About Teens, Ayn Rand Answers President Obama from Beyond the Grave

Stuart Hayashi's picture
Submitted by Stuart Hayashi on Thu, 2012-10-25 21:01

As early as 2008, President Obama had already been making passive-aggressive swipes at Ayn Rand. We remember his complaint that "we’ve made a virtue out of selfishness. There's no virtue in that! We made a virtue of irresponsibility, and need to usher in a new spirit of service and sacrifice and responsibility."

This year, President Obama has finally made that antipathy explicit. To Rolling Stone, he proclaims:

Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity –- that that's a pretty narrow vision.

In short, he's repeating the old cliche that Rand is only appreciated by teenagers -- that growing up means growing out of having appreciation for her.

How ironic that the President so reputed to have inspired the idealistic youth of America to vote for him, is now dismissing this very same demographic as being somehow inherently prone to shallowness.

Fortunately, throughout her life Rand always remained appreciative of the idealism of youth. Concerning teenagers and other young people, Rand has a message from beyond the grave for our President:

There is a fundamental conviction which some people never acquire, some hold only in their youth, and a few hold to the end of their days -- the conviction that ideas matter. In one's youth that conviction is experienced as a self-evident absolute, and one is unable fully to believe that there are people who do not share it. That ideas matter means that knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one's mind matters. And the radiance of that certainty, in the process of growing up, is the best aspect of youth. . . .

It is not the particular content of a young person's ideas that is of primary importance in this issue but his attitude toward ideas as such. The best way to describe it would be to say that he takes ideas seriously -- except that "serious" is too unserious a word in this context: he takes ideas with the most profound, solemn and passionate earnestness. (Granted this attitude, his mind is always open to correct his ideas, if they are wrong or false; but nothing on earth can take precedence for him over the truth of an idea.) . . .

Young persons who hold this conviction, do not have to "throw off the leading conformity of the only society they have known." They do not conform in the first place: they judge and evaluate; if they accept any part of the prevalent social trends, it is through intellectual agreement (which may be mistaken), not through conformity. They do not need to know the different types of society in order to discover the evils, falsehoods or contradictions of the one in which they live: intellectual honesty is the only tool required.

--"The 'Inexplicable Personal Alchemy' "