I’ve never written about this before, but when I was in junior high school and high school in Mahopac, N.Y., I ran for student class government five out of six yearsâ€”and never, ever won.
It was truly humiliating. The first election came in seventh grade, when I ran against Jerry Testler for student class president. My whole platform was based around the idea that we needed a third lunch line. I lost, if memory serves, by about 300-to-30.
In four of the ensuing five years I ran again for different positions, and each time I would get thumped. I have no idea, looking back, why I kept running. I probably enjoyed the attention and the buzz and the excitement of it all; the hope that maybe, just maybe, I’ll win this time.
As a senior, I entered my last election, this one for student council. Having never sniffed victory, I took a different approach this time around. I ripped off an old Selma MLK speech, peppered with feisty language and angry accusations. When Mr. Maloney, my history teacher, read the speech, he told me I wouldn’t be allowed to read it. I noddedâ€”the ignored him. Those two minutes were the best of my young life. Kids were going crazy; chanting my name; whistling; hollering. Sure, they were probably mocking the loser who runs five times. But I was gleefully unaware. And when I finished I knewâ€”in my heartâ€”that I would finally be elected.
Then they announced the results, and I lost yet again.
The heartbreak was real, and intensely painful. But 18 years later, my wife tells me the story is the opposite of embarrassing; that it tells the early roots of a kid unwilling to accept rejection.