawing is a man in a blue suit, black shoes, red tie, and white shirt, standing with his hands on his hips. Far behind him is a hazy crowd of people interspersed with a black background and large yellow star-like shapes. Closer to him, but still behind him, is a table covered with red rectangles. Hanging from the table is a sign that reads, “FREE! LIFETIME SUPPLY OF CHOCOLATE FOR EVERYONE.” In the forefront is the head of a reporter raising his hand, presumably to ask a question, and three microphones reaching toward the man in the suit. The caption reads, “If I was president, I would give everyone free chocolate.” This was drawn by a 13-year-old boy.



    What is wrong with this picture?

    Since the aforementioned winners were not extraordinarily young, I was shocked that out of the six winners, only two depicted a presidential action that was legal according to the Constitution, one of those because it was not an action as much as it was a sort of character and attitude that the President would display {“I would show more pride”}. The other “legal” drawing, which concerned bringing home the troops {and whether one is for the war or against it, one must remember that the President’s primary job is commander in chief, and so this was an appropriate drawing, Constitutionally-speaking}, was the drawing that contained an inaccurate rendering of the American flag. I don’t mean to be too hard on the kids, but shouldn’t a 9-year-old know that the stripes of the flag are two colors, red and white, and perhaps even have an understanding of the symbolic nature of the colors?


    Enumerated Powers of the Presidency

    One of the ingenius methods of the Consitution is that it enumerated the powers of each branch of government, and then effectively draws a line in the sand, declaring, “Here, and no further.” In other words, each branch has a specific job {or grouping of jobs} detailed out in the document, and that is to be the whole extent of the power accorded to them.

    I remember having the “balance of powers” drilled into my head as a youth. No one branch of government is to have unchecked powers, or absolute power. No one member of government had an influence that was too far-reaching, not even the President. In fact, when rereading the Constitution this afternoon, I would have to say that of the three branches, it is actually the legislative branch that seems to have the most power. But of course that is a group of people, and not a single person.

    Wikipedia has a nifty little chart that attempts to list out each power of each branch of our government, and then also explain how the other branches “balance out” that power. For convenience, allow me to list out the powers and responsibilities of the President in the order they appear in Article II of the Constitution as simply as I can:

    • He is to be commander in chief of the army.
    • He may grant pardons for offenses, except in cases of impeachment.
    • He may, with the advice and consent of Congress, make treaties.
    • He may, with the advice and consent of Congress, appoint ambassadors, public ministers and consuls, Supreme Court justices, etc.
    • He must regularly give Congress information on the state of the union and make recommendations to them.
    • He may convene both Houses if they are in disagreement, or he may adjourn them until what he deems to be a proper time.
    • He is to receive ambassadors and other public ministers.
    • He must ensure that the laws of the land are carried out faithfully, and he commissions all the officers of the United States.
    • He can be removed from office if he is impeached and convicted of treason, bribery, or any other high crime or misdemeanor.

    Where, may I ask, is the right to decide on the prices in our supposed free-market economy? Where is the right to own a chocoloate factory, produce chocolate with American tax dollars, and give said chocolate away “free?” Where is the right to spend American tax dollars building playgrounds for children in the separate, free states? Where does it say that the President governs both American citizens and the animals found within our borders? Nowhere.


    Excessive Ignorance Isn’t Cute

    Children are notorious for misunderstanding situations and expressions in our language, and we adults rightfully delight in their childish expressions. A little boy who thinks he has a “three-head” instead of a forehead because he is three-years-old can cause adults to giggle. And then his mother can kindly and gently explain the truth of the matter to him..

    The fact that a 12- and 13-year-old remain ignorant of a basic knowledge of the powers and restrictions accorded to our nation’s highest office is not cute. It is a disgrace. And though I have enjoyed The Tennessee Magazine in the past, I think they should be ashamed to have rewarded such ignorance with cash prizes.


    Art Judged on Skill Alone?

    Since these pieces were well-drawn, I couldn’t help but wonder if the winners were chosen based on their skills alone. Where do we draw the line, though? If the subject in a few months is what one wishes to be when one grows up, and a budding young female artist draws a beautiful picture of herself dressed up as a stripper, should she win because she was the best artist?

    I think that the magazine, due to their family-oriented nature, would never award a prize to a little girl aspiring to the position of Pole Dancer. The same is true in this situation. It is unwise to separate the skill involved in the art from the content of the art.

    If the child draws a nice picture, he should be applauded for his skill, but his ideas should nonetheless be corrected. This is a great teaching opportunity! This is a chance to discuss spheres of authority. And, unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity.


    Prevention is Key

    Perhaps the best solution is prevention. I am glad to have seen this before my child is old enough to be interested in a contest of this sort. I have now resolved that I will study a given subject with the child before setting him free to draw. We could read the Constitution together and I could explain it, for instance.

    Parents could have taken the opportunity to teach their child about the Presidency before they drew. But they didn’t. And so their drawings were informed by societal complaints {“Gas prices are too high, still!” sighs their mother} and fairy tales. Fairy tales? Of course! If they do not understand the Presidency beyond the idea that it is the nation’s highest office, they will define it by what they have read concerning kings in magical lands, effectively assuming him to have the power to create chocolate out of nothing and give it free to his citizens.

    Our nation rebelled against a tyrant king over two centuries ago. Must we place our children back in bondage by allowing them to remain ignorant? It is not so much that they are ignorant that is the problem; it is that no one has appeared to correct the situation. Shame on us all for accepting such folly in our society.


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  • Reply Brandy July 16, 2006 at 7:47 pm

    No kidding! The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me, so yesterday evening I cut and pasted this posting into an email and sent it to the General Manager of the magazine. Who knows? Maybe my pen is my sword…or my keyboard, rather. 🙂

  • Reply Rahime July 16, 2006 at 5:29 pm

    Sounds lke we have some little Communists in the making. Yikes.

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