Thursday Thankful: Losing the Race for Student Body President

I ran for Student Body President of my high school in 1988. Had I won, I would have served from 1988 – 1989. I realized yesterday (as I was contemplating my Thursday Thankful for this week) that I’m thankful I didn’t win.

Until now, I don’t know that I would have ever said that. Thankful for not winning? From this Type-A person who is trying to embrace “imperfect is the new perfect” it’s downright radical for me to say I’m thankful I didn’t win.

My high school was a huge, inner-city school. We probably had about 2,000 students. Given the size of the student body, I had to give my election speech twice. Not everyone could fit into the auditorium at one time.

Getting on the stage to speak to the student body was nearly the end of me. At that point in my life, speaking in front of a group was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. No matter the size of the group, I was terrified of public speaking. Starting in the 7th grade, I giggled my way through any type of public performance. A performance included something as “simple” as reading my essay out loud, in front of the class. A stern, “Miss Larson!” from my teachers was the only thing that could scare my giggles into silence for at least a few paragraphs.

So, getting on stage to give a speech in front of two huge audiences? Not the best idea. Especially when one of my opponents was a thespian who was completely at ease in front of the microphone. He had the audience in the palm of his hand while my voice shook.

Twenty-four years later, I can’t recall why I decided to run for Student Body President. I think it was one of those things I thought I should do. Not because my parents said I should. Not because my friends said I should. I just thought I should…it was a “high school experience” box that I thought I needed to check. My dad and I came up with a great slogan: Vote Larson – She’s the ticket. (Or, apparently not, in this case.)

Did I have leadership or political aspirations? No, not really. Yes, I had opinions and I liked to write about them. I liked being the Editor of the school newspaper and delighted in sharing my thoughts through words. But I wasn’t meeting with the administrators or galvanizing the student body for change. I didn’t even organize the Junior Class Car Wash.

I’m thankful that the loss was (at the time) heart-breaking. I had put myself out there, on a stage, and my peers didn’t choose me! Until then, achieving my goals had been fairly easy. This experience of losing big, in front of 2,000 people, gave me a gift.

I understood that everything doesn’t always come out how we hope, plan or expect. But thanks to losing, I knew that I could survive what felt like the most humiliating thing to happen. To anyone. Ever.

The best thing? I’m ready, willing and able to read this post out loud in public. (Thankfully, we do outgrow some things.)

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2 Responses to Thursday Thankful: Losing the Race for Student Body President

  1. Liz, your post about not getting to be your student body president reminds me of how I worked very, very hard for four years to win the female Outstanding Parkite award when I was a senior at what was then a 400 student college in Parkville, MO. That year the award was given to an alumna who had entered our college a year after I had, but because she had chosen to follow the new year-round trimester program while I had decided to take summers off, she graduated when I did. My mother sent me a very comforting letter assuring me that although I hadn’t gotten to be Outstanding Parkite, what I had accomplished had indeed still been worthwhile.

  2. Liz says:

    Barbara, what a lovely memory. how wonderful that your mother was able to comfort you and knew the disappointment you’d feel, as well as the words that would help you. It’s interesting how those difficult experiences feel so awful at the time but through them we accomplish other things and the experience is still worthwhile. Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your experience.

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