I became curious as to whether the lines of letters were always the same, theoretically allowing one to memorize the letters and to thereby cheat on the eye exam. You may think there isn't likely to be a high interest in that, but you might be surprised. For example, I could see people using that method as a way to avoid restrictions on driver's licenses or to escape that dreaded "over the hill" verdict when bifocals are prescribed to those more concerned about vanity than clarity.
I asked the ophthalmologist about this and he demonstrated how the letters can be randomized or changed by the click of a remote control. He did acknowledge that he rarely used that feature. So I can only assume that our society has a sprinkling of people improperly credentialed as having 20/20 vision, all because they memorized the bottom line on the eye chart. Knowing that if there is no vision the people will perish, I will be watching for these near-sighted offenders and will do my part to bring them to justice.
This got me to thinking about what a previous President Bush once called the "vision thing," referring not to an ophthalmological issue but to the need for people who can take the long view and see possibilities that most others overlook. Visionary leadership occurs when one can read the changing lines of type, never believing that memorizing yesterday's chart will be sufficient today or tomorrow.
There's an old saying that "hindsight is 20/20." Perhaps that is so. The visionary will not avoid looking back, but will also understand that the world beyond the farthest hill is what must be known, if imperfectly. There can be no cheating on this vision test, but there will certainly be new ways of seeing.
Can you read the bottom line?: C E P A E