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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Go for the Dream

August 14, 2013

School is about to start and once again students will begin to think about their future.

As a 15-year-old high school student, my interest was politics. I liked the idea of helping people and cutting through red tape.

Throughout high school, I watched the same individuals, year-in and year-out run for class office and time again these same kids were elected.

Still, in the back of my mind, I thought I could do better.

As we know, kids are often stereotyped in high school. Some are considered the intellectual or creative type; others the political type; or an athlete, or perhaps someone is known as one of the bad boys/girls.

I excelled in basketball, and as such classmates saw me as an athlete and not someone who would make a good candidate for class president.

However, in the spring between my junior and senior years, I decided to take the plunge and announced my candidacy for senior class president. To say the announcement took my classmates by surprise would have been an understatement. I had not been active in school affairs and was not seen as someone who could negotiate with the school's administration. I had other ideas though and embarked on a campaign to live out my young dream of running for office.

The incumbent class president decided not to run; so many others seized the opportunity to jump into the race, making it a candidate field of six.

Admittedly, my initial marketing campaign was a flop and only served to strengthen the idea that my forte was basketball – not politics.

Fortunately, one of my class buddies was a bright guy who would later attend Harvard University and Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. He volunteered to re-make my campaign signs, using first-rate stencil materials and great colors, and the following morning there was a marked improvement in my advertising campaign throughout the school.

While things were improving, the major obstacle remained, and it was this notion that I wasn’t up to the job of being senior class president.

Not being one to be deterred, I surprised classmates with a one-on-one marketing approach. I telephoned targeted students at home after school to ask for their vote. I wrote and mailed personal letters to many key students whose vote and support I needed to win. Both were huge surprises for those on the receiving end of my outreach efforts, after-all kids rarely, if ever, received a piece of mail or a telephone call at night or on a weekend.

Still, the outcome would hinge on the important all-student assembly held on the day of the election where each candidate spoke directly to the senior class.

Most of the kids kept their speeches on the light side, looking to win votes with humor. I took a different tact, hitting the issue of qualifications head on, and using as an example, former President Harry Truman as someone who was thought to be lacking in qualifications when he assumed office, yet turned out to be one of our great Presidents. 

My speech read, in part, “It has been said that I don’t have the ability to be president of our senior class. It’s fortunate that we live in a Democratic society where an individual can be a candidate and elected to high office regardless of his education, or whether he’s a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. This also applies to the election of senior class president.”

Continuing, “The history books tell of a young man with responsible leadership ability, who attended high school, could not afford to attend college, worked on a railroad construction gang, as a clerk in a bank, and on his father’s farm. This young man became the 33rd President of the United States. I know that I have this type of responsible leadership to lead our class as your president, and do a good job”.

The speech concluded, “You and I shall pass through these halls but once. Any good thing, therefore, we can do for our school and class, let us do it know, let us not defer it, nor neglect it, for we shall not pass this way again.”

The speech received a standing ovation, and as the final votes were counted later that day, the results showed that I had defeated the other five candidates.

A young dream was fulfilled and a lesson learned.

Do not defer nor neglect your dream.

For we shall not pass this way again.