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Sweat lined my forehead as I stared back at the mirror in front of me. My thin eyes stared back at me with fear. What if they don't like me? What if I'm not good enough? Wheat blonde hair was professionally pulled into a braided bun as baby strands dared to be different by framing my face. Spray tanned skin covered my face but none of it reminded me of who I once was. I rubbed my hands over my face, taking a little foundation with it.
“We've got two minutes!” screamed a person from behind the door. With a quiet sigh, I ambled over to the freshly stained oak door. It looked brand new but hid many stories from the years. Turning the brass handle I walked out into the busy corridor. People all around whispered “Good luck, Madam,” as I quickly walked with my head down.
My agent ran up to my side carrying folders upon folders. “We are all set up for tonight's performance. I have the prepared speech in this folder, just follow it and everything will run smoothly,” he said holding up a navy folder.
“Thank you, Robert,” I spoke as we approached the stage. I could feel the heat from the lights from the wings of the stage as the audience whispered together. A black curtain lined the back with an oak podium in center stage. The seal of the state was screwed onto the front of the podium in bright colors of red, white and blue. An eagle was in the center with strands of wheat curling around it. Mountains and a river filled the background with a red band encircling the entire seal. Like magic, the crowd began to hush, my cue.
“Good luck madam,” Robert spoke as he shoved me forward. With each wobbling step, I made my way into the hot lights of the stage. I started to feel sweat trickling down my neck by the time I reached the podium. My face flushed with heat as if I might pass out on the spot. By the time I positioned the folder and opened it, I could feel the eyes of millions on me. I’ve done this for many years but I was still nervous every time. Opening the folder, I glanced up and froze.
Faces blurred together into tiny specks. With a serious face, I stared into the faces of the audience. Off on the wing, I could sense the motion of my agent urging to get the program started. Reading the first line of the speech, I began.
“Good evening ladies and gentleman. I am so honored to be here tonight.” I continued speaking, saying each forced word. This isn't me. What happened to the you that made her own speeches? The one who truly meant her speeches? My thoughts spun around my head taking my attention away from the speech. Before I knew it I was staring blankly at the audience with my mouth hanging open. Quickly, I glanced down to find my place but I couldn't remember what I was saying. The audience started to wiggle, people speaking in confusion at my sudden stop. Robert was signaling me to keep speaking. I backed up from the podium and fumbled with the folder till it fell on the oak floor. Voices rose as I stared down at the folder spilling its contents. You aren't you.
“This isn't me,” I softly spoke as I approached the microphone on the podium. Questioning voices started to rise as people fidgeted in their seats. “This isn't me,” I spoke more confidently. Everyone started to hush at my new tone as Robert was freaking out on the side of the stage, but he couldn't stop me now. “You know, I joined politics to change the world but I have failed. Politics have changed me and I have accepted it but I'm not the me I remembered.” I took a deep breath, seeing the audience starting to question my words. “And if I can't be the person I once was, then I don't want to do this. I don't want to be your governor. I just want to be me.
“I'm not going to read you this prepared speech because I didn't write it. No politician writes their own speech and when I started this journey I wanted to be different than the other politicians, but I'm not. This,” I waved the printed speech, “is a fake. This is not what I want to say to all of you.” I crumbled up the speech and threw it into the crowd. Grabbing the microphone, I stepped out from behind the podium and started to walk around. Off to the side, Robert was mouthing the words that probably shouldn’t be mentioned but I simply ignored him. “This is the me I want you, the people, to see. This is the me I want you, the people, to choose and with that said I am going to change the way things are running. I’m going to start putting the people first. I won't let the pressure of politics ruin my views. We will show the world that you don't have to have a divided life to be a politician. Anyone can live a life they choose and that is what I am going to do. I am going to be me!”
The audience rose to their feet, applauding my speech. I placed the microphone back on the podium and started to head off the stage, out of the lights. Robert frustratedly marched over to me as I entered the wing.
“I gave you one instruction, follow the speech! What happened?”
“I realized what I needed to do.” I started to walk away, “Oh and by the way, I'll be writing my own speeches from now on.” I walked back down the hall leading to my dressing room, finally excited to start my career.