Last Friday, June 10, was Bobby Jindal’s 45th birthday. Say what you want to about the man – and what most people have to say about him is not very good these days – he, when measured by the titles he has achieved, has had an unbelievably successful career in a relatively short time. He’s been a two-term governor of Louisiana, a congressman and a state cabinet secretary. He was also a presidential candidate who did not do well, but neither did all but one person in his party. He did at least get some recognition on the national stage, albeit from the back corner.
We first heard of Jindal in 1996 when Governor Mike Foster made him secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. He was 24 back then and that alone drew recognition. He was a whiz kid of Indian origin with conservative Christian values. When his gubernatorial term ended in January, Jindal had been in public office nearly half his life.
For all his success though, maybe it all happened too fast. Sometimes whiz kids whiz by without experiencing life like the rest of us do. He probably never had a relative in need of Medicaid. He has moved from political job to political job but has never felt the pain of being out of a job and having nowhere to go. He spent the last eight years living rent-free in the mansion but has not experienced struggling to pay a note. From having travelled around in a limousine, he has probably never felt the maddening annoyance of bumpy streets and no parking zones. Nor has he had to experience the fright of walking public streets alone at night.
If Bobby Jindal was entering politics today he would still have his bright mind, but he might better understand the lives of those who he seeks to govern. He grew up mastering public policy but not knowing enough about life.
A slower start may not have only made him wiser but, in the long run, even more presidential.