Student endorsements have been an especially popular way of campaigning for this year’s AAS Presidential Election. Each candidate’s Facebook page proudly sports an impressive number of photo endorsements from a diverse range of students. While I was at first skeptical of this competitive display of social capital, this phenomenon points to the crux of this year’s election: the president that Amherst students need, now more than ever, is the president who will most effectively represent the student body. Describing the responsibilities of the AAS President, the AAS Constitution reads that he or she must, first and foremost, “serve as the official representative and spokesperson of the AAS and the Student Body.” When I’m deciding who to vote for, that’s where I stop.
A candidate’s “experience,” of course, speaks to their ability to handle the presidency. Clearly, both Amani and Peter are extremely “qualified,” and so comparing qualifications as such misses the point. In addition, each candidate has many specific initiatives listed on their official “platforms.” Making such promises to the student body during an election cycle are simply the nature of the game. But any critical voter should know not to accept these at face value. Many are vague and few will actually be realized. That’s okay. Even on the small-scale of student government, political realities change—but an individual’s quality of character does not. When I cast a vote, whether for the president of the AAS or the president of the United States, I vote not on the bases of qualifications or platform; I vote toward a candidate’s content of character.
I met Amani during freshman orientation. She’s one of the few individuals I encountered during those first formative days at Amherst with whom I’ve continued to share substantive interactions, even while others have hollowed out. From our conversations, I am confident that she genuinely understands what it means to be an Amherst student—not as an undiscerning optimist about all things-AC, but as a real person who cares about the quality of her experience and the experience of her fellow students at this school. If I’d been asked, over the last three years, to identify one senator from my class, my mind would immediately jump to Amani, even though a conversation with her has never felt like a conversation with someone pursuing my vote. I’m voting for Amani because she is one of the most genuine individuals with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing three years at this college—in my executive representative and leader, I would want and expect nothing less.
Many students at Amherst, I think, forget to take care of themselves in the present. Whether stressing about the problem set due Friday, advocating for institutional change, or contemplating career choices, we often bear the full burden of the future at any given moment. “Amani for Amherst Now,” the tag of her campaign, firmly roots her campaign in the present, pointing to an optimistic but necessarily realistic attitude toward the 2014-2015 school year. As you log onto polls today, remember that the vote you cast is a vote for your student experience next year. Today, I am voting in hope for a great senior year. I am voting for Amani Ahmed, and you should too.