In light of recent news headlines, I feel that the time has come for me to make a formal announcement regarding my plans for the future. After having multiple conversations with members of my beloved family and with several of my most trusted advisors, I have decided not to run for President of the United States.

Travis Naughton

While some may find this news disappointing, I know that it is the right decision for me and for America.

I was a teenager when I first began to think about running for the highest office in the land. I even made a campaign button that still adorns my old, high school band letter-jacket today. It reads, “Naughton for President in 2008. I’m better than nothing!”

In 1989, I was elected president of Hannibal High School’s student council, where I delivered on my campaign promises to secure soda machines for the study hall, a jukebox in the school’s brand-new cafeteria, and preferred parking for members of the senior class. It was a long way from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but it was a start.

The next fall, I entered the University of Missouri as a political science major, eager to learn the tools of the trade that would eventually propel me all the way to the White House. But there was one thing I loved more than politics or Ol’ Mizzou: alcohol. I made it my mission in life to drink every beer placed before me. Ever the liberal environmentalist, I joked that the only way to recycle all those cans and bottles would be to empty them first.

My dormmate Bill and I were both placed on academic probation after our abysmal first-semester grades were posted. I officially changed my major to “undecided” because I knew that if I kept taking political science classes and blowing them off, then I would never have a future in the field.

Bill, a staunch conservative, had political aspirations, too, having been elected president of the class of 1990 in high school. After our year together in Laws Hall and another semester as my roommate in a condemnable house off-campus, Bill’s grade point average failed to meet the minimum that was required for continued enrollment, and he was officially dismissed from the university. He would later run unsuccessfully for local office back in Hannibal, campaigning almost exclusively in bars and taverns. In hindsight, his dependence on the drunk vote may have been a miscalculation.

I narrowly avoided being expelled from the university by somehow managing to keep my cumulative GPA above a 2.0. I eventually got my act together, thanks in no small part to the influence of a woman I fell in love with and later married, and I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy.

It only took me seven years to earn my four-year degree! It took many more years before I finally accepted the fact that I am an alcoholic. As Dean Wormer said in the film Animal House, “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” Where were you when I needed your advice in the early 1990s, Dean?

Now, as a 47-year-old, I occasionally ponder what might have been had I not strayed from the political path I started walking on thirty years ago. Perhaps I would be a state representative by now, or a United States Senator. Lord knows there are people serving in those roles today who have no business holding office. I sometimes even allow myself to wonder what would have happened had I run for president in 2008.

It begs the question: Given my checkered background, am I qualified to be president? Well, George W. Bush also drank heavily in college and later gave it up. He was elected president twice. My GPA is no worse than his or that of former Vice President Dan Quayle, a man who famously couldn’t spell the word potato. Donald Trump can’t spell very well either, (I assume Twitter doesn’t have a spellcheck feature), and he never in his life held an elected office prior to becoming president.

So, I think it is safe to conclude that yes, a recovering alcoholic with poor grades in college and no previous political experience can be president. But should he be? Even if I were qualified to be president, does America need another fat, drunk, and stupid middle-aged white man in charge? 44 of our 45 presidents have been white males, and we can all see where that has gotten us. I think it’s time to give a woman a chance.

I am still interested in public service though. If not president, maybe I could run for governor or for a seat in the legislature or perhaps a local office. (Don’t worry, Mr. Rhorer, I won’t be making a run for mayor of Ashland. I don’t live within city limits.)

At any rate, my fellow Americans, I shall amuse myself, and hopefully you, by continuing to write for the Boone County Journal. There is, after all, great power and opportunity in the written word, a lesson I learned from my good friend Bruce Wallace, who served this community well for almost two decades as publisher of this newspaper. (Thanks for everything, Bruce. Enjoy your retirement.)