The Making of a President
It is President’s Day. So I will tell you a story from my past that still makes me cringe, about my year as class president.
I ran for Senior class president for one reason: I wanted to give the speech at graduation. The class valedictorian got to stand up and wave. The class president got to make the speech. I was already out of the running for valedictorian, so president was really my only option if I wanted crowds of people to notice me on graduation day.
During election time, I lucked out in that a group of the popular girls in student council were pissed off at the other popular girl who was running for class president. So I weaseled my way onto their “ticket,” even though there was technically no such thing as a ticket. But it meant that I got to have my name on their posters, and that counted for a lot in those days. I had the popular girls’ seal of approval. I was not in the popular “group,” but I was relatively harmless and I like to think that most people liked me. So maybe I was popular. I also had a reputation for being smart, so maybe people voted for me because they thought I was going to clean up the corruption and tackle our class problems with gusto. If that’s the case, those people made a huge mistake. I was a terrible class president; possibly the worst in Clio High history.
The trouble started right away, when we met to discuss which songs would go on the ballot for class song. I attempted to wield my newfound power by pushing through a song that no one in the entire world had ever heard. It’s called “Keeping the Dream Alive” and it’s by a German band called Freiheit. It was on the Say Anything soundtrack, but you probably wouldn’t even know it if you were a dedicated Say Anything fanatic; it was one of those songs that played for about 2 seconds in the background of one of the scenes. I fought and fought for the song, and it ended up going on the ballot, alongside “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” by Boys II Men and “The River” by Garth Brooks. When “Keeping the Dream Alive” was announced on the loudspeaker as one of the three choices, a collective sigh of “what the fuck is that?” could be heard throughout the school. “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” won in a landslide. I found out later that my own friends didn’t vote for Freiheit. “One’s support of his friend’s platform can only go so far,” Jeff Rosenberg told me, sagely.
Problem number two cropped up when it was time to build the Homecoming float. I wanted to build it at Brian Fairweather’s house because he had a big barn and he was my friend. Everyone else wanted to build it at the star quarterback’s house, because his parents would let them drink, a huge part of the float-building process. Again, I pushed through my agenda only to have it blow up in my face … I finally gave up after an ill-fated pomming session at Fairweather’s house that was boycotted by everyone except me and three of my friends.
I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t lend a finger to help after that. Due to my poor management skills, the float itself was kind of a disaster. It was supposed to be a rocket blasting through the opposing team’s quarterback. What it actually looked like was a giant penis ramming the opposing team’s quarterback in the ass. We lost the float competition to the sophomores that year which was practically unheard of. They usually just handed it to the seniors out of habit. You had to make a really, really bad float to lose to underclassmen.
The troubles kept mounting as the year went on. Our class sponsor hated my guts and my co-officers thought I was a total simp. But I still had a chance to redeem myself. The only real responsibility we had as class officers was to raise money for prom. We decided to do a magazine sale. I took charge, thinking if I could pull it off and raise a ton of money for a kickass prom, I’d be able to walk out of the school at the end of the year with my head held high.
As class president, I had one awesome power: I could call an assembly for the entire class once during the school year. I spoke with a representative from the magazine sales company and arranged for him to deliver his pitch to our class on Tuesday morning during second period. At least, I think that’s what I arranged. When we got to the auditorium, he hadn’t arrived. Ten minutes went by. Fifteen minutes went by. The class began to get unruly. Our class sponsor actually cursed at me. “What the fuck is going on?” he asked, most certainly convinced it was my fault. I got on the microphone and did some impromptu standup. It went over like a lead balloon. One good thing did come out of it: since that day, I’ve had absolutely no problem standing up in front of crowds of people and making a complete ass of myself. Once you’ve faced a room full of jeering high school students, anything else is cake.
After waiting for 1/2 an hour, our sponsor made the decision to send everyone back to class. Minutes after we left, the representative arrived. “Where have you been?” I asked him, totally frantic.
“It’s 10:45. You told me to come at 10:45.”
“I said 9:45!”
“Nope, you said 10:45,” he said, showing me his planner. “See, it’s in my planner.” It was definitely in his planner, which proves nothing. To this day, I don’t know who was in the right. I like to think I would have never made such a huge mistake, but who knows? It doesn’t really matter, anyway; as the high school kid in the situation, I was going to get the blame no matter who was at fault.
The magazine sale went on, but it was a disaster. Getting high school kids to sell things is difficult enough with a huge motivational push; when they have to take the initiative to collect the materials and do the work themselves, it is impossible. From that moment on, I essentially ceded my president-ship to my VP, Erica Fournier. She took over and did an amazing job, raising enough money for us to have a great prom at a beautiful location in Flint. In a just world, she probably should have delivered the speech at graduation, but as my last official duty and the only real reason I wanted to be president in the first place, I saw that speech as the only thing I had left.
If I do say so myself, I knocked it out of the park. Not really enough to redeem myself for a year of abject failure, but at least enough to make me feel like there was a place for me somewhere in the universe. And that place is standing on the stage, taking credit for a victory that is not really mine. Retroactive thanks to Kim Gattiss, Sarah Jonker, Erica Fournier, and everyone else in my graduating class who stepped up and rescued our prom from almost certain disaster. If you ever want to do another magazine sale, just let me know. I’ll make sure it goes more smoothly this time.