The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been a huge success in terms of its ability to raise funds for the Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) association. Across the nation, power players in the entertainment industry as well as certain politicians have stepped up to the challenge, agreeing to have a bucket of ice cold water dumped over their heads to bring attention to the cause. The majority of participants have also contributed significant sums of money to the organization. However, only some politicians have been willing to “get real” and actually participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge while others have chosen to opt out or not even respond. This inability or unwillingness to participate in a hugely trending national and global cause reflects poorly on politicians who have already been criticized for being out of touch with the American populace. Clearly, only some politicians choose altruism and are real enough to experience a moment of inconvenience and take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Former presidential candidate and Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney graciously stepped up and let his former running mate U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan douse him with ice water for the cause. Without even blinking, Romney took the freezing wet hit for ALS, his usually perfectly arranged hair and class act suit in sopping disarray and then he agreed to donate funds as well while a grinning Ryan, holding the now empty bucket stood just to his left shoulder. Romney further nominated his wife Ann and she accepted and participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. She too has been challenged by disease; in this case, multiple sclerosis and can truly understand what getting “real” means.
President Obama however, did not step up in the same fashion instead a statement from the White House was issued indicating that the Obama’s would donate an undisclosed sum to the ALS Association. President Obama did not even record a video of himself talking about the challenge. Although some claim that it would simply not have been “professional” for the President of the United States to have a bucket of ice water dumped over his head, others are of the mind that his unwillingness to “get real” further shows just how out of touch he is with Americans. President Obama had the opportunity to become the highest profile participant in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and he turned it down flat.
Further, the United States State Department has now “banned’ participation in the challenge by “U.S. ambassadors and other high-profile foreign service officers.” The State Department cites the potential to violate “federal ethics’ that prevent officials from using “public office for private gain.” Banning participation in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge seems rather ludicrous in light of what politicians do all the time under the guise of public office for their own gain, especially when it comes to being re-elected.
President Obama was nominated to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by 86-year-old Ethel Kennedy, the matriarch of the Kennedy family who was real enough to douse her geriatric head with ice water for the cause with a little help from a Kennedy family member. Former president George W. Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and numerous state senators have taken the challenge. Some have speculated that Bush was a reluctant participant but his wife Laura stepped in with a bucket of ice water as he was about to write a check and poured it over his head anyway. Apparently, former president Bill Clinton, however, did not even respond to the nomination and challenge issued to him by Bush.
Currently, according to the ALS Association the Ice Bucket Challenge has generated more than $62.5 million compared to last year’s much less impressive donations of $2.4 million. Clearly, the challenge is increasing both the awareness of the disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease in addition to providing significant funds for further research. ALS is a non-profit organization that has a mission to “fight Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front.” Why then, are so many politicians unwilling to break from the public image mold and “get real?” One can only imagine how much more awareness could be achieved and funds raised if more high-profile politicians and global leaders were willing and “real enough” to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Opinion by Alana Marie Burke