April 6, 2007
Anyone listening to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program yesterday morning (afternoon back east) heard his discussion with the 22 year old College student, Jenny Ballantine, who made news this week for the question she asked Democrat Presidential candidate, John Edwards. She expressed frustration at how hard it is being on her own as a student with student loans and saying,
“I need to be able to look to my leader and see words of encouragement, words of hope. I need to be able to trust that person. I need to be able to know that I'm going to be grow [sic in transcript] in a world that's not going to be full of hate and prejudice and racism and to know that I matter, that I wasn't just dumped in this world for no particular reason whatsoever.”
“I'm busting my ass in school, I work 25 to 30 hours a week, and it's just me and my dog. So what can you do for the people that are in my situation, that are trying their damnedest in school, wanting to go to grad school, is going to be hit with the loans--and, uh, I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. I don't know what I want to be when I'm an adult. But I'm 22 right now, so people are like, "Honey, you are an adult." You know what? It's about me. It's about me voting for you or supporting somebody who's going to be the next president. So it's all about me right now. Just give me something.”
What Jenny, and many like her don’t realize, is that they are so far ahead of the game already. Being in college with better than a 3.0 GPA is a good solid foundation for the rest of her life.
Jenny, at your age, 22, I was completing my second tour in Viet Nam and soon to be married the first time. Like you, I had a very rough childhood. My parents didn’t even know I was in Viet Nam until I had been there about 10 months. What college I took was later in 1980 under the old G.I. Bill, as I was married with a family by then and in my early 30’s.
I give that, not to minimize Jenny’s situation, but to show that I too have been where she is and even down to today, am frustrated with life, some of the time. Receiving hugs and kisses from my grandsons makes it all better, though.
Our youth today have been taught that government is the answer to everything. Democrats and even Republicans promise the sun, the moon and the stars to get reelected. The end result is they stay in office and we sit back waiting and expecting what they promise, which rarely materializes, just more empty promises.
For a good example of the futility of waiting on government just look to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as thousands waited at the Super Dome for days and help didn’t come for many days.
Contrast that with neighboring Mississippi and Alabama, which took the brunt of the storm and suffered far more devastation. They didn’t wait for help but started helping themselves and each other until some help could arrive.
At 22 we often think we are at the pinnacle of our life when we are really on the first step of the journey. We are unsure of the future, as it has always been. The only safety net is the supportive friends we acquire along the way and ourselves.
In the interview with Rush, Jenny expressed some considerable obstacles she has already overcome. She needs to be applauded for that as many give up when faced with obstacles.
Rush is correct in telling her to find her passion, regardless of what it is and pursue it with vigor. No politician will ever supply your life’s passion to you. They are pursuing and clinging to their own by whatever means they can muster, power.
One thing Jenny did seem to realize is that every obstacle she overcame taught her some of life’s lessons and earned appreciation for what she accomplished, on her own. Self esteem cannot be given, it can only be earned by our own accomplishments.
In the April 5, 2007 WSJ Opinion Journal, columnist James Taranto, who I ordinarily agree with, wrote what I feel is a condescending account of Jenny’s question of John Edwards. My apologies if I misunderstand Taranto’s column, but his ending remark of “And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what your country can do for Jenny Ballantine,” I feel is out of line.
Likewise, John Edwards reply was equally empty of anything actually substantive. He replied; “God bless you. If I were choosing a president, uh, that's what I'd be doing. I'd be looking for the specifics of what they want to do, because that matters, but I would also be judging them personally, because we need to trust our president.”
Jenny, and all others like her out there, don’t be despondent. Nearly every one of us have asked similar questions or been in your shoes. For thousands of years mankind has been in similar situations. It is a struggle, yes. But, look back at what you have already accomplished and don’t stop there. It is often said, “adversity makes us stronger.” That is very true. We all get our strengths, not from government programs, designed to keep us all down and dependant on them, but by what we set our focus on and accomplish.
That is the traditional American way. Rush told her what I often told my own two daughters as they grew up. “The only limits on you are those you place on yourself.” Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish whatever goal in life you want. Work hard enough and you will acquire it.
Any that tell you different or discourage you, cast them away from you. You don't need people dragging you down with them.
One day, the Jenny Ballantine’s will be inheriting leadership of America. Always remember that we are guaranteed “life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness,” not happiness itself. It is incumbent on us to build our strengths, cling to our values and pull together to achieve our individual dreams and better the country in the process. That is true leadership, what the country needs and what will keep it on the path to its greatness it is known for.
Don’t fall for any politician’s glib and poetic speech, Jenny. Look at your own strengths and approach each challenge as another strength builder. Grab life with all the gusto you have and exude the strength within you outward. You, your friends and our country will notice and be much better off because of you.
UPDATE: Taranto recants his article of yesterday. "We were too hasty to mock Jenny Ballantine yesterday." In Praise of Jenny Ballantine