After hearing about the Staff-Student Liaison Committee at LSE, I decided that I had to run for election. I would be the perfect candidate, I told myself, for the following reasons:
1) I am an international student (yes, being from the United States does count as being an international student). 🙂
2) I have had previous experience in a similar role.
3) I have no problem telling professors what I think of them. I mean, what I think of the program.
4) And most importantly, I do not make a fool out of myself on stage, anymore.
I have had extensive practice at making a fool out of myself on stage. Naturally, it comes with learning how to fine tune one’s stage presence. I guarantee that the best way to develop a confident presence on stage is to make a complete idiot out of yourself, at least once or twice in front of a group of your peers. I am not talking about that report you did on dolphins in the third grade and how the class bully yelled “BORING” in the middle of your presentation. I mean going to a conference, working painstakingly for hours on the speech you are supposed to present in front of hundreds of your peers and then completely crumbling on stage.
One time, in particular, resonates with me most. I was attending a conference my junior year of high school for future law students (that is when I still fancied myself a lawyer). I was the key speaker for the mock case that was assigned to my group concerning the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 which prohibited cold medicine from being sold over the counter in the United States. I was to argue in favor of the law which meant that I had to possess a keen understanding of pseudoephedrine and how it could be used to make methamphetamine. I scribbled P-S-E-U-D-O-E-P-H-E-D-R-I-N-E phonetically on all of the drafts of my speech several times to ensure that I could pronounce the word with authority. Who cares if I knew what it was? It would be ten times more embarrassing stumbling over such a complex word and not being able to pronounce it than it would not knowing what it actually meant, my adolescent brain had reasoned at the time.
I stayed up nights while others enjoyed themselves socializing to work on my speech. After three days of restlessness, I had finally completed my masterpiece. It was SPECTACULAR!! I read it over the phone to my parents who gave me their glowing approval. When the big day finally arrived, I put on my best suit and was ready to show the world the greatness that was me. To ensure that I did not do something as careless as forgetting my speech, I carefully tucked it away in my folder in night before. After I checked myself out twice in the mirror, I boarded the bus that would take me and my peers to the convention center where I was sure that I would dazzle my audience. I already had a clear picture in my head of how the event would unfold. Surely, it would end with a big round of applause, followed by whispers from the audience. “She was so brilliant,” one girl would utter. “What a wonderful speech” a boy would whisper. “I wish I could deliver a speech as good as she did!” another girl would admit. I rehearsed my speech for the entire duration of the bus ride.
After half an hour on the cramped and smelly bus, we had finally arrived. As I collected my belongings, our chaperone came over to the loudspeaker and instructed us to leave the bus. She also advised us to leave behind all of our belongings while the driver found a parking spot. Later, we would be escorted to pick up our things, she explained. Fair enough, I thought, I had a heavy load and I did not want to burden myself with it any longer than I had to so I left it all behind, my speech included. We would wait on the steps of the hall until we received word from the driver that he had found a place to park. In Washington DC, finding a parking space, especially for a bus, can be quite a difficult task so it did not worry me that he was taking a particularly long time. Ten minutes passed, no problem. Twenty minutes passed, understandable. Thirty minutes passed, uh ho! Finally, I decided to edge my way over toward my chaperone so that I could hear the radio call from the driver the second it came through. As I made my way toward her, she quickly turned her back away from me. She then began to walk in the other direction, clearly, so no one would hear the announcement she had just received over her radio. I anxiously awaited her return, certain that it was time to collect my speech from the bus. After a couple of minutes of conversing with the driver, she slowly made her way back over to us and firmly announced that the bus had crashed and that it would not be back in time for us to retrieve our things before the convention meeting. However, she assured us that our belongings would be returned to us sometime after dinner. Surprisingly, despite the circumstances, I did not panic. After all, I had rehearsed my speech for hours. We entered the building and I took my seat among the crowd, still beaming with confidence. In fact, I decided to regard this opportunity as a challenge to improve my improvisational skills.
Finally, it was my turn to deliver my speech. I leisurely walked up to the podium, placed my hands firmly by my side, gazed out at the audience and opened my mouth to speak only to completely forgot how to pronounce pseudoephedrine. While I was desperately trying to remember how to say pseudoephedrine, the minutes slowly faded away, along with the entirety of my speech. Most of the specifics about my time on stage that day have been successfully blocked from my memory, no doubt to protect my psyche, but what I do remember was the sickening feeling one gets when she has made a complete fool out of herself in front of everybody.
For the SSLC election, on the other hand, I knew that nothing of that nature would happen because I have had sufficient practice as a public speaker for the last two years as a classroom teacher’s aide. Though I still get somewhat nervous before I speak publicly it usually does no impact my delivery. On the even brighter side, it was absolutely fortuitous that the SSLC election night was on the same night as the US general election. It was a sign! This time, I did not have to work on my speech nearly as long. In fact, it took me less than an hour to compose. I practiced it for about twenty minutes and I was ready to go.
As the final hour drew near, I sat in my seat and eagerly waited to be called up to the stage by my Master’s Tutor. My program would be the last one to present considering that the International History Department is made up of several different programs. When I finally heard my name, I slowly approached the podium, placed my speech in front of me and looked out at the audience. I quickly spotted a friendly face in the sea of people and the words exploded from my mouth. It was a glorious fight and I was throwing all of the right punches!
I opened with a joke…BAM!
Then, another joke…POW!
Then, I ‘razzle-dazzled’ them with my previous experience…BAM!
Finally, I closed with another joke…KABOOM!
Everyone clapped as I stepped aside for the next and only other candidate. As she delivered her speech, I maintained a confident stage presence, smiled, and nodded as she spoke of all of her wonderful plans to improve the program. Finally, it was time for the audience to cast their votes. I spun around so that my back faced the audience to ensure the secrecy of their votes. The Master’s Tutor called for all those in favor of Courtney and then for all those in favor of my opponent. Confident that I had successfully won over the audience, I slowly turned around to greet my new constituents.
And the winner is…
Unlike most elections in the US, flash did not triumph over substance this time. I suppose I should have voiced my ideas of how I actually intended to improve my program. Honestly, the better candidate won. Heck, if I was not me, I probably would have voted for her too. Despite my defeat, I encourage everyone who is thinking of running for some kind of leadership position to GO FOR IT! Win or lose, it is the experience that counts.
I guess politics are not in my near future. 🙂