Memories Of A Really Bad Student Council President (Part One)

Failure.  I hate that word.  I hate what it means:  "falling short", "not being successful", "a loss of strength", "becoming weak", "dying away".  (All of these definitions are from the 1993 edition of the Gage Canadian Dictionary, probably the best gift I ever received.  (Thanks, Millie!))  But the one definition of failure that stings me the most is this one:  "a falling short of what is wanted or expected". 
In 1992, I failed spectacularly.
3 years earlier I was a freshman at Delta Secondary School.  I was short and skinny but eager to excel.  And despite some academic weaknesses over my 4-year stint there, I graduated with strong percentages. 
When you’re a teenager you’re on the hunt for heroes worthy of your worship.  As the 1980s turned into the 1990s I started respecting people like Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.  (They completely changed the way I watch and assess movies and they inspired me to become a writer.)  But I also admired people in my day-to-day life, especially at school.  There was one guy, in particular, who I wanted to become in the worst way.
In 1989, I was in the 9th Grade.  I attended a number of assemblies with my fellow students in Delta’s stiflingly uncomfortable auditorium throughout the year.  Many of them were led by Wade Perniac, the Student Council President.  He was extremely tall and charismatic.  But that wasn’t what caught my attention.  It was the way he held sway over the audience as he spoke to them.  With microphone firmly in hand, he knew exactly how to draw attention to himself.  I was impressed.
Wade’s best moments as Student Council President always occurred during football pep rallies.  Everybody loved these things because it got you out of class early and they were never boring.  It didn’t matter if you hated football and never attended a game.  It was the only time the entire attending student body collectively embraced something.  
Wade was amazing, getting the crowd fired up by introducing all the players of the football team as they ran down the central aisleway and headed up the stairs leading directly to the stage.  The place was electric.  It was during one of these assemblies that I thought to myself, "I want to be Student Council President, like this guy."    
I remember there was a position open to Grade 9 students in 1989:  Grade 9 Representative.  I decided to go for it but when the day came to make campaign speeches during a special assembly, I stupidly forgot to prepare something and ended up just winging it.  It was a huge blunder.  I lost.
In the end, that was ok.  I found out later that the Grade 9 Reps didn’t exactly get to do the most exciting things for the students. 
As I continued with my studies, I never forgot my dream of becoming Student Council President.  My good friend, Phil Erwood, volunteered his services.  He wanted to be my campaign manager.  I thought that was a cool idea and I gave him the go-ahead to make up some campaign posters.  He made about 10 of them.  Unfortunately, the Vice-Principal scrapped 2 of his creations which, in the end, didn’t matter. 
All of the candidates for all the vacant positions on the Council went out of their way to sell themselves to the students by posting all these campaign posters all over the school.  Many of them were quite sophisticated, thanks to computer technology.  My posters, by contrast, had to rely on humour since they were all handmade by Phil.  It is a damn shame I didn’t save any of them because it would be a hoot to read off the very silly slogans Phil came up with.  I thought he did a great job.  (He was a funny guy and sadly, I’ve lost touch with him over the years.  I’ve not seen him in over a decade.)  We both knew how to crack each other up so we were a good team.  I miss his friendship.
Truth be told, campaign posters don’t really mean anything in high school politics.  Neither do the poorly-attended lunchtime debates some of the candidates tried to organize during the course of the campaign.  It all comes down to one speech on election day.  That was the day that changed my life and I’ve been paying for it ever since.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, May 20, 2006
6:40 p.m.
Published in: on May 20, 2006 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

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