The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion I am not running for president; I just want to meet every cow and Iowan

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook, waves after the morning session during the Allen and Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, on July 13. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Hey, Mark Zuckerberg here. Before I tell you about the really special chance that Priscilla and I had to mingle with some Iowans who are facing unique challenges and struggles every day, I want to get something off my chest.

Something I’ve noticed in my travels across this great country is that people seem to think I might be doing all this because I want to run for an elected office — for instance, the presidency of the United States. Of course, I think it would be a great honor to take an active part in trying to expand access to the freedoms that all of us Americans, from the Blackfeet reservation to the rail yards of Nebraska, equally strive for and hold dear. And I can’t say that I don’t want Max and Beast and my forthcoming additional child to get to grow up in a world where they can make their dreams come true. I think that’s what every dad wants, from the subsistence-fishing dads of Alaska to the ranch-owner dads of South Dakota, all of whom I have been uniquely privileged to meet in casual, real-world settings. Don’t get me wrong; it is a huge honor that my name would even be mentioned in the same sentence as “president of the United States,” a job with awesome responsibilities that millions of people count on every day. A president could really play a big part in helping Americans build community, something I think we need more and more of in these trying times. Here at Facebook, we think a lot about community. I think whoever becomes president could really benefit from the lessons we’ve operationalized.

But I am not running. I am just doing a year of travel, for normal reasons. Hey, I’m human, and what human can resist the chance to go to small-town Iowa, multiple times, to appear in photos with the great people I meet there? I’m only human! I am human.

What do I have to do to convince people this is not a calculated political strategy? Seriously, what? I will do whatever that is, and take pictures of myself doing it, and write a post about it. Organically. As all of this has been.

Would someone who was running for office visit the hard workers in the train yards of Nebraska, or stop at a big truck stop in Iowa to understand that “unique lifestyle“? Or go to summer hockey practice in Minnetonka, have dinner with a group of Somali refugees or meet the hard-working scholars at Urban Prep Academy on the South Side of Chicago? Sure, I think they have wisdom that more of our elected officials could stand to hear and struggles we all should try harder to understand, but that’s not something that someone who wanted to be elected to office would say. But hey — maybe more politicians should.

I’m visiting small towns in Iowa” is a normal sentence, said by many a billionaire who wants nothing.

Real talk: I think it’s a grave insult to the hard-working people of Iowa to imply that no one would visit their small towns unless he were running for president. Iowa is a great place. Wilton (population 2,800) is especially remarkable, and I treasure so much the memory of the people I talked to there. Can’t I say that they need someone to fight for their interests, who can listen respectfully and who understands where they are coming from, without people thronging to say, “You! You Mark Zuckerberg! You are that person! Your humanity is only exceeded by how down-to-earth and relatable all your interactions are! Be my president! I am creating an organic grass-roots movement on your behalf!”

Can’t a man go on vacation to small towns and sit for totally non-choreographed pictures with real, hard-working American farmers who struggle to make ends meet every day without people accusing him of ulterior motives? Can’t a man pose in a hard hat with oil workers without being told he’s playing politics? Look, I am not a politician. I will never be a politician. That’s a promise.

It is just a year of travel. That is why we went to Alaska and learned about the good lessons their safety net offers the rest of the country, like a normal vacation, and a bald eagle “just swooped in” on the Fourth of July as a glorious and organic reminder of America. That is how the whole trip has been: entirely spontaneous.

I am just doing what anyone would do if he had my resources and time: go to a national park to learn up close about the impact of climate change, visit Williston, N.D., to learn about fracking and the community around it, and pay a visit to a cattle ranch to learn about the cattle before butchering them myself.

Yes, my real motive for going to that ranch was that, as stated, I wish to meet every cow I eat and look him in the eyes before I kill him. Come on, this is not a normal wish that a man running for president would have. Stop it with this president thing! I just want to go stare at cows before I kill them. I love cows. And ranchers. And eagles. And killing them. The cows, that is, not the ranchers or the eagles. I love killing cows and keeping ranchers and eagles alive. And relating to them, in a real way, as I am doing right now.

Would I do any of these things if I wanted to be president? No, I wouldn’t. And to put a final nail in the coffin of any speculation, I just hired a Hillary Clinton pollster.

No one who wanted to be president would do that.