Student Question

It's felt that one of the great achievements of modern times is that society is more fair now that opportunities are open for all. Do you agree with that, do you think these days that the elite leadership class has less solidarity, or maybe both? (answer 100 words)

Expert Answers

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This is a very difficult question to answer in only 100 words, but it may help to narrow down the meaning of the question. In the first place, what do you understand the word "modern" to mean? Is it being used to differentiate the modern age from the ancient and medieval periods? In this case it includes the entire history of the United States of America, and the colonial period as well. Or are you using "modern" to refer only to the period that is within living memory, perhaps since the Second World War?

It is also important to think about what kind of opportunities you are talking about. The question refers to "the elite leadership class." Are you thinking of high political office, or more general opportunities in society?

In either case, there are probably at least two points that ought to find their way into even a hundred-word response to this question. The first is that in America and many other countries women have only been able to vote, let alone occupy offices of political leadership, for the past hundred years. The opportunities for half the population have therefore improved immeasurably. The same can clearly be said for people of color.

For the minority of the population who happen to be white men, however, opportunities for high office do not seem to have improved. The present occupant of the White House is the wealthiest president in American history. Even when recent presidents have not been from wealthy backgrounds, they have had to go through elite educational institutions before achieving the presidency. We have to go back to Ronald Reagan to find a president to whom this does not apply, and he was a film star. This was not the case in the nineteenth century, when President Garfield, for instance, was actually born in a log cabin, and President Lincoln was able to gain an ad hoc education without attending prestigious universities.

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