50 years ago today, I became the youngest elected official in the state of Michigan, the first 18-year-old to do so. I was one of only a handful of 18-year-olds across the country to be voted into office after the recently passed amendment to the US Constitution lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
When I got home, I picked up that day’s newspaper and a headline caught my eye: “School Board President Retires; Elections in June. It didn’t take me more than a few seconds to finish my Butterfinger and decide I should run. I called the city clerk to see if 18-year-olds could now be elected to office as well. “Yes,” she replied. “You will need 20 voters to sign your petition to run.”
Twenty? That is all? He knew twenty stoners who would sign anything he put in front of them. I got in my 10-speed Motebecane, went down to pick up the official ballot petition, and an hour later I was back from “Stoner Park” behind the closed theater with my 20 signatures, and a political life of sorts was born. I knocked on every door in the school district, sometimes twice, and on Election Day, June 12, 1972, out of a field of eight candidates, I got there first. It was great news because no 18-year-old had been chosen for anything. The victory was achieved thanks to the hard work and campaign of hundreds of high school students who wanted their voices to be heard. We spray paint our own yard signs. We march through the city. A group of band students asked someone to give them a ride around town as they played rock and jazz in the back of a van that was painted with signs that read “I LIKE MIKE!” We wanted an end to corporal punishment, an end to our segregated and protected white enclave, and an end to the Army draft for the Vietnam War in our high school. We also wanted the cafeteria to be declared a health hazard. We demanded that students not be expelled if caught smoking cigarettes, and we wanted them to stop being told what to wear. Or to tuck in our shirts.
I decided not to leave my city to attend the University of Detroit to study journalism as planned. Instead, I chose to stay and turn a part-time school board member job into a full-time job to disrupt the assembly line of education that produced robotic students who were taught to obey authority, not question nothing and be rewarded for your work. conformity and complacency. The local Republicans controlled the power structure, so he wanted to bring that down as well.
I was fortunate, while in high school, to be taught by young, left-handed teachers, mostly between the ages of 22-30. Most of the priests and nuns in our Catholic Church in the city were against the war, racism and progressive thinking. Some of them played the guitar.
My parents and grandparents taught us children the importance of helping others, of being kind, of defending who we were.
All of this, as I look back, eventually led me to run for office and try to right a few mistakes. During the first year I convinced the Board to remove the deputy director who hit me. He later became a policeman, but you already knew that. To this day, I still don’t put my shirt on.
I tell this story mainly to encourage some of you, all of you, that it doesn’t take much to commit, to get involved. Even a child can do it. We are at a point where if we all don’t get over our cynicism, shake off our hopelessness and get up off the couch, we will witness the end of our Democracy and the opportunity to turn what we call “life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness ” into a reality for everyone.
Finally, to everyone who voted for me 50 years ago today, thank you! We hope that soon you will have the opportunity to vote for you.
— Michael “I LIKE MIKE” Moore