Why America Needs a Presidential Aptitude Test

By Ned Hickson

Today’s political environment is changing. How can ensure our survival?

If I’m being honest, I have about as much enthusiasm for our choices in presidential candidates as I do for licking a 9-volt battery; I know the result won’t kill me but the anticipation itself is enough to make my tongue curl — because I know it’s still going to sting. As I’ve watched the process of elimination over the last several months, I can’t help but wonder how, with a population of more than 324 million, this is the best we have to offer. Maybe we forgot some people somewhere?

Like Rhode Island. It’s small and easy to overlook.

It also got me wondering why becoming a presidential nominee isn’t harder. Don’t get me wrong, I realize not just any millionaire can become a presidential candidate. But in a country where you have to pass a background check and psychological interview before landing a job at McDonald’s, you’d think we’d at least require the same of someone vying for a position as the Most Powerful Person in the World. It seems like we might even feel obligated to other nations to make sure the Commander-in-Chief of the planet’s most advanced military doesn’t have mommy or daddy issues, an axe to grind, isn’t a power tripper and has a working knowledge of international affairs that extends beyond Fox News.


When I was a chef, I made sure any cook I hired knew how many cups were in a quart, the difference between a teaspoon and tablespoon, and how to poach an egg. If they didn’t know those basic things, I would offer them a job in the dish room instead of the kitchen — and then teach them. I would never expect someone with culinary experience limited to eating fast food to know the intricacies of preparing a fine-dining meal. Yet it seems this presidential election is doing exactly that: settling for a pair of fast-food mentalities vying over the right to prepare a banquet that will likely lead to food poisoning.

I have no problem with a woman president. There are certainly some terrific, highly qualified women who I would support wholeheartedly regardless of their political party.

Hillary Clinton just doesn’t happen to be one of them.

Like many Americans, I’m sick of politics as usual and what seems to be a true lack of representation by our elected officials, many of whom are more concerned about keeping their special interest supporters happy than being the voice of their constituents. I want a president whose “political affiliation” is the American people.

For the people.

By the people.

I just don’t think Donald Trump is that person.


But come November, for all intents and purposes, they will be our two choices. Our nation will be divided, and many will vote for someone simply because they feel they are the lessor of two evils.

How does this happen? Or more importantly, in today’s ever changing political environment, how can we ensure our survival?

I’d like to propose establishing a Presidential Aptitude Test. It would be held prior to the filing deadline required for all candidates. Think of it as political SATs; unless you earn a passing score, you can’t run.


Educate yourself and try again in four years.

To become a U.S. Citizen, you have to pass a test requiring basic knowledge regarding the history of our country, an understanding of its Constitution, the Bill of Rights, important amendments, how our government works, and laws that govern the rights of individuals. How many Americans could pass this test? Not many. But shouldn’t the person representing our nation and its people?

In addition, the test would include a section on basic economics to prove that a candidate understands how the tangled web of trade, the financial marketplace and global economy are the circle of life for more than just the wealthiest among us. Along with equations requiring the use of well-established economic formulas, I would also want answers to questions like:

If Halliburton executives charge $40 per apple and you buy 1 million apples, how many apples would they have while serving a prison sentence for fraud?

There would also be a section covering global studies with an emphasis on geography, cultural history and international affairs. I think it’s important that our president demonstrate a grasp of the complex cultural differences they’ll be dealing with, as well as the ability to find and communicate real solutions to terrorism before using the special Red Phone. Again, I’d like written answers to questions like:

To keep Americans safe from terrorism, would you: a) Eliminate the threat by rounding up all Jews Muslims, b) Construct walls to keep the Mexicans and Canadians out, c) Tell the United Nations it is “fired,” or d) work with world leaders and their agencies to target ISIS members in all countries. (Please explain your answer. Especially if you answered a, b or c)

Lastly, I would want each candidate to receive a psychological exam too determine how they handle stress, along with any predisposition toward narcissism, racism, a God complex, paranoia, compulsive lying, Explosive Personality Disorder and/or addiction to The Home Shopping Network.

Obviously, this exam would be limited to the presidency since, if administered to all branches of government, it could potentially wipe out most of Congress.

I realize this type of exam would be expensive, which is why candidates would be required to pay for it with their own campaign dollars. This could add a much-needed moment of pause for candidates and their supporters, who would know they’ll need more than money, rhetoric and spin doctors to make a viable run for the presidency.

At this moment, someone is being interviewed to determine their experience level; if they reflect the right kind of commitment and ideals; and whether they possess qualities that will prove successful for themselves and those around them.

And if they do, they’ll be issued a hair net.

Shouldn’t our president be subjected to the same scrutiny before being allowed the chance to hold the keys to the city?


Ned Hickson is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist for New Media Corporation. He has been awarded “Best Local Column” from both the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and his weekly column appears in dozens of newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. His blog (www.nedhickson.com) is followed by more than 8,000 people who clearly have excellent taste in columnists.

Ned writes about daily life and important social issues, such as glow-in-the-dark mice and injuries caused by overheated pickles in fast food. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, was published by Port Hole Publishing in 2013. His latest book, Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking Years as a Columnist, will be released this September, also from Port Hole Publishing.

Ned lives on the Oregon coast with his wife, four children, two dogs, a cat and entirely too many seagulls. You can find him online on Twitter, Facebook and his   blog, Humor at the Speed of Life.


Why America Needs a Presidential Aptitude Test


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I've been a journalist and humor columnist at the Siuslaw News for 16 years. I'm also a volunteer firefighter. If the newspaper ever burns down, I will have some explaining to do. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

28 thoughts on “Why America Needs a Presidential Aptitude Test

  1. Truthfully, I couldn’t answer that Halliburton question, so I guess I’m unfit to be president (not to mention too unAmerican). So all in all I’d say it’s a good test. It’s a shame it’s too late to use it this election, because I’m pretty sure both Hillary and Donald would flunk it like a blind man getting a shooting license…Oh wait, that can actually happen in the US.
    For what it’s worth, Americans have my sympathy. I agree that 325 million people deserve and can do better than Hillary or Donald.
    Best of luck!:s

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yep,you can be on the no-fly list and still become a Presidential Candidate. Wait, that’s to buy assault weapons – sorry. Wait, a cray-cray president in charge of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and an assault weapon are the same concept – just a matter of scale.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Its quite obvious the last few presidents, Obama, the pair of Bushes, Clinton, and a few others not only have the proper qualifications for doing as they have been told by those who control the country but those in control have immensely profited by their services. What else could a president do?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We clearly need to take a deeper look at the special interests that control so much of our government, and what we can do to prevent it so that, whoever becomes president, can focus on the will of the people rather than the will of those who stand to gain the most wealth.


  4. Eliminating ties to special interest groups would definitely have to be part of restructuring the nomination system. However, as you said, there are individuals whose money machine depends on keeping things the same. As a country, we’re going to need to be willing to dig deeper and take a hard look at the system that we have allowed to evolve.


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