Presidential Stump Speech, 2052.
First off, folks, I’d like to thank you all for coming out today to hear a little more about our vision for this country. Some weather! I always enjoy my trips to North Dakota. Ask my staff, first thing I ask when we start campaigning is always, How soon do we get back out to North Dakota? Always a highlight for me, always a highlight.
You know, on a beautiful day like this, I can’t help but think of my late father, the man who inspired me to go into politics. I sure wish he could be out here with us. He had a hard life, my dad. He labored away to put food on our table. For him, just to be out in sunshine like this was a real treat. I remember seeing him slumped on the sofa after another exhausting day, his eyes glazed over, popping fistfuls of pills. Only later did I learn that it was Vitamin D. He relied on those pills just to feel normal. You see, my father was a content mill worker.
The workday for my dad started early. Every morning, my sister and I would rise to go to school, and we’d see him sitting in his La-Z-Boy, already up for half an hour, his face lit up by the wan glow of his laptop screen.
“Mornin’ pop!” we’d chirp, with all the naivete of youth. He’d just wave weakly, his eyes never leaving his RSS feed.
“Hush now,” our mother would say to us, scooting us out the door. “Don’t you know your father needs to produce a word count?”
We’d come home at the end of the day and he wouldn’t have even left the room. His bathrobe would be streaked with toast crumbs, his eyes red and his hair slightly mussed. He would summon me to join him by the recliner. I could smell the stink of latte on him. “I want you to remember this, son,” he’d say. “Take a good long look at your old man. This is no kind of life.”
I was too young to understand. I thought he had choices. “So why do you do it, pop?” I’d ask. “Why don’t you go work in an office like Jimmy’s dad?”
“Son,” he’d tell me, “I’m doing this so you don’t have to. Go to college, make a better life for yourself.”
“But you went to college, Dad,” I’d say. “Cornell, class of ‘96.”
“That’s true, son, and go Big Red. But I was an English major. And back then, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for English majors. You pretty much had two choices: go to a top-tier law school, or go work for a web aggregator masquerading as journalism.” It still gives me the chills thinking of the decision my father was faced with.
My father believed in this country. He believed that with hard work, a decent SAT tutor, and a legacy acceptance into an Ivy League school, you ought to be able to make something of yourself. He wasn’t looking for handouts. But I saw how it broke him.
I’ll never forget the day that a ghostwritten blog post of his didn’t meet the site’s page views quota. Ping! I was doing my geometry homework when I heard a sound that I knew could only mean one thing: he had received an instant message. I dared to glance at the screen. It read: “Editorguy72946 is typing…" It was his boss. The dreaded message popped up: “What happened?”
I watched as my father’s shoulders slumped. My dad, the man who could do no wrong in my eyes, seemed so pathetic in that moment. “My bad,” I watched him type. “But I’m working on a post called ‘The Top 8 Dog-Friendly Travel Destinations’ that I really believe will have serious SEO juice.”
“Make it Top 7,” his boss responded tersely. “The filters are onto 8.”
“7. No problem. Brilliant.” I hated watching my father be so subservient.
My dad didn’t live to see me go into politics. What should have been his golden years, he spent in poor health, nursing a ruined pair of wrists and fingertip calluses that, even years after he’d retired, never returned to normal. “You see what they take from you, son?” he said to me, a few years before his death from carpal tunnel complications. “I once wrote a post on 14 tricks for reducing cellulite that got linked in the Wall Street Journal, but it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth… this.”
Well, they could take my dad’s wrists, but they couldn’t take his mind. And they could never take away his love of country. I took my dad’s advice to heart. I majored in political science, got a job at a lobbying firm. When a beloved senator resigned in scandal, I secured the party’s nomination as his replacement. And now I stand here before you today, a candidate for President.
But this isn’t about me. It’s about you. It’s about my dad, and all the content mill workers of his generation, fighting to build a country we could be proud of, one blog post at a time. And when times get hard on the campaign trail, whenever I wonder just what we’re fighting for, I think back on my old man, toiling away in that dark living room, struggling to think up just one more all-time top Golden Globes “oops” moment. And then I remember what it’s all about. God bless you, North Dakota, and God bless the United States of America.
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