The above quote, concerning the requirements for eligibility
for the Presidency, is from the Constitution of the
United States of America. There are three basic requirements,
with which every American citizen is familiar: the candidate
must be at least thirty-five years of age; the candidate
must have resided in America for at least fourteen years;
and, noted foremost, the candidate must be born an American.
As outlined in the supreme document of our land, the
guidelines are quite clear.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), who was born
in Austria, has endorsed a challenge to this clause.
Last year, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced a
bill that would change the Constitution to allow anyone
who has lived in America for at least twenty years
to run for the Presidency. Earlier this year, at a
meeting of the National Governor's Association in
Washington, Schwarzenegger was quoted as saying, "that
there's no reason why not [to allow a person with
at least twenty years United States residency to run
A woman who came to the Governor's office with a
bit less fanfare than Gov. Schwarzenegger was Jennifer
Granholm (D-MI). Gov. Granholm was born in Vancouver,
A statement issued by Liz Boyd, Press Secretary to
Governor Granholm, stated, On "the issue of a
constitutional amendment allowing foreign born citizens
to serve as president, Governor Granholm has said
this: [e]xcept for Native Americans, we are a country
of immigrants. That is the essence, the fundamental
core, the heritage of being an American."
Hatch has denied that his bill was proposed with
Schwarzenegger in mind. Schwarzenegger has demurred
from suggestions that he is currently considering
a presidential run. Gov. Granholm, also personally
rejecting the idea of a run, supports the alteration.
Still, there is reason for concern that this bill
could immanently amend the Constitution.
Senator Orrin Hatch recommends that twenty years
of American residency is the magic number for Presidential
eligibility. Really though, when does the American
spirit ignite in a person? The drafters of the Constitution
felt that American spirit could only be carried by
the birth of a citizen or by the birth of a nation.
The drafters of the Constitution apparently felt that,
in the future, only the pride of an innate inheritance
of America could qualify someone to govern their great,
though fledgling, nation. With their intentions clear,
they penned the requirement.
That is not to claim that the drafters of the Constitution
were always considered right. Since they gave their
names to the document (excluding the Bill of Rights),
there are been seventeen amendments to the Constitution.
There is even one amendment (Amendment XVIII —
prohibition of alcohol) that is overruled by a subsequent
amendment (Amendment XXI — repeal of prohibition).
In fact, some people consider the most beautiful aspect
of the Constitution to be its elasticity.
Gov. Schwarzenegger, again at the National Governor's
Association, cited Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright
as examples of foreigners who served in the high rank
of Secretary of State who would have been, perhaps
wrongly, Constitutionally denied the right to run
for President. Gov. Granholm, again quoted through
Liz Boyd in a personal e-mail, states that, "[i]f
the concern is about loyalty to America, which it
is, then a requirement that a naturalized citizen
have lived in this country for 25 or more years should
alleviate that concern, particularly where someone
was brought to this country as a child." [Author's
Note: The twenty-five years recommended in this quote
refers to the proposed Presidential candidacy requirement
outlined in a bill similar to Orrin Hatch's bill submitted
to the House by Vic Synder (D-AR) in June 2004].
Nonetheless, there remains a valid concern about
the Constitutional changes which are proposed. In
these days of terror and wars, there is a significant
question regarding to whom we are and should be willing
to entrust our national security. Americans have been
asked to and have sacrificed so many of their personal
freedoms already. It seems unfair to ask the American
public to entrust the highest office in the land to
someone who is not American born and bred.
This concern is isolationist and borne out of fear,
certainly. However, Lincoln ran his reelection campaign
on the slogan, "Neither prince nor pauper ought
to change horses midstream." While it is true
that America always seems to be in midstream (and
perhaps that is our strength), we do seem to be fighting
especially choppy waters presently.
The time to amend the Constitution about an issue
like this is when the waters are steadier. Gov. Granholm
is quoted as saying, "You can’t choose
where you are born, but you can choose where you live
and where you swear your allegiance." Her statement
is a statement of truth and hope to which we can cling
while we wait for the surely deep, calm waters of