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Freshman for President, Page 2

Ally Condie

  “I don’t know. Run for class president or something.” He’d been joking, but Eden thought he meant it.

  “That’s a great idea. You should run! I’ll be your campaign manager!”

  He’d laughed at her at first. “Yeah, right. Like anyone would vote for me.”

  But after that, Milo couldn’t get the idea of his head. What if he did run for something? What if he did go for it?

  A few days later, he brought up the subject with Eden, trying to joke about it so he wouldn’t be too embarrassed if she didn’t take him seriously. “Ede, remember when you said I should run for class president and you’d be my campaign manager?”

  To his surprise, she hadn’t laughed. She’d taken him seriously—and she was someone who had seen him wearing his Ninja Turtles underwear back when they were both potty-training and their moms brought them to neighborhood playdates together. “Yeah,” she said immediately. “Are you going to do it?”

  Maybe this could work after all. “Yeah. Yeah, I think I’m going to do it.”

  “Let’s go for it,” Eden said. They’d been plotting and planning ever since. Plotting and planning for nothing, apparently.

  Maybe deciding to run for class president had been a mistake all along, Milo thought to himself. What if he had lost? Maybe he was lucky they’d canceled the elections before he’d had a chance to embarrass himself in front of everyone.

  “They’ve turned the students into a puppet government.” Eden paced across Milo’s living room. “The senators won’t have any real power.” She paused. “It’s an outrage.”

  “A tapestry,” added Jack, stretching out on the couch.

  “I think you mean a travesty,” Paige told him.


  “I can’t believe they’re doing this! And they don’t even have a good reason . . .” Eden was off again. Milo was beginning to wonder if Eden was ever going to reach acceptance. She was very, very good at righteous indignation.

  Jack rolled his eyes and picked up the remote control. He started flipping through the channels. Eden didn’t notice. She was still too upset. “I still think I should call the office and demand to talk to Principal Wimmer . . .”

  Jack pointed the remote control at Eden and pressed the power button. It didn’t work; she kept talking. Milo tried not to grin. Jack sighed and went back to flipping through the channels. “Is there anything to eat?” he asked Milo.

  “I’ll go check.” Milo headed into the kitchen and rummaged through the pantry until he found some chips that he thought Jack would approve of. The words “light,” “organic,” or “zero cholesterol” did not appear anywhere on the bag.

  When he returned, the room was quiet. Paige slowly flipped through a magazine. Jack hit the mute button on the remote, and the baseball players on the screen ran the bases and hit and threw without making a sound. Without the commentary, without the noise, the game seemed different, like a game played long ago, one over and done, instead of one happening right that moment.

  No one said anything for a minute. It appeared even Eden had run out of steam. Milo felt a little sad. When Eden gave up, things were really over.

  Eden patted Milo on the arm, which was unlike her. “I really am sorry, Miley.” That was really unlike her. Usually she remembered the number one rule of friendship: Never call your friend by a childhood nickname he/she hates. Not even if you have been friends long enough that you actually knew him/her when he/she went by that nickname.

  “Call me Miley again, and you’re in trouble,” Milo told Eden.

  “I know. I’m sorry.” She sighed.

  Jack caught the bag of chips Milo tossed his way and started pushing the buttons on the remote again, looking for something else to watch. “Nothing good is ever on this time of day,” he complained. The different channels fluttered by, so fast Milo could barely tell what he’d just seen on each channel, a testament to Jack’s superb channel-flipping skills.

  “Stop,” Eden said in a low voice. She stared straight ahead, her jaw set.

  Jack stopped clicking and looked at her, puzzled. “What? It’s true!”

  “Stop,” Eden said, again. Without taking her eyes off the TV, she held out her hand for Jack to give her the remote control.

  He rolled his eyes and slapped it into her hand as though he were passing off a baton in a relay.

  Eden turned the volume up on the TV. Jack had flipped to CNN, where the anchor was giving an update on the presidential election, due to be held in the fall. The candidates were busy doing their best to snatch their share of the limelight.

  As they watched, one of them kissed a baby. One of them pounded his fist on a podium. Another one pumped her arms into the air while people cheered. Another danced awkwardly onstage while a band played a popular song. The segment ended, and a toothpaste commercial came on.

  Eden turned off the TV. Jack yelped in protest, but she ignored him. She looked directly at Milo. “That’s what you should do next.”

  “Brush my teeth?” Milo asked.

  “Run for president,” Eden said.

  Milo sighed. “Eden, we can’t. They’re not holding elections anymore.”

  “Not for class president, you idiot. For President of the United States of America.”

  “Oh.” Milo repeated the words slowly, carefully. “For President of the United States of America.” He started to grin.

  “Great idea, Eden,” Jack said, trying to get the remote back. “And then, right after you do that, maybe we could get to work on world peace and curing cancer.”

  Paige snorted with laughter.

  “Guys—stop,” Milo said, a touch of anger in his voice. Everyone turned to look at him. “Is it so funny to think that I might actually do something big like this?” he asked.

