Words to live by when in the public eye

An open letter to student body president candidates Bijal Chhadva and Brandon Faza:

In less than 48 hours, one of you will thank voters for selecting you as the next student body president. The other will embrace his running mate and campaign chair and thank them for never losing faith, though the race was lost.

The wait for the elections rules commissioner to declare one of you the victor and the other a failure will drive you insane. Enjoy it. Those few moments before the voting polls close Thursday will be one of the greatest highs of your college career.

Rumors will fly. You’ll hear that your opponent has won, managing to steal the vote of sworn supporters away from you at the last minute. You’ll hear that you’re so far ahead, you might as well dial your mother’s number on your cell phone and hit the “send” button just as the announcement is made, so she can share in your victory in real time.

But try to keep your cool. The only official word comes from the officials.

Through it all, be a good sport. In the past, candidates who have made it to the runoff declare no matter what the election results, they’ll find some other capacity to serve the students. Then they disappear.

If you lose this election, don’t feel pressured to promise to still find a way to be an advocate for students. If that’s your plan, it’s all well and good. Be on the safe side with your remarks, and if you must comment, let people know you’re going to take some time to reflect on this experience before you make your next move. Post-election-result quotes can prove harmful to future endeavors.

A story in Tuesday’s Oracle quoted outgoing Student Body President Omar Khan, “I don’t think I’ve left big shoes to fill, although I do think we’ve done a good job.” Even if Khan had left “big shoes,” you will have the power to hire your own shoemaker and leave your own footprints.

Every student body president is different. Don’t discount what those who held the office before you have built, but don’t let it hinder you from molding your own plan and reorganizing if it means being a more effective leader.

I heard a eulogist say once, “it’s what’s in the dash that counts,” referring to the year you were born and the year you died that is engraved on your tombstone.

It may be a morbid thought, but the same principle can be applied to your tenure as the 2004-2005 student body president for USF.

Brett Chambers, 1999-2000 student body president, went down in the USF history books for his “bare-all” policy. Chambers wanted to start a tradition at the university, a “naked tradition,” where students would streak across campus. Administrators weren’t so willing to let it all hang out, so in the end, students kept on their clothes.

Think about what you’ll put in that dash.

Learn to surround yourself with giants. When you’re always looking up to people around you, you forget how to look down on people. The best leaders know how to delegate responsibility. Celebrate your staff’s victories in public. Chastise individual mistakes in private. Be an approachable president, a decision-maker and stand by your word.

During the good and the bad times, take time to reflect. As Charles Dickens put it, “Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Take what you will from your mistakes, but move forward.

Once you become student body president, you become a target. Your skin will thicken; some of your nights will be sleepless, and all those bad habits you’ve hidden will be in the spotlight. A little criticism never killed a USF student body president. Don’t become the first victim.

Foremost on your mind should always be the students. Next to USF President Judy Genshaft, you should emerge as the biggest cheerleader at this university. So, dust off your pom-poms.

Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief. usfkevin@yahoo.com