Pat walks into the office late for our interview. Understandable, as the previous night had been a long one—he had attended a nine-hour council meeting that persisted until 4 a.m. Despite this, Pat shakes my hand energetically and grinning asks, “How are you doing, sir?”
It’s this familiarity that really distinguishes Pat from other political figures. Alone, away from the cameras and microphones, he appears down-to-earth and relaxed—a far cry from the powerful rhetorician he was at the debates.
“I like to keep really busy. But when I’m not, when I have time to unwind, I’m a friends guy. I have very strong friends from Hamilton that I keep daily contact with, and I have five unbelievable roommates,” he explains. “If I’m not doing shit on campus, then I want to be hanging out with my friends, having a beer and watching crappy television.”
So what encouraged this laid-back man to campaign for presidency? Whelan explains he noticed a lack of USC connection with students, something he wanted to remedy. This led to the creation of his enormous platform, which addressed all the shortcomings he felt he could improve as president.
Despite the immense detail Pat put into his platform and campaign, his victory still left him stunned and enthralled.
“It was a shock, it was a huge shock. So many people had put so much work in,” he reminisces. “When [Pashv Shah] f***in’ announced it, there was this eruption from all sides around me, it was just surreal. It was an out-of-body experience.”
The road to his victory in the USC presidential race last month was a long one. At the end of the fall, with the new slate structure in place, Pat began to recruit the team that would eventually see him succeed in his campaign for USC president.
“It was late November, and I was in Social Science Building cramming for an essay, and he called me up and we just sat down and figured it out and decided to run,” Amir Eftekharpour, vice-president external affairs-elect, says to me over the phone while making tacos.
Amir explains he was a member of another campaign team at first, but switched to Pat’s after discovering how closely their visions aligned.
“It was the stunning good looks,” Amir laughs, and then assumes a more serious tone. “I had actually switched campaign teams onto his from another campaign because I sincerely believed what he was saying more than what the other guy was saying.”
Sam Krishnapillai, vice-president internal-elect, mirrors Amir’s sentiments about Whelan’s goals.
“I don’t like complimenting him to his face,” she laughs. “I hate that he’s going to read this. But he’s really selfless. He will put the students before himself—even if he has to take a hit, but it benefits students that’s what he’ll do.”
Like everyone, Pat has distinct character traits, habits, obsessions and flaws. Behind the president figure, there truly is a human being.
“He’s very human. He’s very obsessive sometimes. He’ll pick up a habit and keep going at it for years. Things like James Bond, he’ll just never shut up about James Bond,” Amir quips. “He’s a person, he’s flawed. But he’s got a lot of good qualities.”
“He’s just this kind of goofball that’s really tall,” Sam says with a smile. “I think he thinks he’s a good singer. He sings along to stuff a lot, but I’m not a big fan.”
Pat begrudgingly agrees with Sam’s assertion about his singing.
“Yes,” he groans. “I’m definitely a big sing-along guy. I’m the guy you don’t sit next to at the concert because you can’t hear the actual artist. It’s a family trait. The Whelans are big sing-along people, my mother especially.”
In spite of his idiosyncrasies, or perhaps because of them, Pat was able to appeal to the 3,366 students who voted for him. Irrefutably comfortable in front a crowd, Pat is able to maintain an honest disposition without stooping to political rhetoric.
“He is very engaged. He’s very energetic. He says a lot of dumb things and steps on people’s toes every now and then, but that’s just who he is,” Amir says. “I don’t really see him as a politician in that sense, but I guess he is now whether he wants to be or not.”
“He’s a good person, a good leader,” Sam adds. “I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else being president.”
Looking forward, Pat intends to remain true to himself regardless of the inundation of politics he will inevitably face. He wants to carry on the same honesty and genuine compassion for the students of Western he displayed during his campaign and subsequent election.
“I have no secrets. Like I said from the beginning, I’m going to be me,” he says. “I guess if you know me, you know me.”
Pat is a man who likes a pint of beer, singing loudly and sporting daring red trousers.
He’s the man who wrote a 21-page presidential platform, more than double his opponents’. He’s the man with the indefatigable grin and infectious chuckle. He is our next University Students’ Council President, Patrick Whelan.