Joanie was the daughter of a career diplomat. She had lived in a number of countries. She exuded confidence and foreign languages. So running for school treasurer in our fifth grade was no task.
But she firmly wanted me to be her campaign manager. Shy, but flattered to be included in an important school event, I said yes. I had never really heard of a campaign manager, and never suspected that the job entailed making a speech in front of the student body.
In retrospect, since we were in an American school overseas, the elections must have been orchestrated by the teachers to give students a simple view of the electoral process in our homeland. The country we lived in was ruled by a dictator, and thus had no working model of democracy. And so in this small, academic framework, the campaign managers and candidates labored to create a free election.
Fortunately, I could take my new challenge home to my parents. My mother worked on my confidence, and my father worked on my speech. The main idea, he said, was simply to explain to the student body the qualifications and qualities that would make Joanie its best treasurer ever. So we made a list of her best traits and put them in an outline, and I practiced giving it aloud. I can still remember the very deep breath I took before that speech's opening, and also the very approving wink I got from my language teacher at its close.
It worked well; Joanie was elected. She was a masterly officer and later ran successfully for more positions. I was elated, ecstatic at having participated in a successful election. It gave me new pride in being able to speak up. It was easier to raise my hand to take part in class. Later, there were opportunities to be in speaking contests, spelling bees, and simple oral presentations. All with a sense of confidence and grace. (Thank you, Joanie.)
Later, we lost track of each other, as most American students were sent back to the States for high school. However, I distinctly remember Joanie telling me (before she was transferred to Guatemala instead) that what she really wanted most in life was to be president of the United States.
During this year's political convention coverage, my eyes have searched the television screen ... waiting for her to surface. Perhaps after Geraldine Ferraro has had her moment in the sun, Joanie will come forward. Then, wouldn't I love to be her campaign manager! I'm waiting and willing.