George McGovern and the Day I First Tasted Power

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W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, Va.

I was 16 when George McGovern ran for president. I grew up outside of Washington, DC, and my father and I had gone to all the big anti-war protests on the mall.  So naturally, I was gung-ho McGovern, and I signed up to canvass for him, and set up a Students for McGovern chapter in my high school.

I was the kind of kid who never went home right after school. I hung out with the debate team and the model UN kids and sometimes the drama club and the band kids — in other words, the dorks. One afternoon, shortly after I’d put up Students for McGovern posters all over the school, I was hanging out when I saw the president of the student body walking down the hallway with all my posters under his arm.

“What’s going on?” I said.

“Against school policy to have posters endorsing a candidate.” He seemed quite pleased with himself.

“What happened to the First Amendment?” I countered.

He deflected blame to Mr. Ladson, the principal. Apparently the First Amendment took a back seat to the dictums of Mr. Ladson. This was, after all, high school.

I went home, called my dad at work and asked him what I should do. He suggested I called Audrey Moore, a “good Democrat” who happened to serve on the Board of Supervisors, and to live up the street from us as well. So I looked up Audrey Moore’s number in my neighborhood directory and  told her my story.

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