On November 4th 2008, we held a mock presidential election in my third grade classroom. Students spoke their minds about the candidates, and I facilitated to make sure all sides were heard. Secret ballots were cast, and Barack Obama won getting 18 out of 20 votes. John McCain and Cynthia McKinney split the remainder. Later that night, of course, history was made.
Students arrived the next day absolutely glowing. We talked about the historical significance of Obama's victory, and they imagined what it would be like to run for office themselves one day. Each student made a poster portraying him or herself as a candidate and the issues they would address in the year they’d be legally old enough to be president, in 2048.
Barack Obama’s victory opened the minds of children to the possibility that they too could one day be commander in chief—or anything for that matter. What they needed to do was STAY IN SCHOOL and work very very hard. At no time were the children told by me they should look up to Obama. The fact that most did already reflects what they learned at home and amongst their peers, not by any indoctrination in the classroom.
We began to write “The Obama Song” just hours after the ceremony finished on Inauguration Day 2009, and we continued for about two weeks. Our school day was packed bell to bell with academics, but we were usually able to spend the last five minutes of class working on our extra project. Day by day, we used this tiny window of time to brainstorm lyrics and hammer out the lines and match them to my amateur guitar playing. As the song took shape, the children became more and more proud of their accomplishment, and it soon morphed into a tribute to MLK and others honored for their work towards social justice.
By the beginning of February, the song was done. The children were so excited to sing this song, so PROUD that they’d written it themselves, that their voices boomed from our doorway! Adjacent classrooms would hear it coming from our room at the end of the day and would peek in. We even got requests to perform in for other classrooms, and their egos blossomed.
The video was made to capture the moment and share it with friends and family on President’s Day that year. Although the energy level was impossible to recreate, we had fun making our mini-movie. Participation was of course optional—in fact a few sat it out. When it was finished, they were hoping the President himself would see it and wanted to be able to show it to friends and relatives. We got the consent of parents/guardians, as well as the administration, and put it online.
That's the story. Now these students have long moved on from third grade, but we hope it remains as evidence of how many people were inspired by this great man. Thank you for everything Mr. President, we are still proud.
The Obama Song ("Proud American")
By Mr. B and the students of Room 8
Obama is the President!
First African America in history
44th president of the United States
The ground has shifted
The world has changed!
Oooo Im a proud American
Oooo yes yes yes yes YES WE CAN!
I'm going to study really hard just like Barack
Learning never ever stops
Gonna set my goals HIGH and graduate
You might be looking at the President of 2048!
We are a nation of a thousand colors, look at me
Our strength is our diversity
Walking hand in hand we sing
Each a day a little closer to the dream of Dr. King
(Excerpt from MLK's "I Have a Dream")
Together we walk
Me and you
So so much work
Left to do.