Celebrating Presidents Day: The Education of Our National Leaders

As the leader of the most powerful country in the world, the President of the United States must responsibly manage both domestic and international affairs. Lucky for us, though many Presidents did obviate the traditional college and university system, each did clearly possess the willingness to educate himself. So in honor of President’s Day, let’s examine some of the more unique educational paths to the Presidency.


George Washington, our very first Commander in Chief, attended the College of William and Mary to obtain his surveyor’s license. Even though the early death of his father abruptly halted Washington’s formal schooling, he remained an enthusiastic proponent of education. In his will, he provided resources and funds to support three different educational institutions.

Many people overlook the fact that Thomas Jefferson was an intellectual. It wasn’t that he just smart a President, he was an exceptionally smart person. At the age of 16, Jefferson enrolled in President Washington’s alma mater, the College of William and Mary, where he studied mathematics, metaphysics and philosophy. Jefferson graduated after only two years, with highest honors – and proceeded to earn admission into the Virginia State Bar some five years later.

Seven score and eight years ago, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, proclaiming a birth of freedom and equality in the nation. Through his conquests on a less beaten road, Lincoln personified the American Dream-in total, Honest Abe received approximately 18 months of formal education, most of which was provided by unqualified instructors. Lincoln was mainly self-educated and a self-guided reader, spending countless hours digesting every newspaper and book that came his way.

Three prominent individuals reached presidency from military-educated backgrounds. Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower claimed their stakes at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. And even though President Eisenhower’s parents rejected militarism, they couldn’t say no to a free education. Before Jimmy Carter’s stint as a successful peanut farmer and one-term president, he bested hundreds of other midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating 59th in his class of 820.

Not only did Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt share the same last name, they were fifth cousins and Harvard College alumnus as well. Teddy was an ambitious reader with a photographic memory, earning Phi Beta Kappa honors and admission into Columbia Law School-he dropped out of law school after only one year to pursue a career in politics. Better known as FDR, the younger Roosevelt followed Teddy’s footsteps. FDR was also admitted into Columbia Law School, but dropped out after passing the New York State Bar.

Some of our more recent presidents are no slouches either. Bill Clinton earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, received a Rhodes Scholarship to study government at Oxford, and acquired a J.D. from Yale Law School. Contrary to the opinion of many folks on the left, George W. Bush is no dummy. George W. is a Yale alumn, and he is currently the only president with an M.B.A.-from Harvard Business School, no less. Our prevailing chief executive, President Barack Obama, graduated from Columbia College with a degree in political science. He is also the second president to have earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

As evidenced by the contrasting degrees of education among our presidents, no standard institution or instruction is needed to ascend to the highest office in the land. Although many of our previous leaders earned degrees from highly-ranked universities and colleges, many others emerged from humble, unassuming beginnings. Success is only limited by self-imposed restrictions. Pay homage to our presidential predecessors and celebrate your potential triumphs as well.

2012 State of the Union Address on Education

Last night, January 24th 2012, President Barack Obama delivered his 2012 State of the Union address. It was filled with a teamwork concept of lawmakers to shore up a potential long-term financial crisis and risk to traditional American lifestyle and the middle class. He also focused on energy, tougher banking and financial restrictions, health reform, tax adjustments for the wealthier Americans, and educational improvement.

Since we’re mainly focused on higher education and financial aid, we’ll only speak to that point of the State of the Union.

First off, President Obama spoke about education being a major part of his agenda. He believes America should be a country that leads the world in educating it’s people.

“An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world,” Obama said. “An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.”

So What Did Obama’s 2012 State of the Union specifically say about American Education?

He started off congratulating states and local educators for raising their standards for teaching and for learning. And doing it for less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education every year. That’s the first time in a LONG time that has happened.

He spoke about the importance of teachers. And in a time where a lot of other countries are spending MORE on teachers and education, budget cuts and deficit worries have forced American states to lay off thousands of teachers. He offered suggestions on reward programs and providing additional resources to state education to keep, hire, and employ more and better teachers who are happy with their jobs.

He wants to increase graduation rates and called on states to pass new laws to mandate that all students stay in school until they graduate or hit 18 years of age.

President Obama addressed concern over the growing cost of tuition stating that, “…the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July.”

