That was a joke, of course. Barack Obama never said such a ridiculous thing. And no sensible American would care what grades Hillary scored in high school. Hillary herself would probably have forgotten. In the quest for the best presidential candidate, there must surely be many better things to focus on.
Tragically, this joke is not a joke in Singapore. The search is on for the next Prime Minister of Singapore. And from the sound of it, A-level grades are an important criterion:
ST April 2, 2008We learn that PM Lee Hsien Loong wants to groom his potential successor over a 15-year period. Possible candidates should now be in their 30s or early 40s - let's say they are about 37 years old, on average. The actual successor would take office as PM around the year 2023.
PM still looking for his successor
It takes about three elections to groom a leader, so there's no time to lose, he says
By Lydia Lim
THE Prime Minister faces an urgent task: Find and field those who can take over from him before he turns 70.
Already 56, Mr Lee Hsien Loong is seeking political talent in their 30s and early 40s, one of whom he hopes will emerge as his successor.
He has no time to lose as past experience indicates that it takes about three general elections to groom a leader.
This means those who contest the next polls, due by 2011, might be ready to lead only two elections after that.
By then, Mr Lee will be 69 years old.
'That is very late. So there's no time to be lost,' he said in an interview with The Straits Times and Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao at the Istana yesterday.
...... Of concern to him is the outflow of top talent abroad.
He looked at recent data on the 600-odd students who score four As in their A levels each year.
About two-thirds pursue university degrees here, and one-third go overseas.
Of those who go overseas, at least 100 are not on scholarships. About half of these non-scholarship holders do not return but work abroad after they graduate.
In addition, another 100 of those who get their degrees here go overseas to work. They may come back one day but there is no guarantee.
'This flow is going to continue,' Mr Lee said.
'So it's a big challenge to find successors, particularly for politics.'
Thus we may say that whether you become the Prime Minister of Singapore at the age of 51 depends on how well you scored in your A-levels, at the age of 17.
Farsightedness is a virtue. A neurotic obsession with academic grades is not.
In 2008, it would be somewhat insane to scrutinise Hillary Clinton's or Barack Obama's high school grades, as a basis for selecting the next presidential candidate.
And in my opinion, it would be just as insane to choose to groom a Prime Minister to take office in 2023, on the basis of the A-level grades he scored as a teenager, 34 years earlier, in 1989.
Now of course, PM Lee Hsien Loong will not use A-level grades as his sole selection criterion. But the fact that he uses A-level grades as a selection criterion at all is quite shocking.
In my opinion, A-level grades are just simply quite irrelevant. Even if you were the best A-level student in the whole of Singapore, this demonstrates nothing about your ability to lead a nation. And conversely, even if you flunked your Chemistry paper, this doesn't mean that you can't lead a nation.
Also one of the greatest leaders in the history of Europe.