The other day the Hillary Clinton campaign issued a press release attacking Barack Obama for being ambitious, and managed to dig up a third grade essay he wrote. I think it is preposterous to criticize Obama for this. When we are young, and even in college making life plans, we all have ideas and dreams as to what we'd like to be when we grow-up. They are not all serious. When I was in first grade I wanted to be an astronaut.
In spite of all this, having worked on campaigns and such, people do not normally get elected by accident. It's a lot of work to be a candidate, and you need to want it if you are to get elected. Of all the issues and differences between the candidates in this campaign, I find this one to be rather petty. If you are running for an office, including President, there is always going to be a component of ambition there.
The WPI ECE Department compiled an interesting reading list. If you are looking for something new to read, I recommend checking it out.
Here is an argument from Columbia University as to why voting is rational.
Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and after being diagnosed with it gave a moving lecture at his school. It has now become an internet sensation, and if you have not gotten a chance to see it yet, I highly recommend sitting back and spending the hour to watch it.
From the New York Times website I discovered the Freakonomics Blog which lead me to buy the book the blog is based off of. I also managed to finish the book today, and I must say it is as good as I expected. A collection of interesting anecdotes, data, and adventures that challenge preconceived notions about a large variety of things. It emphasizes the importance of properly looking at data and its context, not just using correlation. My favorite chapter was the one where they utilized data from the Chicago Public School System to ferret out cheating teachers. The chapter showed a problem with standardized testing and did an excellent job of demonstrating the effect of incentives on the actions of people we might not consider in a situation. I am personally not a big fan of standardized testing, but it does have its upsides and provides administrators with important data.
I also found to be of interest to me as someone who is involved in politics, the chapter that describes the effect of money on political campaigns. Levitt asserts that money does not have a large influence on political campaigns, but rather the receptiveness of the public to a candidate is what determines if he wins. This contradicts conventional wisdom in political circles, that raising money is an important measure of the ability of a candidate to win a race. However I doubt my candidate will win if, as Levitt asserts, I do not bother to vote in the election because my vote does not have a large impact. That is why we have political parties, unions, and other interest groups today. When people organize, and block their votes together, the value of their vote increases, and their voices are more likely to be heard. It is much easier and more cost effective for a politician to attempt to persuade a group of likeminded people, than to appeal to individuals. When you participate in these groups, your voice actually becomes amplified. So my suggestion is do not go to the voting booth just for you, but go for what you believe in. Work with other people, and together you can have a real impact.