From the President

The Kitchen Table

I have been asked to write a short piece about politics in this endless season of same. How depressing. Five hundred words, more or less, of drivel about a subject that becomes more difficult to stomach with each successive attack ad I see. No taking sides here — all nauseous as charged.

I started to say no…but then I had a dream: Somehow I had been convinced to run for national political office by a small cadre of friends. “Only on my own terms,” I had conditioned. “And what might those be?” they asked.

  1. I will accept no campaign contributions.
  2. I will place no campaign ads.
  3. I will commit no more than $1,000 of personal funds.

“But this campaign sounds so negative…” my friends interrupted. “Negative?” I responded in disbelief.

  1. I will prepare a one-page summary of what I believe in to hand out to anyone interested.
  2. No pictures of pets, kids and grandkids.
  3. I will set up campaign headquarters at my kitchen table. My front door will be open to all from 8 a.m. to noon, no appointments accepted, coffee and tea on tap.
  4. No neckties.

“Can we get rid of all the ‘nos’?” my supporters demanded again. “Yes,” I replied.

  1. My dog Marley and I will walk door to door, business to business, listening, processing, and sharing ideas each afternoon.
  2. I will Facebook and tweet to all who will listen.
  3. I will debate my opponents on any topic in any forum under any format.
  4. I will always be honest and civil in agreement or disagreement.

“Say what?” my friends and colleagues reacted. “I am not finished.”

  1. If elected, I will serve from home.

These, I explained to my friends, are my twelve commandments of campaigning.

“Strange approach,” they responded, but pledged their loyalty and votes nonetheless.

We won in November. The pundits were aghast. The morning after, I opened my front door, shouted “Thank You!” and returned to the kitchen table to begin my public service.

I awoke from my dream in a state of panic and confusion. If this is my column on politics, people will think I’m crazy. And, what could this column possibly have to do with Drury University?

Yes — and maybe everything.

It was at Drury that I learned to question convention, to challenge the status quo, to think out loud, to examine all sides rationally, to rail against polemic, manipulation, and shallow thinking, and yes, even to dream.

It is at Drury that our students still gain these critical thinking skills. If one can’t poke fun at the table of the liberal arts and walk away with incremental value, perhaps we are all doomed to the self serving mediocrity of politics as usual.

So, what’s wrong with politics? Me and those of you like me who neither understand nor respect the political process in its current iteration.

500 words exactly.

Todd Parnell '69