President Obama’s pick for Surgeon General is a Doctor from Alabama, Regina Benjamin. Sounds innocuous enough, but the controversy surrounding her recently is the fact that she is fairly overweight. By fairly I mean obviously. Critics have been slamming the would-be Surgeon General pick because of her weight, saying that she is unfit to tell Americans how to take care of themselves if she can’t take care of herself. Leaders, for years now, have been calling obesity in America a serious problem.
About 1980, the health and physical fitness of Americans began a downward spiral, as the rates of overweight and obesity began to climb. The nation now faces a growing public health epidemic, one that threatens the well-being of future generations. As the nation has become more urbanized, motorized, and screen-centered, an increasing number of people lead sedentary lives, and the rates of overweight and obesity continue to soar. The United States has the highest prevalence of obesity in the world. (The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports)
Those who are backing Dr. Benjamin for Surgeon General (I can’t find the article. I will post it when I find it) are saying that, because of her weight issue, she is in a better position to give advice. She can tell people about the dangers of being overweight because she struggles with it herself. Now, don’t get me wrong, but isn’t that like saying the Drug-Czar should be a heroin-addicted, drug-addict, because he understands drugs. Or like saying the local police chief should be a convicted serial-killer because he understands the criminal mind. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to go to a marriage counselor who has been married three times.
Obviously there are many pressing health issues in America besides obesity and she may be a perfect choice for them all, but don’t give me this crap about her being in a better position because of her weight (I don’t know where she stands on any issues so this isn’t an endorsement). Just admit you like her as Surgeon General despite it, not because of it, and I’ll respect your opinion much more.
Now, what does this have to do with expectations of political leaders?
I remember in elementary school, being given some kind of President’s Physical Fitness Award –I don’t remember the exact title. But during P.E. we had certain things we had to do –pull-ups, sit-ups, etc..— in order to get this award. And it would have been weird to me for the President to ask all of us kids to be active if he wasn’t. Now, I was young and don’t remember if President Reagan was a very active man, but at his age he must have been in order to do the job of President.
I also don’t know whether the first President Bush was very active or not. But I do remember when Clinton jogged to McDonalds, and the infamous CigarGate, so I don’t think Clinton was all that health conscious. The second President Bush was very active and took his health extremely serious. To my knowledge, he didn’t drink or smoke and was either riding a bike or running every chance he got. Now with Obama as President I don’t know what his stance or views will be towards a healthy lifestyle. I know he smokes and drinks, now how much, who knows, but that is different than our last president. He and his family look to be in good shape, so we’ll see.
I say all of that to ask this: What do we expect out of our leaders? Do we expect them to be good role models? And then, what is a good role model? What do we want or not want them to do? Do we care whether or not the president or surgeon general or governor are obese or an alcoholic? Do we want our leaders to be monogamous? Do we care if he/she has a fling on the side as long as they are good at their job?
Do we treat our political leaders differently than we do our employees or co-workers? What if the top salesman in a large company was obese, do you think he would be fired? Of course not. How about if he was cheating on his wife? Nope, the company would care less as long as he is producing great results.
So, why do we expect so much of our leaders in office? And should we? Do the moral and “life” choices leaders make, give an indication of what kind of person they are?
I’m not going to reveal my opinion just yet…I want to hear from you. I’ll post again soon and finish this conversation.