Don't be hesitant

Last night Maddy and I stayed up too late. I had been at book group and when I returned a little before 11 she was at the kitchen table, homework spread in front of her. In tears. Tears are fond of 11 p.m., have you noticed? Some of it was the new workload of high school honors classes, pace, and deadlines. Most of it was the elections.

Ninth grade elections. Is there anything more slippery and unpredictable than high school politics? Maddy decided to run for class president and is experiencing the full emotions of putting yourself out there: hope, betrayal, affirmation, doubts. Middle school maintained a come one, come all approach to student leadership so these are their first real elections. It shows. Apparently one girl is promising doughnuts to everyone who votes for her and that has been a very successful campaign strategy. Gotta love the short-term thinking of ninth grade brains. 

. . .

It's hard not to keep remembering my own first attempt at elected office. I know our children aren't necessarily destined to experience the same fates we encounter (and that it's not all about me!) but I can't help feeling this vicarious nervous feeling for Miss M. No question, those nerves are rooted firmly in my memories of that first election saga.

It was 1982ish. 7th grade? 8th grade? I was the oldest child in my family so I was navigating new, unfamiliar terrain at the junior high but I nevertheless decided to make a run for class president, coasting on the feel-good spillover from my elementary school years. When I look at this picture of myself from that year, I just want to hug her. Oh, Annie, honey. (This is the infamous beauty-school-student, old lady perm.):


In addition to giving a speech and making posters, we had to do a skit. I assembled as many people as I could and invited them over to my house for brainstorming and practice. Lacking any great ideas (I know, fantastic president material, right?) I went with my mom's idea: since my name is Annie, why not a skit around the musical Annie? (Are you feeling sick to your stomach with dread yet?)  So she helped rewrite some words to the music Tomorrow ("Vote, Annie! Vote Annie! Vote Annie for president. She's only your vote away") for everyone to sing.  Then I would come out in my little curly perm with a red dress on and give my speech. I thought it was pretty great.


The morning of the skit, I was really nervous in my little Annie getup. We were somewhere in the middle of the line-up and it became clear pretty quickly that the reigning theme was "cool."  As in: not trying too hard. Lipsynching Foreigner. Spoofing Saturday Night Live (did I even know what that was yet?). Sporting a rainbow shirt or izod. Not wearing a red dress impersonating Little Orphan Annie with earnest lyrics*.  When it came our turn, my posse just kind of muttered rather than sang. We made it through, though, and I am grateful that no one outright heckled.  And, hey, all the teachers seemed to really like it. 

During last period they made an announcement on the intercom. Under the stares of my classmates, I listened as the office of president went to Denise Kidm@n, a tall cool girl who had four older teenage sibling advisors on all things cool. I accepted the condolences of my classmates with a brave smile, burning eyes, and a red dress crumpled up at the bottom of my bag.

. . .

So, you see? I have election baggage.  I want to help but I know I have no idea what the formula is for achieving high office in this generation's 9th grade. Apparently it includes doughnut bribery. I am proud she is taking the risk, putting herself in the ring, and offering to serve and lead. Don't be hesitant, Maddy.

What say you? Do you have election stories? Any ideas or memories of a fun, memorable student election speech? 

*I do want to say: This was not my mom's fault. She was wonderful and supportive and helpful. She made the handouts. She fed the volunteers. {Thank you, mom.} It just goes to show adults really can't predict the recipe of coolness that determines junior high/high school election success. What worked in the 60s didn't work in the 80s. What worked in the 80s, whatever that was, won't work now.