From the Editor
December 14, 2016
There are few moments I remember as vividly as I do sitting in my typical third grade private school classroom in Long Island, New York.
Projected on the SmartBoard – on a cold January day – was the presidential inauguration of a man whose name I had only seen on the covers of newspapers and in television headlines.
Every student in the school, from kindergarten to eighth grade, watched as Barack Obama swore his loyalty to the office of President of the United States. The teachers in the classroom weren’t endorsing a political party nor were they revealing their positions on foreign policy or abortion by having students watch the inauguration.
Somehow, there were no political implications. Perhaps that was because us students were not intellectually mature enough to extract those implications.
I will not soon forget the level of excitement in that room. So perhaps the students in the room recognized and attached themselves emotionally to the many foundational four or five-letter words Barack Obama used frequently throughout the speech.
Hope. Love. Unite. Faith. Dream.
To 8 or 9-year-old kids, there was nothing political about it.
Instead, it was simply a call for love and a vow for acceptance of all people. That’s something that everyone, not just political figures, can rally behind.
With January looming, I wonder: will my old school have current students watch the upcoming inauguration? And, if so, will it elicit a response anything like Barack Obama’s speech did eight years prior?
These questions aren’t attacks directly on the nation’s president-elect but rather questions that symbolize what we should be asking every time we hold an election, whether for president, local legislature, or student government. I had many more questions, but more importantly, I found ways to address them and to better understand what I personally saw as cumbersome systematic issues.
As a result of this election’s unanticipated results, I noticed an egregious amount of uncertainty and division among our student body. That said, it is easy to overlook some underlying positive things that took place. For me, the positivity emerged in the form of conversation.
The day after election day, my Spanish teacher gave us the entire period to vent amongst ourselves over the indignities some of us had regarding the election’s outcome. A few days later, she led a class discussion (in Spanish, of course) on modern stereotypes and racial biases.
Rather than continuing his lesson on the Mongols, my history teacher disrupted the often overwhelming AP curriculum to foster a dialogue, helping students understand some societal and historical trends that culminated in the unexpected results of the election.
My AP biology teacher fielded questions from students before diving into his teaching of the intricate steps of the immune system.
These were beautiful and comforting conversations.
I had a few key takeaways.
First, not every supporter of a political candidate believes everything that they believe.
We, as a society, have a tendency to over-politicize things. We are all human.
No one has all of the answers.
Sometimes we must pop our ‘Clayton bubble’ and our own personal bubbles in order to develop an understanding of external realities.
Surrounding yourself with people of opposing viewpoints can be more valuable than surrounding yourself with people with similar ones.
Controversy is everywhere. Instead of treating it like an inevitability, we must make the less natural decision to reach beyond our comfort zones and reflect, listen and love. Only then will we be able to embrace our differences and begin to heal our divisions.