For the second and final Kaleidoscope All-School Meeting (ASM), Jeb Bush ’71, former Governor of Florida, offered a Republican perspective on the 2012 Presidential Election.
The two-week Kaleidoscope ASM program brings two speakers to campus to present different viewpoints on a controversial topic. This year, the Kaleidoscope program focused on politics. Dee Dee Myers, former Press Secretary for former President Bill Clinton, offered her perspectives as a Democrat in the first part of the program last week.
Bush structured his speech around the notion that the United States should foster a culture of opportunity based on individual responsibility and merit.
He defended the Republican Party’s economic beliefs and emphasized the importance of free market in taking a step towards rebuilding the economy, as opposed to stimulating the economy with direct payments from the government.
According to Bush, free enterprise is based on a fair system of earned success, equality of opportunity and aid for those in need.
“Sadly, one-third of households in America have no net worth or a negative net worth. We’ve created a totally different America, because we did not embrace this idea that free enterprise and freedom create prosperity for more people and it’s the society’s obligation to lift people up by allowing them to earn their success, rather than telling them to get in a line and seek some form of an assistance that ends up creating dependency,” said Bush.
Bush used the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 as an example of a bill that created dependency on government interference and aid.
“Take the stimulus bill that was passed after the financial meltdown of 2008. 800 billion dollars appropriated at warp-speed. [It] was a hodgepodge of wonderful ideas and the pent-up demand of people that wanted to try new things, [and] it didn’t work. Every analysis has proven that it didn’t work,” he continued.
“Today, we honestly have a situation where one party is more focused on the status quo and protecting what we have, when we desperately need to change things and challenge the way to do things. The end result is that we have the weakest recovery in modern times,” he added.
During his speech, Bush named education reform as a critical step in successfully building a country of equal opportunity. He said that the country should raise standards of education instead of lowering them for certain underprivileged students.
“Equality of opportunity, not a guarantee of results, is at the core of this basic philosophy [of earned success]. Conservatives believe that true fairness comes from this notion of equality of opportunity, and today, in America, we’re not equal. Young people are not graduating with the skills necessary to be successful,” said Bush.
“We lower standards for kids in poverty at the expense of others [who] will have [higher] standards. I would say that it should be the opposite, and I would hope that you would look at candidates irrespective of party, on who is passionate about changing how things are done so that more than just a third of our children gain the power of knowledge,” Bush added.
Bush continued the discussion of the future of education in a Q&A session in the Mural Room following the ASM.
Mark Meyer ’13, President of the Andover Republican Society, said, “How do we boost education in America, when it was in the forefront and now it’s falling behind year after year after year? How do we put all the students on the same level? [Bush] talked about how the more and more we compromise how we educate our youths, the lower [education] standards will become and we won’t be able to go back up in [education rates].”
Bush also addressed immigration policy in his speech. Despite mainstream Republican perspectives on immigration, Bush opposed the indiscriminate deportation of all illegal immigrants.
“Why not allow people who want to stay here stay here so that they can add value to [the country]? Why not re-invigorate American values by maintaining an open immigration system?” said Bush.
“There were entrepreneurial people like an immigrant named George Mitchell, who now is a very successful man. He came from Greece, and he combined two existing technologies, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling and created an explosion of investment in the private sector that created more jobs in the last four years than any of the government programs that had been proposed and implemented,” said Bush.
“I found it refreshing that [Bush] was open to immigration reform, becoming more accepting of immigrants. I was really impressed by the fact that he acknowledged the important role of immigrants in our society, when it [comes] to science, technology and mathematics. It’s a bad idea to be close-minded and send so much potential away in the country,” said Gabbi Fisher ’13.
Bush’s speech prompted various reactions from students.
“I appreciated Bush’s focus on substantive policy and willingness to differ from his party on immigration. I must admit I was frustrated with his economic beliefs that, in my opinion, reduce the social mobility and equality of opportunity our country prides itself on,” said Tyler Olkowski ’13, President of Phillips Academy Democratic Society.
“I don’t really agree with the direction the Republican Party is heading right now, but I thought the ideals Bush outlined in his speech were very true, and that’s more of the Republican Party that I believe in and that I would support,” said Omegar Chavolla-Zacarias ‘12, who returned to campus to hear Bush speak.
“It was amazing that Bush talked about how his party is the party of freedom, and then he talked about how he wants to give people the economic freedom, but he did not talk about social freedom at all. He talked about how his party is the grand-solution party, but throughout the whole speech, he didn’t give a whole lot of solutions. Although on the whole, I was positively impressed,” said David Crane ’13.
Bush was born in Midland, Texas and taught English as a second language in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico during his senior year at Andover. After graduating from University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor’s Degree in Latin American Studies, he began to pursue a career in politics.
“Our Kaleidoscope Speakers program is emblematic of our commitment to ‘go beyond the familiar.’ Civil, constructive, critical engagement with perspectives that do not necessarily agree with one’s own is an essential skill for anyone who aspires to be a global citizen and a truly open-minded learner,” wrote Carlos Hoyt, All-School Meeting Coordinator and Associate Dean of Students, in an e-mail to The Phillipian.
“By presenting divergent perspectives on important topics, Kaleidoscope provides a kind of dialectic in which a thesis and its antithesis are presented. Each student gets to complete the dialectic by synthesizing her or his own bearing on the topic,” he wrote.