I Was Class President Once

 

I don’t remember exactly what started the campaign. Something to do with the selection of our class song? Teenage angst? Illusions of grandeur? Or perhaps I was just bored. Either way, it was the end of the school year—our last days as juniors before our ascent into seniordom—that I threw my name in the running for class president.

The whole thing came together in a matter of minutes.

Our class meeting—election time—was less than an hour away. I was sitting in the back of homeroom when, out of frustration, one of my classmates complained about the direction of our class. It was too serious. The climate dull and boring. The popular kids were just getting more popular. We were about to be seniors where was the fun?

“Man, our class is really gonna suck,” he whined. “Our class song is gonna suck. Our prom is gonna suck. Our spring break is gonna suck. Everything about senior year is gonna suck. Screw this, I should run for class president.”

“You wouldn’t have a chance, dude,” another student said. “Nobody likes you.”

“Yeah, you’re not popular, dude,” a third chimed in. “No way you could win, but I bet Zev could.”

All three turned to me. I looked up, my eyebrows raised to “seriously, dude?”

Who were they kidding? I was a slacker. Class presidency sounded like too much responsibility. Besides, I was content with the status quo.

Then a strange thing occurred. They started chanting my name. At first, it was just the three of them, but then the rest of the homeroom— a mixture of freshman and sophomores thrilled for a random bout of class disruption—took up the chant as well.

ZEV! ZEV! ZEV! ZEV! ZEV!

The sound was intoxicating and once flamed, an ego was a hard thing to tame. I immediately said yes. How could I refuse such a zealous endorsement?

The only problem, I was a longshot. Our future class president pretty much a lock. The front runner had it all: experience, dedication, popularity, and the backing of all the class elites—the preps, the jocks, and the homecoming king and queen. Her name a shoe in. Her competition none. Her throne all but guaranteed. The election just a formality we had to participate in in order to have a resemblance of democracy.

But I wasn’t deterred. I rallied my base—the stoners, the slackers, the nerds, the disenfranchised, and the kids who hardly showed up for school but who happened to be there that day. I said obscenities. I played off their fears. I worked them up into a frenzy and presented myself as savior. My only platform: to make our class not suck.

Do you want our class song to suck?

NO!

Do you want our class to be run by a bunch of people who suck?

HELL NO!

Do you want our spring break to suck?

%$#@ NO!

Once I had my supporters foaming at the mouths, I marched them down to the cafeteria for our class meeting. The establishment was there waiting, already having the room set up and the ballots ready. They eyed our electrified spirit with suspicion and perhaps smug satisfaction, knowing that the election was theirs, already in the bag.

I used that smugness against them. “Look, they think they’ve already won. It’s rigged I tell ya.” Eight years of resentment, of being second-class classmen, of being misunderstood, of being ignored, of being overlooked, of not being popular boiled over. My supporters took up the battle cry.

“Unsuck the suck! Unsuck the suck! Unsuck the suck!”

The establishment looked uneasy as we took our seats. Silence was called for, but my base would not be silenced. They kept on grumbling until it was time to vote. Ballots were handed out with confident faces, but I couldn’t help but notice the worried look in their eyes as they scanned over my supporters. Their minds doing the math. Did they have the votes they thought they had? Did enough deplorables skip school today? Did people really want a slacker for president?

In the end, it was a close race. Every vote counted. But there was no electoral college to screw me over. I won the popular vote and won the election. Victory. I was class president elect of the class of 2000. My supporters were enthused. Chants of ZEV! ZEV! ZEV! filled the cafeteria. My ego swooned. I was class president, bitch.

Basking in my glory, I took the entire summer to not think about anything political. But then came the start of senior year and my actual inauguration. Reality set in. As a natural-born slacker I was ill-prepared for what awaited me.

Wait a minute . . . I actually have to do things? I thought class president was just a nondescript title like homecoming king, not an actual job with . . . gulp . . . responsibilities.

Huh, I have to run class meetings now? No more sitting in the back of the room laughing, making noises, and not paying attention. What, I have to show up at class fundraisers, even the ones after school? No more free-riding and letting other people do the work for me. Wait, I have to help make the homecoming float and participate in all other homecoming activities? No more skipping those and just screaming SENIORS! SENIORS! SENIORS! at prep rallies. Wow, this really sucks.

I hated everything about being class president except for the idea of it.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I was in over my head. A little over a month into the job I called it quits. I was replaced by someone from the hierarchy. My base didn’t notice or care. They were only concerned with chaos, disrupting the status quo, not actual change. They returned to their apathy and so did I.

Only one of the fears of my campaign came true. Our class song did suck—damn you, Garth Brooks—but everything else was fine. As it turned out, our class didn’t suck. Yes, the social fabric was still the same. The preps were still the preps, the jocks still the jocks, and the stoners still the stoners, but we were all seniors, united in our quest for graduation.

As a slacker, I learned the hard way that sometimes the suck you’re complaining about is not nearly as bad as the suck you often create for yourself and that it’s easy to change something just for the sake of change, but much more difficult to do the actual work—the showing up and being there every day.