Presidential Job Application Question #3 (with my answers): What’s your greatest political triumph?

Slate's John Dickerson recently published a piece entitled:

The Presidential Job Application: Seven questions we should ask anyone who wants to become President.

Over the course of the next seven days, I plan on completing Dickerson's application by answering each of the questions. I've always wanted to be President, so perhaps my answers will be so impressive that a grassroots campaign supporting my candidacy will ignite.

Answers to previous questions:

Question #3: What’s your greatest political triumph?

In the spring of my freshman year of college, my friend, Chris Johnson, sat down next to me in biology class and told me that I should run for President of the Student Senate. He was running for Vice President and wanted a running mate.

We were attending Manchester Community College at the time. I was managing a McDonald’s restaurant - working 50 hours a week - while taking a full course load. I had no extra time to devote to anything else in my life.

I also only had about half a dozen friends on campus and knew nothing about campus politics.

And the election was a week away.

Still, I said yes.

In a debate against my Presidential opponents, I was asked how I expected to find to find the time to be President with my enormous school and work load. I said that I had asked my father the same question when deciding if I should run, and he had said, “Great men don’t find the time. Great men make the time.”

The answer was received with one of the only rounds of applause that day.

Of course, my father had said no such thing. I hadn’t spoken to my father in more than ten years. But when I wished that I had the advice of my father, I imagined what he would say, and if the advice was good, I followed it.

I lost the election by a handful of votes to a woman named Jane.

Political career over.

Except that Jane did not return to the college in the fall in order to serve her term (medical issues), so the Vice Presidential winner (not Chris) assumed the presidency. Chris was then asked to join the Senate in the now-vacant Executive Senator position, and he convinced the Senate to open up a second Executive Senator position for me as well. A month later, when the Treasurer resigned, I took her place.

My political career was born.

The most important aspect of this political triumph was my decision to treat all of the candidates for President with dignity and respect. At least one other Presidential candidates did not, and as a result, he was never even considered for any of the available positions when they opened up that fall. I became known as a person who could deliver an excellent speech, listen to others, and campaign hard without attacking my opponents. Those skills became desirable when there was a vacancy to be filled.

In the end, I was probably better off serving as Treasurer than President. I was incredibly busy that year, and the Treasurer’s position – while taxing – was not nearly as time consuming as the President’s position. I managed to lose the election yet reap the benefits of political office, including leadership retreats to Washington and New York, an office on campus, and the camaraderie and friendship that our political team enjoyed, and I had the opportunity to learn under the tutelage of our Dean of Students, Alfred Carter, which has served me well in life.   

Politics is famous for dirty tricks. But sometimes the high road pays off. 

The thread of melancholy is unavoidable for this parent

Slate’s John Dickerson writes about the regret he feels about not inviting his parents’ friends to his wedding for Slate’s wedding issue. This paragraph, which deals with parenthood, was especially poignant for me:

There's an indefinite point in your tenure as a parent where you start to realize your kids are leaving you. For us, the first hints came at about age 9. As your kids age, you delight in the new bonds that replace the old ones. No longer laughing over Dr. Seuss, you're now laughing over The Avengers and tomorrow Arrested Development. Or you're watching them pull the wriggling fish off the hook, which was once your job. The moments are so sweet you can usually avoid the thread of melancholy embedded in each of them: With each molting, you reinforce that the molting is happening faster.

I am never able to “avoid the thread of melancholy embedded in each of them.” While I am not a parent who feels that my children are growing up too fast (perhaps because I mark every day in writing), I am constantly aware of the unending series of losses that parenthood represents.

When my four year-old daughter asks me to pick her up and carry her, I do so every time, regardless of circumstance, because I know the number of times I will be able to pick her up are dwindling.

That melancholy shades everything I do with my children. It reminds me of the importance of each moment, but it also reminds me of its impermanence. My nearly lifelong, omnipresent existential crisis has been both a blessing and a curse.

Later this month, I will be telling the story of one of my near-death experiences onstage. While preparing for that story, I wrote this:

There is not a day, not an hour, that goes by that I do not think about my own mortality. I live in a constant, persistent, unending existential crisis. Its causes are two near-death experiences and a robbery that had me convinced that I was going to die. It has contributed to more than decade of post-traumatic stress disorder, an inability to sleep peacefully and an awareness and fear of death that had caused me to spontaneously weep at times.

I spend my waking hours wondering if this will be the last time I hug my daughter, the final time I witness a sunset or the last time I hear The Beatles sing about Desmond and Molly and their home sweet home. I go to bed every night, angry about my need for wasteful, unproductive sleep, wondering if I can shave another minute or two off the scant few hours I already spend in bed.

I look at the world and I see impermanence and decay. I see a planetary population that will cease to exist one hundred years from now.

Dickerson is right in describing these parental moments as sweet. Indescribably sweet. Some of the simplest and best moments of my life.


I would like to also say that these are unforgettable moments, but I tend to avoid that word because I know that someday I will die and everything will be forgotten.

The ability to avoid the thread of melancholy that is embedded within these moments of parental bliss is something that I cannot do.

I am envious of John Dickerson and every other parent who can.