the mountain climber

“Why does a mountain climb a mountain? …because it’s there.”

And that my friends,  is the start and finish of probably the most famous speech of Hunt Jr High during my tenure there. And I gave it my seventh grade year. A year later, when I was trying to improve my coolness by being a manager of the football team, the undefeated football team. I learned that manager, meant errand boy, whose most important job was handing out, and putting away stinky pads and uniforms. Did not help make me cool. But, ninth graders on the team, knew of the speech and would ask if I climbed any mountains. After the speech a teacher said it was very philosophical, which I suspect would normally be a complement for a seventh grader.

Except, it was my campaign speech for student council election. I didn’t know why I wanted to be on student council, well, maybe I thought it would start me on the path to being President of the USA. I didn’t know what to put in my speech. Some how, I thought by being honest and open about the motive, that I wanted the challenge, that I would get elected. Wow, that room was quiet after my speech. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many, so confused. I don’t even think I asked them to vote for me, or promise them sunshine and tax breaks.

I gotta say, I’m kinda impressed by the younger me giving such a strange speech in front of a bunch of 7th graders. I think it took guts. Or, maybe I was just clueless to how badly the speech would bomb.

But then, a year and a half later, after I had tried to increase my cool by putting away sweaty pads, playing chess, hiding out in a hallway at lunch, and basically thinking I was too good for the regular classes… I got brave again. And this time, raised the stakes. I was gonna run for student body president. I knew how bad my first speech was. I knew how I wasn’t popular. And I seriously don’t know what my motive was this time.

Except, my good friend Debbie, my music-partner-in-viola was also gonna run for president. Well, first, I liked her. Second, I knew she would do a better job. So I switched to run for Vice President. No problem, Teddy Roosevelt had been a VP, and he did alright. And as it got closer to election time, we were running unopposed. Woo-hoo!  (Much like my current legislators run in my state district! RANT!!) Well, the teachers didn’t want that, so they coaxed a couple of kids to run against us. Against me, was James, one of the coolest kids ever, very nice, had it together, popular, good student, great athlete. As soon as I heard he was running, I knew I would lose. Heck, I don’t even think I voted for myself, not only was he a better candidate, I was pretty sure he would do a better job.

Now Debbie -vs- Greg…. I thought that would be a closer race. And I think it may have gotten vicious. Greg won. (In case you’re wondering, I think they’re both doing fine, Greg is a professor of philosophy, and Debbie is a globe trotting lawyer.)

So, here’s the thing. Remember we were running unopposed, well, no one ran for 9th grade representative, so that’s why Deb & I got to be for our consolation prize. What did we do on student council?  We spent some money, for some groups, by voting yeah-or-nay. What’s the biggest debate we had? What should be the color of the super-ugly jackets that we were buying for ourselves. (Sadly, I’m not sure the real Congress is much more constructive.)

Flash forward to High School. Because I was in orchestra, and orchestra being a student group, it needed a member to be on the student senate, I was coerced into doing it. That was a confusing boring nightmare…. The nightmare part, because it was boring, pointless, dumb…when the opportunity for something exciting came along, an impeachment of somebody, we were totally for it. Very exciting, very fun. Luckily, after a session of conch-shell-grabbing teenagers, the teacher who supervised, told us to wait, called us out, said the charges were total bullshit (ah! the teacher swore at us!!), and gave us a few minutes to think it over.  We sulked as we voted not to impeach. In hindsight, I learned two very different views of the role of representative government. My best friend Jeff was the Senator for X-country. He felt it was his role to represent the interests of X-country, and thus athletics, even if they were against his own preferences. I felt it was my duty to do what I thought was best, even if the orchestra would have been against it. Ah…the age old debate…to lead, or to represent?

I’m very glad that James was coaxed into running against me. I got to know him, considered him a friend, in later in High School when one of the something horrible happened to a classmate, Jeff & I said, “Let’s go see James. He’ll know what to do.”  We called the classmate, James did the talking, he basically said, “we’re very sorry, and if you need anything, we’re here for you.”  Which, is about the only think you can say when the horrible happens.


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