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“So, vote O-WINGS, and let’s soar!”
A unanimous groan can be heard throughout the class as I flash a quick thumbs, mostly up to try to level out the resentment I just acquired through a tacky pun of a campaign slogan. Nonetheless, I leave the podium with a big, hopeful grin, but the subsequent election reveals that this effort was made in vain. No surprise there. I take my newest defeat with pride and greet our new student leader with a good-natured embrace.
I have had a history of being labeled a “try-hard,” a label that no high-schooler really wants. But this never stopped me from doing what mattered most to me, even when my campaigns for leadership in my academic life have been crushed time and time again. Even when I was elected co-President of Mosaic club, which promotes understanding among all races, cultures, and people, I was ridiculed for my stance as a feminist and my status as a well-to-do white girl leading a diversity-centered extracurricular. Nevertheless, I carried on with trademark cheer, organizing events that made a positive change and tenaciously holding fast to an idea best conveyed by Mary Pickford: “This thing we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.”
Without countless losses, I would’ve had neither the ability nor the know-how to win. I never would’ve offered my candidacy for Governor during Arkansas Girls State – I’d already encountered enough failure at that point that the idea of another foiled election had lost its potency. I didn’t arrive at the week-long civic education camp with a call to leadership ringing in my ears, but as I gradually gained the trust of over eight hundred girls, I realized that a loss in my race for Governor would still be a job well done. Then, I encountered a concept so foreign in my perception of my chance in political leadership: success. They were shouting my name, raising their hands in the shape of wings, inspired by my now-popular campaign slogan. Fast forward a month later at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington D.C., where I am shaking the hand of First Lady Michelle Obama who told me that, yes, even I, the girl who couldn’t be elected to be the hall monitor at her high school, much less class president, could be the President of the United States one day.
After a whirlwind of an empowering summer, I returned to school in the fall with high hopes, which would never be dampened by another lost election.
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