I knew he was growing up. Between his bar mitzvah year, high school applications, and a new deeper, unrecognizable voice, it’s impossible to ignore. But the “aha” moment—the one that made me realize just how mature he was becoming—happened the night he came to me and said, “Dad, I want to run for class president.” Aside from admiring his confidence, I realized in that instant, that my once young son had morphed into a bright and very capable young man.
During the next few weeks, I helped him with his campaign. We spent nights thinking of a solid platform, campaign strategies, and catchy clever slogans. We designed posters and flyers, as well as personalized giveaways so his name would be on the tip of every tongue come Election Day.
Then there was the pinnacle of the campaign—the speech. It’s through these words and promises that students decide who they believe is the best candidate for the job. I can say that I definitely helped him put the words down in a way that they would flow, but it was Nathan who supplied the content and ideas. It was obvious that he had a pulse on what the school lacked and how he could improve it, should he win.
For me, the promise that stuck out the most in his speech was the installation of a giant lucite tzedakah box on the 4th floor. We brainstormed about how to make it successful. For instance, he would ask the students to give money every day, but encourage them to give extra when they did well on a test to show gratitude towards Hashem. Or he would have the students select a different charity each month, and devote that month’s contributions to the cause they chose. The excitement level grew as each new idea developed, and he couldn’t wait to institute them once he was elected, because, after all—of course he would be elected—right?
By the night before the election, it was obvious that it would come down two candidates, Nathan, and a charismatic young lady. Both campaigns were extremely endearing, both speeches were executed flawlessly, and it was anyone’s guess who would win, or how close the margin would be. When their work was done, and all they could do was wait for the ballots to be counted.
The students listened intently, as the principal introduced the incoming president over the loudspeaker during class. “Boys and girls,” he began, “allow me to introduce your new president,” and the classroom echoed with the young lady’s inaugural acceptance speech.
All the preparation that we had done, and we forgot to prepare for one vital detail—defeat. Nathan didn’t take it well. The glazed look on his face made it clear that he didn’t see it coming. He would now have to face his classmates, friends, and family, with the shifted spotlight of the guy who lost the election. It was obvious that he didn’t know how to handle it. His personality shut down, and he became reserved. The intensity of his somber mood made me want to crawl inside of him and glue his heart back together. The outgoing, bright, and smiley kid had put up a wall, and grieved for days.
They say “from failure comes success” and after the shock and pain wore off, and the smile returned to his face, he knew it was time for him to get back on track. I can say that I am almost happy that he lost the election when I think about what happened next.
He attended a meeting with the student council, and discussed the possibility of installing the tzedakah box that he promised, even though he had lost. They embraced the idea, as did the rabbis and faculty, then they went full steam ahead. They ordered it from eBay, had a brass plaque inscribed, and had it installed.
As I write this, there is hundreds of dollars in coins and bills in a 4 foot tall lucite box on the 4th floor of the school. Teachers and students alike contribute to it everyday, and in the short time that it has been there, it has become a fixture. There’s no doubt it will be there for years to come.
Nathan, your actions have inspired me, and from where I stand, I would elect you any time. You have my vote—for the president of positive thinking.