The Fortune Cookie Candidate by
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The Fortune Cookie Candidate 

As the most important presidential race of our lifetime approaches,  and we hold our collective breath,  I remember another trying time and another election,   although one that was relatively angst-free.

When I was an undergrad at NYU Heights in the early ‘60s I really threw myself into college life.   (See Ghostwriting in the Family)

A commuter student happy to stick around campus after classes,  I  joined the collegiate theatre group.  (See Theatre Dreams)



I also went out for cheerleading,  and although NYU no longer played football by then,  we did have a winning basketball team.    Barry Kramer,  who went on to play for the Knicks and the Nets,  was our big star and when NYU made the NCAA Division I Final Four,   I was on the squad cheering our team on from the fabled floor of Madison Square Garden!



But it was the start of a turbulent decade  – in fact we were rehearsing for a  play when a student burst onto the stage to tell us that JFK had been shot.   And of course there were political clubs,  protests,  marches,  and other activist groups on campus I could join,   yet at the time I was still doggedly apolitical and so I didn’t.   (See Getting Woke)




Then my friend Pam decided to run for student government VP and she asked me to be her campaign manager.   So I entered the political fray,  helped formulate her platform and write her campaign speech,  taped posters up around the campus,  and for give-aways I ordered Chinese fortune cookies with what I thought was a snappy election slogan inside.

Did our efforts pay off and did my candidate win?   Looking back now I honestly don’t even remember,  and a few years after graduation Pam and I lost touch.

But when I’m in a Chinese restaurant and the fortune cookie crumbles,   I still wonder if inside I’ll find those words written for an election half a century ago:   “VOTE PAM FOR VP!   SHE FIGHTS FOR YOUR RIGHTS AT THE HEIGHTS! “

– Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: College Life


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Good one, Dana. You got involved in a meaningful way locally. 50 years later, it might not matter, but it did back then, for all concerned.

    • Thanx Betsy. College life in the early 60s was still relatively carefree at our small NYU campus up at the Heights, altho there were rumblings of things to come.

      And in the following years when I was in grad school at Columbia things started to heat up. Then by 1968 the growing civil rights and anti-war movements sparked the student protests that resulted in the infamous take-over of 5 of Columbia’s administrative buildings, the arrests of over 700 students and innumerable injuries – a cousin of mine, then an undergrad, among them.

      And now we sit with bated breath waiting for next week’s election results.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Let’s hope the fortune cookie crumbles for Biden next week!

  3. Suzy says:

    That WAS a snappy election slogan, Dana! I love it! Funny that you can’t remember whether Pam won or not.

    • Thanx Suzy, yes it is strange that I honestly don’t remember if Pam won or not. I want to say she did, and I seem to remember a celebration in some smoked- filled student lounge, but of course it could have been for something else – don’t remember much these days!

  4. Marian says:

    I wasn’t very political either for a long time, Dana, so I appreciate your perspective on this one. In fact, I almost wrote a more light-hearted story about an election for president of a professional organization. We did fortune cookies with the slogan “Elect Sally. She’s broken out of tighter spots than this.”

    • Great slogan Marian, did your gal Sal win?

      I think I was politically woke when I finally realized some political choices were blatantly moral choices, as our current situation surely is.

      Cautiously optimistic as we sit here three days before, how about you?

  5. Marian says:

    Unfortunately Sally lost, to a very conservative candidate. This was in 1977, perhaps a hint of what was ahead. I am breathing deeply and hoping for the best on November 3.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Great story Dana, and thanks for joining me in also including a student election story in there. I much enjoyed it. As to the fortune cookie slogan, that was great and triggered two other thoughts in my mind. First, it made me remember when NYU’s undergraduate college was on University Heights (in Da Bronx), rather than in the Village. And second, the poem reminded me of when my brother ran for class treasurer in our high school and he and his too literate pals came up with the too clever slogan: “Gaudeamus Igitur, Shutkin for Treasurer.” That did not exactly endear him to his populist classmates and he lost.

  7. I can relate to both your earlier doggedly apolitical stance and finally “getting woke.” Holding my breath now as well, Dee.

  8. I like the way this narrative moved from your entry into college life and drama, back to the “real world” dramatic events that were setting the context, and then immersing yourself in a campus campaign. Finally, ending with the fortune cookie–and finally unlocking the mystery of the title–was a great way to end. I don’t think it’s important that you recall the results. More important to recall what the fortune cookie said! (I’m retro-actively jealous that none of my campaign workers in high school thought up such a great tactic.)

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