I had a lot of bad ideas in college.
Many of them came about after a night of imbibing.
Most of them were ill-fated attempts to impress a girl.
All of them provided me with some of my fondest memories.
And that’s how, in the winter of 1996, I began (and quickly ended) my political career when I ran for student body president at The Ohio State University.
As is the case with so many of my favorite college memories, the night began over a few beers at Buffalo Wild Wings, then located at the corner of Frambes and High Street near campus. I was working at the school newspaper, The Lantern, and my journalism colleagues and I had just finished putting out our final edition of the week and had gathered for our weekly “Lantern Happy Hour.”
It was campaign season on campus, which meant all 50,000 students on campus were being inundated with political messages from student presidential hopefuls. We didn’t particularly care for any of the choices and were having a good laugh at all of their expenses. We all began to wonder why anyone would put themself through such a process.
That’s when someone brought up the fact that the president and vice president of Ohio State’s student government received free tuition for the entire year they served. They also received a room and board stipend and free campus parking (not sure why this even mattered to me, as I did not own a vehicle at the time, but it still sounded like a pretty sweet perk).
As the night wore on, the idea of receiving free tuition and free room and board began to sound better and better. The more pitchers we drank, the more jealous we were that two people, none of whom were us, would be the beneficiary of such amenities.
Right about then, a light went on between myself and Tiffany C., my fellow Lantern columnist. We could run for president and vice president. We could receive free tuition. We could get free room and board. We, we, we … all the way home.
And that is how, in the middle of a college bar, our campaign plan was hatched. To me, it was a double win. Not only might I have a chance at becoming president, but I knew it would mean spending mass amounts of time with my running mate, Tiffany C. I’m not sure if she or any of our fellow Lantern staffers knew this at the time (or even know this now), but I had a huge crush on young Tiffany C. at the time, and — in my mind — the long nights working on our campaign clearly would clearly lead to some sort of romantic interlude.
It would be just like being a Kennedy!
We figured the first thing we needed to do was come up with a campaign platform. We figured we would do something no other politician had ever done before … we were going to be completely honest about our intentions. Our literal campaign platform was that we wanted to be elected in order to receive all of the perks that came along with being in office. We even challenged our competitors — none of whom would admit those weren’t at least part of the reason they were running for office — to offer to give up said perks if their intentions were as noble as they had claimed.
Our campaign slogan was, quite literally, “You know why we are running!”
All of this seemed like a pretty good idea at the time. Of course, that also may have been the fermented hops talking. I think we knew we mostly were running as a joke, but as the campaign wore on, there was a small part of me that believed that we might just be able to pull off one of the biggest miracles in political history.
And hey, at the very least, I was getting to spend time with Tiffany C., with whom I was terribly infatuated.
Eventually, election day came. Incredibly, there still was a small part of me that believed we would win — which was even more comical that since we had started our campaign so late in the process, we weren’t even on the ballots and were write-in candidates.
Perhaps not surprisingly, we didn’t win. It wasn’t even close. But we did set a record for write-in votes cast. Even less of a surprise, nothing romantic ever blossomed betwen Tiffany C. and myself. Even better, though, she remains one of my very best friends to this day.
It was a valuable learning experience for me (on several different levels). My biggest take away, however, was that I am not cut out for politics. It takes a certain amount of dedication, commitment and bravado that I do not possess. Another election came and went Tuesday night, and many candidates woke up Wednesday morning feeling the same sort of disappointment I felt that day, but on a much grander scale.
To them, I would say this: While the election numbers may not have turned out in your favor, you had the guts to run. You didn’t sit back and merely complain about the state of affairs; you threw your hat in the ring and tried to enact change. For that, you all have my respect and admiration (even if you may not necessarily have had my vote).
I hope your memories are as fond as mine.
David Fong writes for the Troy Daily News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.