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Who you know equals where you go in life

As my life on a sheltered college campus comes to a close, I’m facing some interesting truths. The realization has hit that nobody cares if I think I know the meaning of life – the more pressing realization is that I need a job.

So imagine my excitement when I read about another opening in President Bush’s administration. No, it isn’t the post of treasury secretary, which has already been filled by a Wall Street insider, nor press secretary, which has gone to a Fox News conservative pundit. No, this opening is for the president’s personal aide.

Mr. President, I might just be your man. I realize your personal aide is responsible for such tasks as dog sitting, loading songs on your iPod, providing breath mints and carrying hand sanitizer, but let me tell you, I am ready for the challenge.

There are other reasons I might have a leg up on the competition for such a coveted post. Experience has shown you like to elevate Texans to your side. Your current personal aide, 26-year-old Blake Gottesman, and I go way back. Ok, well not really. But it is true that we both hail from Austin, Texas and our high school football teams used to play each other.

Unfortunately, however, there are a few differences between Blake and I that I would like to note. I am not the son of a real estate developer in Austin and I didn’t date your daughter Jenna. In addition, in 1999 I don’t recall dropping out of the highly selective Claremont McKenna College to work on your campaign. In fact, I didn’t vote for you for governor and certainly never voted for you for president.

Now, of course this last admission will most assuredly eliminate me – and many others – from working as hand-sanitizing expert to the president or speech pathologist specializing in the word “nuclear.” But many of us can probably make a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich, something that Gottesman has been known to do.

Truth is, while the $95,000 a year salary would be nice, I wouldn’t be a good fit in the Bush administration. Trust me – it’s not just the ideological differences. Like so many other college students, I wouldn’t feel comfortable working for either political party’s inner circle of wealth and privilege.

In fact, Gottesman’s story serves as a bigger commentary on what is wrong with America. However you want to spin it, he is a college dropout. Not that college is for everyone or that it automatically leads to success, but it is increasingly the standard that gets grads that job interview. What Gottesman has achieved is due entirely to his direct access to the powerful and elite in this country.

He has worked as a personal aide to the president and is being rewarded by academia. Surrounded by Ivy League grads and no doubt able to garner some sweet recommendations, Gottesman is packing his bags for Harvard Business School to enter its highly selective MBA program. All this despite the fact that the first admission requirement listed on the Harvard Web site is completion of a four-year undergraduate degree program.

I’m not saying the guy isn’t smart. According to Time magazine, Gottesman is said to have “scored in one of the top percentiles on his Graduate Management Admission Test.” But Gottesman personifies the inequality of opportunity that is rampant in this country.

Oftentimes I wonder if some academic pursuits in college should be replaced by more lessons on networking. Enter corporate America and it seems to be less about what you know and more about the people you know who can get you a job. That is what Gottesman has achieved alongside many others in today’s world.

Realizing these truths about the job hunt provides an even greater challenge. Ideological opposition to inequality of opportunity sounds nice in the world of academia, but it certainly doesn’t pay the bills. All one can hope for is that eventually the Blake Gottesmans of the world will have to compete fairly for what they achieve in life.

Aaron Hill is a senior majoring in economics.