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Power

By Mike Ruffin From 1972’“1975, Bobby Louis Barkley and I comprised a formidable ticket in the annual election of class officers at Lamar County High School. Bobby was elected class president and I was elected class vice-president in our freshman, sophomore, and junior years. Our streak was broken when I gave up my final year of high school eligibility to enroll early at Mercer University. I assume Bobby Louis was elected senior class president before he headed off to Georgia Tech. I don’t know who was elected vice-president. Now everything I said in that first paragraph comes with two caveats. First, for a few years’”years that included our freshman and sophomore years’”boys and girls went to separate schools in Lamar County. So assuming that the girls’ school in Milner’”which bore the characterless if accurate name of Birch Street School’”also held class elections, then two girls were (obviously) elected to the top spots. The school that we boys attended had the equally characterless and accurate name of Forsyth Road School. This means that during our freshman and sophomore years, Bobby Louis and I were actually president and vice-president only of our classes at Forsyth Road. I have no way of knowing if we’d have been elected had there been girls running against us. Maybe we would have. I mean, we did win during our junior year when the schools became co-ed again (this happened for reasons I don’t understand, just as I don’t understand why they separated us in the first place). The second caveat has to do with the rule’”there may have been other rules, but if there were, I don’t remember them’”under which the election was conducted. The rule, which I doubt was written down anywhere, but which was honored as if it were in the United States Constitution, stated that whichever race the winner of the presidential election belonged to, the winner of the vice-presidential race had to belong to the other. So after Bobby Louis won the election for class president, only white students were eligible to become class vice-president. I have no way of knowing if I would have been elected had the rule not been in place. I said all that to say that the posts to which Bobby Louis and I were elected, while they came with a certain amount of honor and looked good on a college application, carried no real power. I don’t remember our ever being involved in the making of any decisions or the setting of any policies. But there are officeholders whose positions give them considerable power. We elect them to the offices they hold. We send them to Atlanta or Washington. They do their most honorable work when they do their best to honor their oaths to support the Constitution of the United States and, in the case of state elected officials, the Constitution of the State of Georgia. They also do honorable work when they seek to use their power to work toward making justice for all a reality. They do their most dishonorable work when their primary goal in using their power is to preserve it.

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