Mary Hogan students took part in presidential election
MIDDLEBURY — Perhaps more than any U.S. Election cycle in recent history, that of 2016 offered rich and diverse opportunities for young learners.
At Middlebury’s Mary Hogan Elementary School, Ms. Levesque’s sixth-grade class engaged in a study of the two major party candidates. Students researched their professional backgrounds as well as their policies on taxes, education, the economy and the environment. They then prepared a visual display providing information for Mary Hogan’s entire student body.
As a class, they identified, discussed and responded to qualities they felt integral to successful leadership. That short list included integrity, determined, hardworking, tolerant and responsible. From a mathematical perspective, these 11- and 12-year-olds explored the electoral system and how it works, while performing various comparisons and calculations involving fractions, ratios and percentages. On Election Day itself, they facilitated a school-wide election, tabulated votes and announced results.
Wednesday, Nov. 9, the day after the election, presented an unexpected opportunity. Many students had stayed up late into the night, watching as the various swing states reported. The national results differed significantly from those of the school, giving the class pause for deliberation and conversation around the “what happened” and “possible whys” of this unexpected outcome. The class also addressed the fact that just over half of the electorate voted (or, put another way, just under half of the electorate voted) — it was a statistic they found collectively disturbing.
That Wednesday, the Mary Hogan students concluded the day by watching both Hillary Clinton’s post-election concession speech and Donald Trump’s election night victory speech. The attentive listeners discussed the candidates’ respective speeches, focusing on the message each candidate shared with the American public. The assignment for that Wednesday evening: Select one of the two speeches and responded to that candidate’s message in writing.
A representative sampling of these letters is included below.
Yes, the 2016 election cycle offered these students important civics lessons, but it also provided them with lessons on how to live life — to win and lose with grace, to honor one’s own beliefs while respecting different beliefs among others. And, for some, it also offered a lesson in resilience — the importance of moving forward with one’s convictions in the face of disappointment.
Dear Hillary Clinton,
We watched your concession speech and first off I really appreciated how you thanked your supporters and offered support to Donald Trump in his Presidency. You said you had “pride and gratitude” as outcomes in the election, but then also admitted that it was hard to lose. If that had happened to me, I would be devastated. I think that shows you are really strong. I also liked how you thanked all your voters and campaign participants a lot. It was important that you said we need to move on from our disappointment. Mr. Trump is President, so let’s give him a chance.
I agree with you saying we have to fight for what’s right and keep believing in what we want for our country. The campaign really was about building a country that is “hopeful, inclusive, and big hearted.” We should have equal rights for different religions, genders, and races. The “American Dream” should be for everyone, not just white men.
You really sounded like you believe in young people and support them. I liked how you said we should pursue our dreams. Don’t be put down by walls that stand in the way of what you want to do to. Finally, I especially appreciate that you were the first woman to get so far in an US election. You told young girls not to let gender get in the way of breaking through barriers and getting to do what they want. Thank you.
Dahlia, Grade 6
Dear President-elect Trump,
Congratulations on winning the election! Sorry — at first I didn’t like you but after your speech I thought differently. I thought you were nice and more humble. To me that was good. Please live up to the words you said in that speech. Also it was nice of you to congratulate Hillary Clinton on her hard work. Please be kind to everyone no matter what their race, gender or beliefs. I hope you enjoy your new job being in the ‘big seat.’ I think you may be a good president. Be careful with our world and nature. Please don’t build a wall separating the U.S.A. and Mexico. That seems unnecessary.
I think you really love your country. Good luck on rebuilding our country’s foundations and roads. Make the U.S.A. the best country. I am willing to give you a shot. Good luck.
Evan, Grade 6, Mary Hogan School
Dear Hillary Clinton,
Your speech was moving. It was so, so, strong, and it had so much emotion in it. Instead of saying bad things about President Trump, you said good things. You said that you wanted to work with him. You also said amazing things about people and you thanked them. I don’t know how in your right mind you would want to be president, but you did. And you fought so hard. I thank you for that.
You want America to be inclusive, hopeful, and big-hearted. These are so important, and these beliefs need to be in our president and in America. You accepted the result of the election, and moved on. You have inspired so, so many people. You could have been our first woman president, and you told us to never, ever stop fighting for what we believe in. No matter how big or small this belief is, it’s still important.
I want you to know that there will be setbacks, small ones, big ones, but they will always be there. Never, ever doubt your power. You are so, so many people’s hero. I, alongside many other girls and women everywhere, look up to you. So good job, and keep doing what you love.
Abigael, Gr. 6, Mary Hogan School
Dear Donald Trump,
Congratulations on being elected president of the United States! You probably worked really hard to get here and you really earned it. At first I heard everyone say you were not Presidential. I didn’t support you but Hillary Clinton says, “We should have an open mind and give Trump a chance.” I think she is right and you did make several good promises in your speech. Speaking of Hillary Clinton, I thought it was good that you didn’t brag to her because you won. You acted differently in the debates and it’s good that you changed. It was also kind of you to congratulate Hillary and her family’s hard work. She most likely appreciates you acknowledging all the stuff she had to go through.
Also, I think you are right about us having to work together so we can get things done more quickly. It’s good you are willing to serve us all. Whether we supported you or not, we do need a leader.
I also like what you said in your promises — that you would rebuild our infrastructure and provide more jobs. Our economy, jobs, and infrastructure are all important for us.
Lastly, I thought it was nice to thank all of your family: parents, brothers, sisters, wife, sons and daughters. That was really kind.
That is what I thought about your Election Night speech. It sounded promising.
Male Student, Grade 6, Mary Hogan School
Dear Hillary Clinton
I am writing to you to tell you how much I loved your speech. You are the most gracious loser I have ever seen. You did not complain that you had lost or say that the election was not fair. Instead you complimented Donald Trump even though you don’t support what he is campaigning for. You told us that we should give him a chance even if we don’t believe in him. When you thanked us you made me feel as though I was part of your campaign and in fact the only thing I did was to say that I wanted you to win. The message you put out there was a strong one, I feel it will help to change this country in the way you wanted — by breaking down barriers and making an America that is “inclusive, hopeful, and big hearted”. I hope that even though you lost the election you don’t feel disheartened. I and others feel that you made a strong impact with your ideas, your character and with your beliefs.
The part of your speech that I loved most (and the part that got my parents crying) was when you talked about why you had campaigned. You said that you campaigned for the rights of women and girls and to give them opportunities.
Even though you did not win I believe that you have had an impact for future generations. The words of your speech will be remembered and have a special place in my heart and the hearts of many others in this great nation. Thank you for campaigning. I hope you run again.
Aidan, Grade Six, Mary Hogan School