  “Not you personally,” Jack explained. “The idea of anyone our age running for president is funny. That’s all I meant.”

  “It could never happen,” Paige agreed.

  “Why not?” Eden held Milo’s gaze. She, at least, was perfectly serious.

  “Why not?” Milo repeated, his enthusiasm returning.

  “So you like the idea?” Eden smiled.

  “Yeah.” Milo loved the idea. Really loved it, in fact. If you were finally going to come out of the background and go for something, why not go for the whole thing? “Yeah. Okay. Let’s do it.”

  It was that simple.

  * * *

  Actually, it wasn’t that simple. It got complicated pretty fast. Within the next few minutes, in fact.

  “I don’t think you can run for president unless you’re a lot older,” said Jack. “Don’t you have to be forty or something?”

  “Thirty-five,” said Paige, who, in spite of her rather unimpressive report card, was probably one of the smartest kids in their grade.

  Eden sounded impatient. “You can’t actually be president unless you’re thirty-five. But I don’t think there’s any rule against running for president. I’ll look into it.”

  “I still think this is insane,” Jack said. Milo ignored him.

  A few moments later Eden was back from the computer. “I was right. There’s no rule in the Constitution against running for president. It just says that you can’t be ‘eligible to that office’ unless you’re thirty-five. It looks like there are a couple of states, like Massachusetts, that specifically say you can’t be a candidate unless you’re old enough, but I don’t think it really matters. You’re not going to be an ‘official’ candidate anyway. That would take up too much time and money. I think our best bet is to be unofficial.”

  “Because people can still write in whoever they want on the ballots, right?” Milo asked her.

  “Exactly. What’s to stop them? Even if you’re not an ‘official’ write-in candidate, they can still wr
ite you in if they feel like it. And if enough people do that, they’ll have to pay attention.” Eden looked at Milo. “What do you think? Do you still want to go for it, even though you probably won’t get to take office if you win?”

  “Listen to her,” said Paige to the room at large. “She’s saying ‘probably,’ like there’s a chance he could win.”

  “Yeah, what’s the point of running if there’s no way you can win?” Jack asked.

  “He could still win,” Eden said. “He just couldn’t assume the actual office. At least, that’s how the law sounds to me. And there are other reasons to do this, even if Milo doesn’t win. Do I have to spell them out for you?”

  “Yeah, I think you do,” Jack said. “This doesn’t make any sense.” He looked over at Milo, who was still grinning. “Wait a minute—you’re really going along with her on this?”

  Milo looked over at Eden and nodded. “I think so.” They’d been friends for so long that Milo could tell when her mind was running on the same track as his. Milo was thinking about the chance to try something different, the chance to say something and be heard, the chance to do something interesting and notorious and wild and crazy, the chance to see how far an insane idea could take you if you let yourself run with it. “Want to be my running mate?” he asked Eden. “And my campaign manager, of course?”

  She nodded, grinning. “We’re going to do this, then?”


  “Let’s pro-and-con it to make sure,” Eden said.

  Jack began silently beating his head against the edge of the coffee table. Milo knew Jack hated it when he and Eden pro-and-conned something, which they did sometimes when they couldn’t decide on a plan of action (what topic they should choose for their group project, for example, or which movie they should see). Jack said the list took away his will to live. So he and Paige kept flipping through the channels while Milo and Eden worked on the list. They arrived back at the baseball game they’d been watching earlier. As they clicked past CNN, Milo noticed that no one was kissing babies or shaking hands anymore. Already, the show had moved on to the next clip.

  Paige and Jack watched the baseball game while Milo and Eden came up with their list of pros and cons. Milo typed on his keyboard furiously, the noise reminding him of rain. It sounded busy and purposeful. In the background, the muted sounds of cheering from the game lifted his spirits even more.

  He was going to do this. He knew it. He was finally going to go for something. The list was only a formality.

  Chapter 2


  Pros and cons of Milo running for President of the United States of America

  * * *


  1. It could get really expensive.

  2. It could get really time consuming.

  3. People might think we’re joking.

  4. People might make fun of us.

  5. We’ve never done anything like this before. We’re inexperienced.

  6. No one has ever done anything like this before.

  7. We might lose.


  1. We have plenty of time this summer to campaign and earn money.

  2. It might make people—adults—take us seriously.

  3. It might force Principal Wimmer into letting us have class elections again next year.

  4. Since Milo will be the first teenager to run for president, he might get some good press.

  5. We can be involved in the election.

  6. We might become a little famous. People might give us free stuff.

  7. We’re sick of adults voting on our future without any input from us.

  8. We might get to be on TV.

  9. Maybe we’ll get extra credit in history or social studies.

  10. Sometimes it’s just fun to go for something crazy.

  11. We might win. (And it would be freaking awesome if we did.)

  “Everything. Campaign slogans, ways to get people involved, issues we want to discuss, how we’re going to break the news to the media . . .” Eden looked at Milo. “You should probably write a press release of some kind. Talk about your platform and your causes. And we’ll send it to every newspaper we can. I’ll bet someone will think it’s cute and publish a story about us. That could be our big break.”