He implored Congress to extend the tuition tax credit his administration has already started as well as loan borrowing cost reductions. The President has already put loan borrowing policy into place that reduces the burden on student repayment plans. He wants to double the number of work-study programs available so students can work their way through school and increase aid to ease costs.

Lastly, he warned higher education institutions to keep their costs down and education affordable for everybody. Obama said, “So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can’t be a luxury – it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

So What does the 2012 State of the Union on Education Mean for Me?

In our opinion, it’s clear that the President realizes the importance of affordable education. We believe the current tax breaks and borrowing percentage reductions will continue as is, maybe even get better. The Obama administration has already bumped up the Pell Grant to $5500 and that may increase as well in the near future. There seems to be a strict focus on making higher education as affordable as possible for every citizen while increasing student and financial aid options to every student. This should only get better as we move along, especially now that private colleges as well as university institutions are going to be on notice to keep their skyrocketing costs from going up.

It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with President Obama and his organization, there is a focus on education and it still seems like a great time to apply for college and take classes. Financial aid will only increase and we’re already aware of the benefits of a college education.

Exemplary Non-Profit and Higher Education Leadership – Blenda Wilson, PhD

Retired President, Nellie Mae Educational Foundation

This article is part of groundbreaking leadership research has received extensive endorsements and enthusiastic reviews from well-known prominent business, political, and academic leaders who either participated in the study or reviewed the research findings. A total of sixteen leaders were interviewed on the subject of “Leadership and Overcoming Adversity.”

Dr. Wilson overcame multiple adversities. These included significant race, gender, and age discrimination. Blenda’s first experience with major discrimination was during her high school years in New Jersey. Though Blenda was in the National Honor Society, Wilson’s high school guidance counselor totally refused to discuss or help Blenda get into a college. Blenda’s comment was “Actually, she told me to ‘take a typing class’… then said, ‘You’re nice looking, and you might be able to become a secretary. ‘”

Wilson just ignored the “mean” counselor and she directly contacted several colleges for admission and scholarship information. Wilson was accepted to all of the colleges she applied to, including major prestigious universities, such as the “Seven Sisters.” However, major colleges only offered one-year scholarships with a series of renewals. Blenda wanted to get a full four-year scholarship to ensure that she could complete her college education. Cedar Crest College guaranteed Blenda four years of tuition scholarship money, a travel budget and a job. So, Blenda went to Cedar Crest College and got her degree.

She did not allow anything to stop her from receiving her education. After Blenda graduated from Cedar Crest College she earned a Master’s degree in Education from Seton Hall then completed a Ph.D. in Higher Education from Boston College.

Before she earned her Ph.D. and launched her higher educational leadership career, Blenda experienced gender and age discrimination from African American males, both from within her organization and the local community. Though Wilson was clearly more qualified and had more education than her male competition many people were vocal in their opposition to her being appointed as the Executive Director of the Middlesex County Economic Opportunity Corporation and the Head Start Program. Blenda Wilson pointed out, “The African American men in the community were upset that a woman would get this key position… One of the criteria was that they wanted someone with a Master’s degree. I had one. None of the African American men did.” Blenda experienced age, and gender discrimination and prejudice from from black men and white people.

Blenda Wilson shared that taking a leave from her local high school teaching position to become the Executive Director of the Middlesex County Economic Opportunity Corporation, “actually changed my life. I started doing the Head Start program… This was all in the 1960s, with the “War on Poverty,” the Office of Economic Opportunity. I [Wilson] was going to change the world.”

In 1969, after earning her Ph.D., Dr. Wilson began her career in higher education administration at Rutgers University. Then, from 1972 to 1982 Blenda “was youngest Senior Associate Dean in the Graduate School of Education at Harvard,” where, once again, she encountered age discrimination.

Dr. Blenda Wilson was the First Vice President for Effective Sector Management at Independent Sector (1982 to 1984). Independent Sector is a nonpartisan coalition of approximately 600 organizations that lead, strengthen, and mobilize charitable communities.

While serving in the governor’s cabinet as Executive Director of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, she created a plan (that became law in 1985) advocating for more efficiently organizing higher education within the state.

Dr Wilson was the first woman to head a four-year higher education institution in the state of Michigan becoming Chancellor of the University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus from 1988 to 1992. Wilson was widely recognized for her outreach to Dearborn’s Arab-American community and Detroit’s African-American community.

