Here’s a guest post from Willkie High School’s perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden.
Hey Mr. C.,
So we had this all school assembly because February 18th is Wendell Willkie’s birthday, and I got to give the Willke Day speech because I’ve been a sophomore, like, forever, and they’ve never asked me. Now that the older teachers are getting pretty clear signals that they’re going to get set out at the curb the next time there’s a downsizing, a couple of them pressured principal Peepers to give me a shot. I think hearing me speak to the whole school was on somebody’s bucket list. So anyway, here’s my speech:
Parents, Administrators and Fellow Students,
Today we honor Mr. Wendell Willkie, our school’s namesake.
He was a famous loser. He ran for president and lost to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940 election, just before the United States got into World War II.
So our man Willkie was the almost-President of the country that won the biggest war the world has ever seen. He lost an ocean of future textbook ink, he lost having his own presidential library, he lost a starring role in all those History Channel documentaries, and he lost having a Wilkie Monument on the National Mall.
What did he get as a consolation prize? He got our high school. That’s it. And when you think about it, that’s a pretty big burden for us to carry.
Wendell Willkie was a moderate Republican, a weird kind of creature not quite as ancient and disappeared as a Stegosaurus, but close. For some reason they couldn’t reproduce.
But coming up short is cool today. Career counselors say our failures make us great. The key is what you do AFTER you lose. Wendell Willkie recovered by taking a job with the man who beat him. That’s right – Roosevelt hired Willkie to travel around the world as his personal representative. How’s that for bouncing back? You get to have the perks of a president without the responsibility – not a bad rebound.
And he didn’t give up, at least not in his mind! Willkie still wanted to be President, and maybe King of the World, too. There’s a pretty reliable account that during a State visit to Asia, Willkie dallied with Madame Chiang Kai-shek. She reportedly told a confidant later that she thought she and Willkie could take over the planet together. She’d run Asia and he’d take the Western world.
Ruler of Earth in cahoots with a temptress from the mysterious East. Not a bad daydream for a guy from Elwood, Indiana.
One other cool thing about Willkie – he had a heart attack on a train, and died because he wouldn’t get off to seek help. The story is that he wanted to get back home to his own doctor. A true Republican hero at the end – resisting One Size Fits All health care. And I can think of just one other famous American who died of a heart attack on a train – Fats Waller.
Pretty good company for a really big loser. First in Failure! That’s our Willkie!
I thought this was a decent speech, but they stopped me when I got to the line “He was a famous loser”, turned off my microphone, sent everyone back to class and gave me extra detention for being inappropriate. In the best Willke tradition, I failed big on a really big stage. Pretty good tribute, eh?
Who would you choose as your partner to take over and rule the world?