TODAY'S PAPER
80° Good Evening
80° Good Evening
OpinionEssays

A memorable presidential campaign

Republican Presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower visits Hempstead,

Republican Presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower visits Hempstead, New York during a tour of Nassau County on Oct. 28, 1952. Credit: Newsday/Howard Edwards

The chatter about the upcoming presidential election reminds me of the summer of 1952, when adults discussed the extremely popular Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied forces during World War II, running for president despite never holding political office. Near the end of my junior year at Mineola High School, the student body was let out to see Eisenhower give a speech at the Nassau County courthouse, only a couple of blocks away.

It was a sunny June day, and as we watched him make a fantastic speech, I decided Eisenhower would be the first politician I would work for in an election. And my friends agreed, too.

We were given the grunt work that teenagers get, posting campaign signs on telephone poles and such. My friends and I knocked on doors in our neighborhoods — Albertson, Mineola, Roslyn, East Williston — asking to post signs on lawns. Almost all agreed.

During the summer, we had a casual gathering of a group of high school friends, regarded as “not the in-crowd.” In reality, we were the student leaders. We discussed several topics, including the chances of Eisenhower winning without having a political machine. The group was split on his chances. Those of us who felt he could win focused on his needing a strong campaign and platform. We believed the public could be influenced and swayed by visuals as well as a strong, realistic platform, something unknown then.

Inspired by a non-politician running for national office, my friends and I also discussed the same possibility for our high school’s upcoming fall G.O. — General Organization — election for student body representatives. The elections were typically a joke, usually resulting in a popular football jock becoming president and a cheerleader vice president. No one ever had a realistic platform, and nothing was ever accomplished. The elections had few participants or voters.

My small group was diverse, with most in the thespian society or arts and music groups. I was editor of the school newspaper, the girls were leaders in clubs and assemblies, some were presidents of the art or debating clubs. We enthusiastically set out to prove our point by creating a political party, complete with logo, handpicking students basically unknown in the school, planning a campaign, creating a realistic platform and running our ticket for the upcoming election. Thus, the Square Deal Party was born. We created a logo of two interlocking squares, a simple, realistic platform and wore armbands.

We selected as our presidential candidate a “blank slate,” a reluctant incoming transfer, Jean Welker — smartly dressed, good looking, completely unknown except by his classmates and intelligent (he eventually became a NASA rocket scientist). For vice president, we chose Janet Ross, an attractive girl active in sports, assembly council, clubs and chorus. For the party to continue the following year, we picked juniors for secretary and treasurer.

To generate interest, I suggested using real voting machines. Our principal initially refused but deferred when two civics teachers endorsed the idea. The Nassau County Board of Elections delivered four machines we strategically placed in our school.

We generated excitement. With a record turnout, the Square Deal Party won in a landslide and, a year later, the party again made a clean sweep, and Eisenhower won, too.

We had proved our theory.

Orlando T. Maione lives in Stony Brook.

The chatter about the upcoming presidential election reminded me of the summer of 1952, when adults discussed the extremely popular Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied forces during World War II, running for president despite never holding political office. Near the end of my junior year at Mineola High School, the student body was let out to see Eisenhower give a speech at the Nassau County courthouse, only a couple of blocks away.

it was a sunny June day, and as we watched him ake a fantastic speech, I decided Eisenhower would be the first politician I would work for in an eleciton. And my friends agree, too. 

We were given the grunt work that teenagers get, posting campaign signs on telephone poles and such. My friends and I knocked on doors in our neighborhoods -- Albertson, Mineola, Roslyn, East Williston -- asking to post signs on lawns. Almost all agreed.

During the summer, we had a casual gathering of a group of high school friends, regarded as “not the in-crowd.” In reality, we were the student leaders. We discussed several topics, including the chances of Eisenhower winning without having a political machine. The group was split on his chances. Those of us who felt he could win focused on his needing a strong campaign and platform. We believed the public could be influenced and swayed by visuals as well as a strong, realistic platform, something unknown then.

Inspired by a non-politician running for national office, my friends and I also discussed the same possibility for our high school’s upcoming fall G.O. -- General Organization -- election for student body representatives. The elections were typically a joke, usually resulting in a popular football jock becoming president and a cheerleader vice president. No one ever had a realistic platform, and nothing was ever accomplished. The elections had few participants or voters.

My small group was diverse, with most in the thespian society or arts and music groups. I was editor of the school newspaper, the girls were leaders in clubs and assemblies, some were presidents of the art or debating clubs. We enthusiastically set out to prove our point by creating a political party, complete with logo, handpicking students basically unknown in the school, planning a campaign, creating a realistic platform and running our ticket for the upcoming election. Thus, the Square Deal Party was born. We created a logo of two interlocking squares, a simple, realistic platform and wore armbands.

We selected as our presidential candidate a “blank slate,” a reluctant incoming transfer, Jean Welker – smartly dressed, good looking, completely unknown except by his classmates and intelligent (he eventually became a NASA rocket scientist). For vice president, we chose Janet Ross, an attractive girl active in sports, assembly council, clubs and chorus. For the party to continue the following year, we picked juniors for secretary and treasurer.

To generate interest, I suggested using real voting machines. Our principal initially refused but deferred when two civics teachers endorsed the idea. The Nassau County Board of Elections delivered four machines we strategically placed in our school.

We generated excitement. With a record turnout, the Square Deal Party won in a landslide and, a year later, the party again made a clean sweep, and Eisenhower won, too. We had proved our theory.

Orlando T. Maione lives in Stony Brook.

Columns