During Dr. Wilson’s tenure as president of California State University, Northridge, from 1992 to 1999, Dr. Wilson enacted a number of strategic plans to better serve the populations of the San Fernando Valley. Wilson also led the University in the enormous task of rebuilding of the California State University after the devastating 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Dr. Blenda Wilson was a former Chair of the prestigious American Association of Higher Education. Wilson was the first woman to Chair the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and was Deputy Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston where she served on the Board of Directors from 2003 to 2006. Dr. Wilson has served on the Board of Directors of numerous non-profit corporations such as the Getty Museum, The College Board, and has recently served as the interim President of her undergraduate Alma Mater, Cedar Crest College.

Dr. Wilson served as the first President and Chief Executive Officer of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation from 1999 to 2006. The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, established in 1998, is New England’s largest public charity dedicated to improving academic achievement for underserved communities. During her seven-year tenure Dr. Blenda Wilson was a very successful CEO at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

Under Dr. Wilson’s leadership, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF) distributed more than $80 million in grants to various educational institutions and to non-profit organizations to improve the access to college for deserving students. The NMEF was established to promote accessibility, quality, and effectiveness in education from preschool through postsecondary levels, especially for under-served populations. The Nellie Mae Education Foundation has net assets of approximately $400 million, making it one of the largest foundations in New England, and the largest focused exclusively on improving higher education.

Dr. Wilson has received honorary doctorate degrees from more than 25 colleges and universities, including Cedar Crest College, Rutgers, the University of Massachusetts, Brandeis University and Boston College. Wilson has served on the boards of trustees of Boston College and Union Theological Seminary, the board of directors of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, the board of directors of Higher Education Resource Services, and the boards of Boston’s “After School and Beyond,” Boston College, and Federated Dorchester Neighborhood Houses. Wilson currently serves on the Board of Directors of Medco Health Solutions.

Dr. Blenda Wilson has an impressive lifetime track record of effectively dealing with complicated issues of education policy. Dr. Blenda Wilson still takes time out of her busy schedule to mentor and coach select prospective female leaders.

The Dr. Blenda Wilson story shares a lifetime struggle against adversity, especially age, race, and gender discrimination, and is an excellent example of a prominent successful leader who overcame adversity!

The Jobless Can Return to College – President Obama’s Plan

The Us President Barrack Obama has been on the front position in the campaign on the broaden literacy to any American who is eager to obtain education. He supports them in earning a graduate degree online. This will eventually lead to an improvement in the economic crisis in addition to individual gain of the jobless to enhance their lives by moving up…

President Obama tackling this issue from an exceptional viewpoint which involved making unemployment insurance a serious stepping stone for future works. His achievement on this issue lies in the readiness of colleges and the various States to modify the rules which they have been implementing in the past.

On 8th May, 2009, Mr. President while making the announcement regarding the planned rule change, asked the Labor Department to request States to make exemptions so that the unwaged (especially the jobless) may secure their benefits if they wish to opt for an online bachelor degree program or the traditional ‘brick ad mortar’ college. This is essential because after the elimination of unemployment benefits; they are not capable to meet the criteria for federal assistance as they are asked to show evidence of regular financial earnings.

Due to the fact that State governments and not Washington determine the eligibility status for unemployment, they want them to be energetically in search of jobs. On the whole, this may make the ability to attend school more difficult and therefore the stress on enrolling for online degree programs.
In his speech, President Obama declared that the Education Department will call for colleges to reflect on financial circumstances of the unemployed masses submitting applications for Pell Grants and other sorts of financial assistance obtainable in the institutions. Accordingly, from July 2009, low income earning students will gain a Pell Grant of between $500and $5,350.

Present president of the American Association of Community Colleges, George Boggs, highly praised Obama saying that he will do away with obstacles and discouragements that have obstructed the unemployed from looking for higher education. However, one state-level critic (South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican) blamed Obama of keeping away from a very essential question about – cost! He is quoted as having said that like a lot of of the president’s initiatives, the answer for who pays the bill is state taxpayers and future generations and no matter how well-intentioned this proposal is, we can not go on stacking debt on top of debt to deal with problems that were, in various cases, formed by over borrowing.

In short, Obama’s initiative has been warmly welcomed by many and you may visit an online education portal in order to get information on the best institution offering marketing and education, or any other degree program of your choice.