Presidential candidates need to follow passions

Sally Yoo / The Daily Utah Chronicle
Sally Yoo / The Daily Utah Chronicle

Any child who dreams of becoming president hopes to do more than rework the budget or upgrade regulation. That child wants to use his or her presidential power to do the really cool things, like build a comic book store on the moon or give rocket-powered backpacks to all school kids so they can wake up five minutes before school starts and not have to take the bus.
Anyone who actually makes it to the White House — the odds of which are 1 in 10,000,000 — must have been compelled, at least in part, by such childhood dreams. Those people must have been really passionate about certain specific things they wanted to change. Perhaps those dreams get marginalized during the campaign as more “grown-up” matters take precedence, but they don’t disappear.
When a nation grants a person the presidential mandate, it empowers the president to take the actions he or she outlined in the campaign. It also empowers the leader to dedicate the amazing resources at his or her fingertips — namely, heaps of taxpayer money and some of the brightest minds in the country — to implementing dreams for a better America. That’s one reason why the election is a personality contest: voters will choose the candidate they think has cooler dreams.
It feels today like everyone in Washington is dealing with decidedly uninspiring issues such as budget cuts, but there are members of the Obama administration who are busy realizing dream projects to improve the United States.
The administration recently argued that any paper covering research funded by tax dollars should become publicly accessible within a year of publication. Currently, such papers are only available through expensive journals.
In another vein, the administration is planning a multi-year research effort to create a detailed map of the workings of the human brain. The aim is to enhance understanding of fundamental questions such as how the brain creates thoughts, dreams and memories and how the brain changes in response to learning. Answers to these questions are far off, and it takes a certain level of whimsy to organize such a project — whimsy the federal government might have just the resources to realize.
The same goes for smaller-scale presidential elections.
Neither of the parties running for ASUU earlier this month convinced me that they had the best dreams to improve the U. Sam Ortiz, Vice Presidential candidate for the HOUSE Party, said his party’s emphasis was on drawing more student voices into the governing process. Max Wood, a volunteer with the Peak Party, said his party planned to increase transparency by making its weekly meetings public and more town hall-like.
Based on the last ASUU election’s voter turnout rate of 7 percent, it appears students aren’t eager to dedicate more time to student government activities. While they might not want to come to the meetings, they still want to see nifty new campus features, like the food carts on campus or the water bottle-filling stations in the library. The governed body doesn’t always know what it wants, so elected officials have to be better at assessing needs than listening to them.
The best ideas I heard this week for how to improve life on campus were not from students running for office.
The first was from Tyler Shimko, a student who is leading the push for open access research journals on our campus. Having access to the abstract but not the paper about publicly funded research, Shimko said, “is like paying for a car, then only being able to test drive it.” Shimko’s new group hopes to achieve open access for research conducted at the U. He also wants to drop the one-year moratorium, which he said is impractical, given the pace of progress these days.
The second idea is to serve produce grown in the campus organic garden at the new Fiana Bistro in the Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology building on North Campus. The café’s menu, containing the most artistically and thoughtfully prepared food on campus, will be nicely complemented by the most thoughtfully grown produce in the valley.
Cutting-edge research made available to all creative minds and sustainably grown food supplying visionary young entrepreneurs: these are projects worth dreaming of. Where’s an ASUU presidential candidate with the ambition to make them happen?