Everyday Heroes:

Candidates for Friendship

by Diane Brinkman

Editorial Assistant

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    It’s hard to tell who gained the most from the friendship—the peer tutor or the special education student who became his campaign manager.

    The audience cheered and clapped for Daniel King as he climbed the stairs to the stage in the high school auditorium. The friendly, outgoing teen turned and gave them a big smile. He had carefully outfitted himself in the handsome tuxedo loaned to him for the occasion. And he walked with confidence to the podium to give the speech he had practiced over and over again.

    Daniel was the campaign manager for David Barlow, who was running for student-body president of Viewmont High School in Bountiful, Utah. However, there was something noticeably different about this blond, curly-haired boy. He wasn’t like the other campaign managers at the election convention that spring. Daniel is a mentally handicapped youth involved in the special education program at Viewmont High School.

    When Daniel reached the podium, fear struck him. He had practiced his speech everywhere—at home, at school, to anyone who would listen—but he had not practiced in front of a microphone. Twice he pushed the microphone away and twice it was placed in front of him. The third time, he swung around and started to leave the stand. David stood up and took hold of him. He said, “Everybody came to hear you, Bud.”

    “But I’m shaking,” Daniel said.

    David walked with Daniel to the podium. The crowd clapped and chanted, “Come-on-Dan-iel, Come-on-Dan-iel!” Another big smile from Daniel. The microphone was turned away, and with David looking over Daniel’s right shoulder and gently but firmly holding him, Daniel finally gave his speech:

    “Hi, my name is Daniel King, and I am David Barlow’s campaign manager. I think that David will be a good president because he is my Bud [a nickname they have for each other]. Besides that, he is also my friend. He does fun activities. He has a funny sense of humor. He is a really funny guy. I’m so glad he picked me to be his campaign manager. David really cares about the students. I would like to thank him for everything he taught me and for giving me a chance to come and speak today, because this is a big opportunity. I know I am going to vote for David and I think you should too.”

    The crowd cheered and gave Daniel a standing ovation. He and David exchanged their special handshake and then gave each other a big hug. David comments about that tender moment, “The love was so real, I couldn’t help it. I just started crying.” Daniel sat down while David began his speech. But David could hardly talk. After giving 35–40 speeches in the past few days—tight, businesslike speeches—David said to the crowd in the auditorium, “This is real this time. Just seeing that right there made it worth it. Daniel, I want to thank you for everything you’ve taught me.” But he couldn’t go on.

    After a few seconds, Daniel stood up from his chair and walked over to David, put his arm around him and, patting David’s left arm, softly said, “I just thought I should come up here. Come on, Bud, you can do it.” And then Daniel took his turn standing by David while David finished his speech.

    With great emotion, David said, “I wish every one of you could know him like I know him.” David continued, “I’m not running for office to wear the student-body president’s sweater, and I’m not doing it to see what I can get out of it. I’m doing it to see what I can offer you. Most of all I want to thank Daniel.” Again the audience cheered and clapped.

    A few days later David Barlow was elected student-body president of Viewmont High School for the 1989–90 term. Daniel comments, “And you won, huh?” David responds, “Yeah, because I had such a good campaign manager.” And with a big grin Daniel says, “Yep!”

    Daniel’s panic on the stage at the election convention did not come from shyness. It stems from a fear of microphones and cameras developed when he was interviewed over and over again by television reporters featuring him on TV as an adoptable child. Before the age of 11, he was adopted twice. Both adoptions were terminated. And he lived in many foster homes in between. Then the Larry King family of Bountiful adopted Daniel. He now happily belongs to a loving family of eight children. “I’m an uncle, too!” he proudly exclaims. When it’s mentioned to Daniel that he went through some hard times as a little boy, he says, “Yep,” (his face tenses, then relaxes) “but I got over ’em.”

    The love between David and Daniel is real—a love anyone in their presence can feel. They met in the fall of 1988 when David was assigned as a peer tutor to Daniel. David joined the peer tutoring program at Viewmont High School because he likes to help people. “We were instant best friends the first time we met,” says David. “Yep,” adds Daniel, “best friends, just like that.” And he snaps his fingers.

    Most teens want to do all the “cool” things to be accepted by their peer group. David is obviously “cool.” He’s very popular—after all, he was elected student-body president. He’s handsome, outgoing, a good student, and a triathlete. And yet he befriends a youth who is mentally handicapped and even asks him to be his campaign manager in the school elections. Didn’t he wonder what the other kids would think? He answers, “People get too caught up in what others think. I only worry about what one person thinks. What the Lord thinks of me is most important.”

    He continues, “I wanted Daniel to be my campaign manager because he’s so friendly and will talk to everybody. I wanted people to know that handicapped people have feelings just like everyone else and they want to be accepted. That’s exactly what I got.”

    David’s face glows when he talks about his work with the handicapped. “I can honestly say I’ve learned more with peer tutoring than in any other class. I’ve learned about life and what it really is all about. The handicapped are so accepting and have so much love. They have given me far more than I have given them.”

    After working with the “Especially for Youth” program at BYU this summer, David is planning to leave on a mission in October. “I can hardly wait. My mission is something I’ve looked forward to all my life. I’ve tried to prepare myself and live worthily. And now it’s almost here.”

    After a mission? It isn’t a surprise to learn that David plans to go to college and become either a physical therapist or a social worker. He has great compassion for others—a trait he attributes to his father, Kay Barlow. “He is the most loving, serving man,” David says.

    David hasn’t been Daniel’s peer tutor this year, but they share time together. Daniel is loved by all of the Barlow family and enjoys eating dinner at their house and attending family activities. “Sometimes I come home from work and Daniel will be there. Sometimes my dad will go and get him and bring him home to dinner.”

    Daniel was asked if he was going to be campaign manager for someone again this year. He answered, “M-m-m,” and turned quickly to David and asked, “Are you going to do it again?” David gently reminded him, “I’m graduating this year, remember?”

    In the eyes of the world David and Daniel might be considered unlikely candidates for friendship—totally different in background and ability. But this friendship is not of the world. It has been based on eternal values. When it’s mentioned that they have shared a very special relationship, Daniel will instantly reply, “And we still do, don’t we?” And David will respond with, “Yes, we still do, Bud. We still do.”

    Black and white photography by Tiffany Twitchell

    Color photography by Jed Clark