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Washington Sq. Parkgoers Become 'President' Behind Oval Office Desk Replica

By Andrea Swalec | August 16, 2012 3:19pm

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Anyone who took a seat behind a replica of the desk in the Oval Office got the chance to address the nation as president of the United States on Monday, when a film crew set up the desk in Washington Square Park. 

The documentary project "America for President" brought the 540-pound piece of furniture to the park to give New Yorkers and visitors the opportunity to tell their fellow citizens what makes them proud to be Americans and what changes they would make if they were elected president, co-creator Lori Korchek said. 

"The point of 'America for President' is to give Americans a voice and give America a shot in the arm, said Korchek, a Harlem resident and copywriter who developed the project with art director Mike Bade. 

"We want Americans to look on the bright side," she said. 

Peter Strauss, a consultant visiting from San Francisco, took his turn behind the presidential desk to give Americans a pep talk. 

"Chin up. Things are going to get better," he said. "Don't be down in the dumps." 

If Strauss, 65, were president, he said he would spend money on infrastructure and strengthen social safety nets. 

"The ideal of America is freedom with responsibility for the larger group," he said. 

Dmitry Gurvits, a 25-year-old New School graduate, encouraged cooperation across political divides. 

"Americans have to be optimistic about each other … rather than being sucked into this incessant ideal of competition," he said. 

Korchek and Bade dreamed up the series of five-minute-long films a year ago and recorded their first interviews on July 4 in Hannibal, Mo., the birthplace of Mark Twain.

"In the interviews you do you can't really tell who's conservative and who's not," Korchek said. "Across the spectrum, people have a lot of the same aspirations." 

People of all ages and national origins have held court behind the desk so far, Korcheck said, and some have chosen to deliver their thoughts in music and dance, like the young ballerina who pirouetted around the desk on the project's visit to Missouri. 

"America for President," which will be filmed across the country, will make its next stop this weekend at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

"What could be more American that that?" Korchek asked.