More often than not, a “You should totally run for president!” comment is taken by the average person as no more than a compliment. A “Wow, that’s sweet. Wouldn’t it be crazy if I actually did?” kind of reaction. But for Julianne Benzel, an AP and Dual Enrollment US History teacher at RHS, an attempt at the presidency come 2020 does not seem too far-fetched.
“The groundswell of support that comes at me literally daily on email… and I didn’t have social media so people had to take the time to find my email and they are writing me hand written letters,” she explained in reference to the aftermath of her classroom discussion when she questioned the National School Walkout on March 14, 2018.
Students, parents, teachers, military veterans and more have been flooding Mrs. Benzel with notes and phone calls ever since she received national media attention, and with that, came those fated words, “You should run for president.”
“I just got one two days ago from New Hampshire. A military marine veteran called me quivering on the phone from Texas. It’s been relentless and unending. I thought the hype would die down and I’m thinking…I’m good here in my life at RHS, my classroom is my wheelhouse and I love it,” she smiled, “But then I thought, if one more person asks me to run for office what do I do here? So maybe what was meant to harm me is turning out to be something potentially really really great.”
Just enough people were showing support and pushing for Mrs. Benzel to pursue this next step.
“Looking at the political players who are in charge right now, I think I am actually OVERqualified for this position and I can do a much better job. I genuinely believe that we might need a basic, 101 class in Civil Discourse and Respect in this country…I’m jumping in the race perhaps to just bring some common sense to the myopic conversations that are taking place on a variety of issues right now,” she stressed.
But how does one begin such an endeavour? How does a campaign start? What is the process like? Do you just fill out an application and sit back, waiting for something to start coming together?
“I filed with the FEC (Federal Election Commision)… I have an exploratory committee that we already set up…the committee has already come back to me and said “yes, the support is out there.”
And it has not ended there.
“I have a publisher who contacted me and let me emphasize again…these people are all contacting me; I’m not out there trying to promote myself, we are in the process of writing a book because you know how the trajectory goes… you have to write a book. (and, in my estimation, the last thing this country needs right now quite frankly is another book tour) but it’s the way that it all starts.”
She went on to tell us that then she would be sent out to promote herself through this book to truly kick off her campaign and get the word out to build a following. Where the book tour will lead is still very much up in the air and will depend on a multiple of factors. So much of what it will come down to is the reaction of the American people as she travels around and becomes noticed.
Essentially once it’s all out there, it’s out there.
“I know what makes a good campaign and what doesn’t so here is mine: OF the people, BY the people, FOR the people. And there you have it.”
So much is still unknown in regards to the future of the Benzel campaign, including her primary role as a teacher on the RHS staff. There is a definite chance that she may be off next year to focus more on her presidential pursuit.
“I love my students. I love teaching, but I am also practical and realist and I’m not sure that’s going to happen or not. I would like to let my school know as soon as possible for next year, but that step is not confirmed yet.”
There is no denying that Mrs. Benzel’s heart has always been with her students and with teaching. It shone like a fire in her eyes at every mention of them or of her teaching career. As much as she is excited to try her hand at something new and exciting, the notion of leaving her classroom behind for the campaign is to an extent, hard.
“This is what I was called to do. I love it. The classroom is my heart and soul,” she told us, “I am obviously going to have a more conservative approach, but I would like to make it known that I am empathetic to and understand liberal ideas. I might not always agree with them but I understand them and the human decency, the commonality… I think it is actually attainable to work with people and I love new ideas.”
On a final note she wanted to also let it be known that regardless of whether she is actually elected or not, she believes what she is doing is important in inspiring young women especially, to “be bold” and stand up for what they believe in in a country where maybe they don’t always feel comfortable doing so.
It will be interesting to see what does indeed come of the Benzel campaign in the two years to come.