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I weep for the simplicity of my electoral past

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By Kes Colbert

I don’t know about you, but I did not get invited to the inauguration. They had to swear in the new president without me. Come to think of it, Truman didn’t send for me, nor did Ike or JFK or Lyndon B... There seems to be a trend here.

I reckon these presidents know my limitations. I’m not exactly “inaugurating” erudite. We didn’t waste much time swearing’em in back in my formative years.

Bob Edwards was the tallest guy in the second grade. We made him class president. We didn’t have to listen to his platform, read through his portfolio, wait for a CBS special report on his witch incanting aunt who lived out on the Greenfield highway or waste time passing out ballots and pencils. There were no caucuses, smoke filled rooms, hanging chads or pork barrel promises. And the whole election didn’t cost one red cent. We were pretty primitive, I guess, and the mainstream would laugh at us now.

Bob didn’t do nothing the whole year. But folks, in Miss Dorothy Booth’s class in 1954, NOTHING was exactly what we needed. Everybody got to class mostly on time. Nobody drew blood when we cut out those turkeys and pilgrim shoes at Thanksgiving. Dick, Jane and Spot kept us entertained all year. That fight between Pam Collins and Ricky Hale was contained before Pam could do too much damage. We learned. We grew. We bonded. Everybody passed. It goes without saying we elected the right man.

Sometimes you can over-think this election stuff.

We re-elected him the next year by acclamation. There was no vice president. Bob wasn’t going anywhere. Nobody moved in or out of our little town. There was no cause to consider impeachment because there really wasn’t any “wrong doing” afoot in 1955. We had no class treasury because we had no money. We didn’t need a secretary because we never had a meeting. A parliamentarian would have been superfluous for that same reason. We could’a used a sergeant-at-arms to keep Pam under control but we didn’t have anybody dumb enough to take that on.

You might think our class government was a tad understaffed but you can’t imagine how smooth things ran. The rules were pretty clear cut. Most everyone accepted their responsibility and respected the kids around them. We settled our problems before the 3 o’clock bell rang.

We were going to elect Jimmy Carter in the fourth grade but Suzie Cozart didn’t think his name sounded very presidential. We couldn’t think of anybody else and Bob said he was tired of shouldering the load. We didn’t have a president that year. I look back on it now and realize it was the best year in the history of the school. Miss Dinwiddle actually smiled at us. The radiator busted in January and we got three days off. And the spelling words weren’t that much harder than the year before.

They named me to be the fifth grade president. There was no inauguration, no red, white and blue bunting, no limo ride, no confetti dropping from the ceiling and no great shout of acclaim as I ascended to the throne. Two months later the Soviet Union shot Sputnik into orbit and I had classmates demanding I do something. They blamed me because America had dramatically fallen behind in the space race. I quickly realized this presidency gig was OK until something goes wrong! I wrote a letter to Wernher von Braun to find out how we let the Russians get the jump on us.

I didn’t get re-elected.

In junior high the teachers organized an election and stressed the importance of electing “proper” representation for our school. They actually passed out small shards of paper for us to write down our choice. And they carefully admonished us to use our heads, understand the importance of the office and its impact on the upcoming school year and make our decision based on what was best for the entire class. I voted for Kay King because she was the prettiest girl in the eighth grade and her name was easy to spell.

By high school we had people “campaigning” to be class officers. They would sit with you at lunch and mostly talk down the opposition. The only platform they stood on as far as I could see was the inadequacy of the other guy. Some went so far as to put up signs! We would have an assembly about the third week of school and hold speeches. Anne Alexander wanted to clean up the halls and paint the janortorial closet. Ruth Ann Wiley was going to initiate a student advisory committee. LaRenda Bradfield spoke of her dream to host a fashion show “right here in the auditorium.” Bobby Brewer got up and said he wanted to come to school an hour later, get out an hour earlier and have a two hour lunch period. He won by a landslide!

We managed to complicate this thing to gigantic proportions. And I’m not sure the class was any better off for all the posturing, gesticulating and balloting that was eating into our idyllic days of youth. The class divided into clicks and groups. There was some serious sniping and gripping going on. People went on a fault finding rampage. And there was an underlying tone of mistrust and uncertainty.

I remembered the Bob Edwards years. And I wept.