The Trump Files: When Donald Was “Principal for a Day” and Confronted by a Fifth-Grader

Mother Jones illustration; Shutterstock

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on June 30, 2016.

The Art of the Comeback, Donald Trump’s 1997 book, featured a chapter detailing a recent week in Trump’s life so readers could learn from his scheduling secrets. In that chapter, the tycoon recounted a pleasant Thursday at P.S. 70, a public elementary school in the Bronx where he was named “Principal for a Day.” Trump had “a wonderful time” and “talked strongly about working hard and incentives” with the students—and came armed with incentives of his own.

That year, the school’s chess team was scraping together money to go to the national championship. It still needed several thousand dollars at the time of Trump’s visit, according to the New York Daily News. But Trump focused on something else. He held a drawing in which 15 lucky students could win coupons for Nike sneakers—but there was something of a catch. The shoes had to be picked up at the Niketown store at Trump Tower. “He said we were going to have to go on a bus to get them,” Eugenio Tavares Jr., a P.S. 70 student, told the Daily News.

The Nike lottery caused “frenzied excitement” among the students, the New York Times reported, but one kid questioned Trump about it. “Why did you offer us sneakers if you could give us scholarships?” asked Andres Rodriguez, a fifth-grader whose father had died and whose mother couldn’t work because of a bad leg, according to the Times.

“I asked because school is more important than sneakers, but he didn’t really answer,” Rodriguez told the Daily News.

Trump’s generosity didn’t end with the 15 pairs of sneakers. He decided he could hand out additional sneaker coupons to disappointed kids who didn’t win the drawing, and he distributed what the Times called “beautiful, psychedelic Trump Tower hats for every child.” As he departed the school, he donated a fake $1 million at the bake sale raising money for the chess team. He also contributed 200 real dollars, and reports of his visit did prompt others to call up and donate the thousands more needed for the chess-playing students.

All in all, it was an easy day of work for Trump. “The honorary position should really be called ‘principal for a half day,’ because I was finished by about twelve-thirty,'” he wrote.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate