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

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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.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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