Leonard is a queer feminist activist known for her works of photography and sculpture, which responded to the AIDS epidemic that devastated the artistic community in the 1980s and 1990s. Wrtitten in 1992, "I want a president" was inspired by Leonard's friend, Eileen Myles, a poet and activist who announced that she was entering the 1992 race for president of the United States as an "openly female" candidate.
Leonard’s poem was set to be published by a queer magazine at the time, but, when the publication dissolved, the work began to circulate among the artist’s social group, passing from friend to friend and beyond. In 2006 the art collective LTTR produced postcards of the text. The poem was later read, translated and reappropriated by fans enduring their own tumultuous political experiences worldwide.
The 2016 presidential election prompted renewed interest in Leonard's timeless work. High Line Art installed a large-scale version of the text in New York City beneath The Standard Hotel on the High Line. On November 6th, Eileen Myles gave a mock acceptance speech at the site of the installation, responding to the poem she had inspired. A number of other artists joined the event to respond to Leonard's poem, including Justin Vivian Bond, Malik Gaines and Alexandro Segade, Sharon Hayes, Pamela Sneed and Wu Tsang.