Journal entry: November 5, 1984 (age 15) – Election ’84
Before tonight, I had never seen a half-hour TV commercial for a presidential candidate. As I watched the man I support give a kind of closing argument for his candidacy, I started to despair. I thought to myself, “This is a fundamentally good man, and he’s going to get crushed.” The half-hour ended with a video montage set to the classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tune, “Teach Your Children.” I’m not sure whether I teared up because of the song or the image of the candidate embracing and shaking hands with people of all ages, races and faiths. “Good luck, Mr. Mondale,” I thought, “you’re going to need it.”
I’m too young to vote, but not too young to pay attention. Four years ago, when I was in the 6th grade, I played the role of President Jimmy Carter in a mock debate staged in our classroom. My friend Vinny Gallagher played former California Governor Ronald Reagan. Vinny based his strategy on humor and a decent impression of Reagan wagging his head back and forth and saying “Well…” I based mine on a detailed defense of Carter’s efforts to limit pork-barrel spending, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and appoint an advocate of strict monetary policy, Paul Volcker, as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Plus, I smiled a lot. After the debate, our class voted. In the St. Patrick’s Middle School election of 1980, Carter won. I believe this was the origin of the now-common political saying “As go the Broome County Catholic Schools’ 6th-graders, so go 6 small states and the District of Columbia.”
This year, I made no public stand on behalf of Walter Mondale. I was busy running my own campaign for sophomore class president at Seton Catholic Central High School. I won on a campaign theme of “I’m that smart kid with the glasses from your earth science class.” With the double-whammy of “I’m smart and I’m on the basketball team,” Mark Murphy won as vice-president. Vinny Gallagher emerged from the dustbin of history to claim the class treasurer slot with his promise to “Bring Reaganomics to our bake sales.” Rounding out the officers, Sue Woycechowsky continued her reign as the first class secretary in our school’s history to have a last name with more than 11 letters. Her theme of “My last name tells you I’m a strong speller” won over the militant, single-issue, pro-spelling crowd out of St. James Middle School.
But no matter how important it was for us to decide that “The Safety Dance” would be the theme if the sophomore class actually had a prom, the national presidential race seems even more important. Two months ago, I went to my first concert, to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. Amidst booths set up to register voters, the band sang “Teach Your Children.” Tomorrow, people will be voting in what could be the most important election in a long time, and one that could make a dramatic difference for me and the rest of the nation’s children.
Man, I wish I could vote.