The Culture of Candidacy: A journey through BYUSA

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She didn’t invent the Internet, win a Nobel Peace prize or start a green-earth movement, but Taylor Veater does have one thing in common with Al Gore. She too, lost a presidential election by only a small margin.

And when it comes to the BYUSA presidential election, there are no hanging chads.

“We only lost by a few hundred votes,” she says. “That’s about the size of a ward.”

Now, after two years of volunteer work for the BYUSA suite and a victory-less presidential campaign, Veater finds purpose in other areas of her life. A junior in college, Veater reflects back on her lofty underclassman aspirations and explores life after BYUSA. Veater, who admits she doesn’t follow the progress of her newly-crowned opponents, continues to serve the BYU community despite departing the BYUSA family.

“There’s this bad stigma about BYUSA, and I don’t understand it,” Veater says. “Because I’ve been there. I started doing BYUSA as a freshman — before I knew anything of stigmas on campus.”

Always smiling, only a person as positive as Veater could say she “hates politics but loves to serve,” and one would automatically believe it. Veater still believes she can make a difference, as evidenced by her current service in a student-alumni organization, 17 credits and an itch for ballroom dancing.

It was only a few months ago Veater was the only one to show up for an informational meeting about running for BYUSA president. During the strict four-day BYUSA campaign window, she showed up to lobby the freshman dorms only to find them completely vacated because of  a Wednesday night basketball game.

“It’s a hard feeling to explain. To do something that big, that takes that much of your time, you have to be dedicated and you have to think positively,” she says. “You kind of plan your life around winning because you can’t think, ‘oh, I’m not going to win it. I should start applying for other jobs or studies abroad like my friends.’ No, you plan your life around a commitment that serious.”

Veater, who spent hours going door-to-door battling with inner demons about whether it was worth annoying people or not, ultimately decided on a flier-free campaign. Veater began handing out bracelets around campus, but soon found that those demons in her head weren’t the only demons she’d face.

During her campaign, Veater was often accused of running solely to obtain a scholarship, a perk of being in the BYUSA presidency.

“If they actually would have sat down and talked to me, they would realize that I would have run for president whether or not there was a scholarship attached to it,” Veater says. “I’d been volunteering for free for two years, so the scholarship had nothing to do with it.”

Even when she’s not campaigning, her colorful attire and bright attitude seem to draw you in. But that’s the thing about Taylor all those who have met her have echoed, she finds a way to project her vibrancy on others. She’s even managed to impress her superiors, including former BYUSA Vice President Sarah Burroughs.

“There was an afternoon in the office that Taylor was showing other students how to make fabric flower hair clips. She loves to develop her talents and share them simultaneously. She’s genuinely interested in other peoples’ lives,” Burroughs said.

“Sometimes just an hour of your time can really make a difference in somebody else’s life, you know? It’s just an hour,” Veater says.

For someone as cordial as Veater, it’s hard to imagine her feeling an emotion other than cheerful.  However, it was a whole new set of emotions that fateful night in the Wilk, when Veater was faced with the harsh reality she would have to re-plan her life on the fly. But what’s worse was the feeling that those depending on her victory wouldn’t have their BYUSA dreams fulfilled either.

“That was the most unexpected feeling of losing — the feeling that you had let everyone else down,” she says. “They’re all there in that room, and all of a sudden you didn’t win. You feel like you wasted their time. You want to win for them if not for yourself. You want to give something back to them. You feel terrible because you know they’ve put their trust and faith in you.”

Weeks later, Veater was encouraged to apply for a vice-president position but declined it. Already, she had other plans to serve the university through the student-alumni program. While acknowledging that BYUSA was a great experience for her, Veater, just a junior, has busied her life with other activities.

Her father, George Veater, saw her loss as one that would only strengthen her in the future.

“It was one of the first disappointments Taylor had faced,” he said. “She has been successful in virtually every endeavor she has undertaken. I think this disappointment allowed her to dig deeper into her faith and forced her to adjust her life plan.”

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