Having grown up in New York City, I follow the New York Times religiously. Nowadays, I don’t follow the local news (though interestingly chaotic), but rather opinion articles from columnists and bloggers. Recently, a piece caught my eye: “If I Were President” by Jesse Kornbluth. His work drew professors, C.E.Os, astrophysicists, and experts from all over, to answer: “What would you do if you were president?”
Patricia Ryan Madson, Author of “Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up” would send Congress members on retreat, and hope they laugh about their mistakes. Sister Mary David Walgenbach, Prioress, would expand the PeaceCorps, and use the defense budget to invest in the future for children and alternative energy. James Q. Wilson, Pepperdine professor, would carefully evaluate all decisions made by his administration by drawing feedback from the public.
So with levity, I ask myself: What would I, an MIT premed student, do if I were president?
I would reform the high school education system. I am no Horace Mann, but I am a student whom has ridden over the many potholes in our education system. My public high school has 5000 kids and is growing. Throughout my four years, I saw many students left behind, feeling inferior to thousands of others, and treated as numbers by teachers. But I want students to get personal attention and build relationships with teachers so that instructors can do more than fail students.
More personal education can be accomplished by creating smaller schools, like the Boston Arts Academy and Fenway Pilot School. Smaller schools have higher levels of student-teacher interaction and more resources allocated directly to students. And if I were preident, I would provide subsidies for summer exploratory programs -- each school would have an advisor for students looking for internships. I believe that none of us would have gotten into MIT if not for internships and summer programs.
I would reintroduce and instate the DREAM act to grant citizenship for illegal immigrant students. I believe that children shouldn’t have to pay for their parents’ mistakes. If a child were to get into MIT, then that child should become an engineer, an entrepreneur, a researcher, not a deportee. Critics may argue that schools will lose large sums of tuition money, but in actuality, these students-turned-workers will donate as alumni. Perhaps that student might be the next Fariborz Maseeh ScD ‘96.
Moving away from education, I would legalize gay marriage. I have been an activist for gay marriage all my life because I champion love of all forms. Gay couples face discrimination not by their marriage status but by the legal entitlements attached. They are not allowed tax exemptions, inheritance in death, testifying in court, and thousands other rights. If I were Blind Justice, I’d smell foul disenfranchisement. And if I were president…
I would advocate for smart cuts in healthcare. Our healthcare system is heavily burdened by unnecessary medical procedures. In the doctor’s office, patients order prescriptions and tests when they are not needed. Doctors acquiesce because doing so assuage patients’ concerns that the physicians have done their jobs. The onus is on the doctor to be economic but still fully aid the patient. I would meet with hospitals to negotiate appropriate regulations so hospitals don’t fall into their profligate habits.
I would also seek to raise health awareness. The U.S. falls in 11th place as healthiest nation because we do not take our checkups seriously. Preventive medicine takes a second seat to emergency medicine. Instead of taking preventive measures, we choose expensive scans and drugs. Why? Because we can. Avastin, an ineffective anti-cancer drug with nasty side-effects, cost $88,000 per year. Yet Medicare patients order it because it’s their only option. They’re better off without.
I would terminate offshore oil-drilling and invest in alternative energy. The U.S. consumes 25 percent of the world’s oil, but we hold only 3 percent of world’s oil reserves. Our dependence on foreign oil has precipitated disasters like the Gulf spill and the 2010 Deepwater Horizons explosion. Our biome suffers. Yet next week ExxonMobil will drill a bypass to its Silvertip crude oil pipeline, and Shell Oil Co. will begin drilling in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast as early as next year. We need to smartly invest in green technology such as solar and wind farms because their energy conversion rates inch higher each year. And although they are not practical sources of energy right now, we can still rely on biofuels and nuclear energy because they are clean. Petroleum has polluted much of our air and has devastated much of the biodiversity landscape. We need to be just as conservation-minded as brilliant-thinkers.
As Mr. Kornbluth has invited scholars into his roundtable discussion, I invite you, my fellow classmates and professors. What would you do if you were president?