  Well, the pros list is definitely longer.” Milo tried to act nonchalant, as though he were still making up his mind. Inside, though, it was already settled. He was feeling reckless.

  “So do you want to do it?” Eden was trying to play it cool, but he could see that she was holding back a smile. “I mean, I don’t want to twist your arm or talk you into it or anything.”

  “Yeah, right,” Jack called from the couch.

  Eden was flat-out grinning now. “Okay, I do want to talk you into it. I think it would be awesome.”

  “You don’t have to convince me.” Milo reviewed the pros column on the list and thought there was one more item he’d want to add later, when everyone wasn’t around. “Let’s go for it.”

  Jack groaned and Paige grinned. “I imagine you two are assuming that we’re along for the ride,” she said.

  “Aren’t you?” Eden asked.

  “Definitely. Not only are you guys my friends, I’d do anything to mess with Wimmer.” Paige was not a huge fan of authority, especially not of “inept authority,” as she referred to it, and she definitely placed Principal Wimmer in that category.

  “Of course we’re along for the ride,” Jack said grumpily. “But we don’t have to act all thrilled about it, right?”

  “Not unless you’re in front of the cameras,” Eden told him. Then she rubbed her hands together. “We all have a lot of thinking to do.”

  “Thinking? Why? About what?” Jack complained.

  “I can already think of some stuff I’m mad about,” Milo said. “Have you heard that some states are trying to pass legislation that makes it so teenagers have to be eighteen to drive?”

  “I keep hearing about it, but no one ever does anything,” Jack said.

  “Besides, that’s a state issue,” Eden said. “We can’t really use it on a platform for a federal office, which is what President of the United States is.”

  “Oh, right,” said Milo.

  Eden had apparently thought of something else, though. “Maybe we could talk about lowering the voting age to sixteen. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to vote when we turn sixteen?”

  “That would be hard to do,” Paige said. “You’d either have to change the 26th Amendment and get the states to ratify it, or you’d have to get each individual state to lower the voting age. I don’t think we have time to do all of that.”

  They all looked at her in surprise. “What?” she asked defensively. “It’s basic social studies. Plus, I’m not sure I want to vote when I’m sixteen.”

  “Me either,” Jack said. “Then they’d probably consider you an adult. They could draft you into a war, or they could try you as an adult for any crimes you might commit—”

  “Are you thinking about committing some crimes, Jack?” Milo asked.

  “Well, if I am, I want them to happen before I’m an adult.”

  “We’ll just have to run such a great campaign that people will want to lower the voting age when they see how much we’ve done. We can make it part of our platform but maybe not the main issue,” Eden suggested.

  “That sounds good.” Milo thought of something else. “How political do you think I should get? Should I join a political party?” He paused. “Can I join a political party?”

  Eden shook her head. “I think you should avoid committing yourself to one party or the other. If you do, it will automatically determine your platform. I think this should be something you put together yourself, or with the help of other teenage

  “Are you thinking of anyone in particular?” Milo asked, grinning. He knew Eden had plenty of opinions about current issues.

  “Well, me, of course.” Eden smiled at him. “But you should ask other teenagers—lots of other teenagers—what they think too.”

  “This is going to be a lot of work,” Paige muttered.

  “That’s fine with me,” Milo said. If he was finally going to go for something, he might as well pull out all the stops.

  “It will be interesting to see what people have to say,” Eden mused.

  “They’ll probably make fun of us for being kids,” Milo said. “Isn’t that how it always goes?”

  “So? Seriously, man, think of the children. Fight the power.” Jack made a fist and thrust it into the air.

  “Maybe that should be my motto.” Milo laughed. “Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?”

  “I like Fight the Power more. Or better yet—combine them.” Jack was on a roll.

  “Think of the Children, and Fight the Power,” Milo suggested.

  “Or, Fight the Children, and Think of the Power,” Jack said.

  Eden groaned. “You guys are going to have to be serious if you want to come up with anything good.”

  “How about Milo: The Wright One?” Jack asked. “Your name is perfect for the election. What if we had to use mine?”

  Jack’s last name was Darling. It was a perfectly good last name—if you were a character in a Disney movie. It was, according to Jack, the main reason he and all his brothers played football. Luckily, they were all huge enough and popular enough for the teasing to stay at a minimum.

  “That wouldn’t be too bad, actually,” Milo said. “We could have a lot of fun with that—Darling for President.”

  Paige chipped in. “America’s Darling.”

  “Vote for Your Darling,” Milo added.

  “Choose Someone Darling.” Paige again.

  “President Darling,” Jack mused. “Too bad my name is holding me back from being the Commander-in-Chief.”

  “That’s not the only thing holding you back,” Eden teased. “All right, let’s get back to Milo. We really ought to be able to come up with something good.”