Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama every day, and I have done so since he took office. I could have done it 15 years ago, but that would have been very peculiar.
Dear Mr. President,
As I continue touring colleges with my younger daughter, I want to speak in praise of merit scholarships. Yes, yes, I understand your dedication to the idea that many young people who cannot afford educations need encouragement. I quite agree. But there is also something to be said for encouraging those who are simply the smartest, most talented, and the most dedicated of our young people.
Think about it: Are athletic scholarships given because...oh say...some kid simply wants to play football and hasn't had the chance? No, and coaches all over the country would have strokes if you even suggested such a thing. We can argue about the right and wrong of athletic scholarships in general, but at this moment the fact remains that they are almost without exception handed out entirely on the basis of talent.
So why don't we see that with academics more often? Why do so many top schools seem to pride themselves on telling the best students that they off no aid whatsoever based on merit?
We speak a great deal in this country about urging on the best and the brightest, but when it comes to this critical link between high school and college, in too many cases we turn a blind eye. Simply put, if America wants to thrive; to continue developing excellence, innovation, and imagination; I think we need to reconsider this equation.
Yes, we should do what we can to help those who are struggling, but for our own nation's future, we must find ways to offer more recognition and encouragement to those who excel...no matter what kind of means they come from, or what financial need they may...or may not have.
Hope all is well with you. Call when you can. I'll be back in D.C. tonight.
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