Inauguration Address Gets Par-Troy Kids Thinking About National Unity

Brooklawn Middle School students share their thoughts after viewing swearing in of President Obama.

About 100 seventh graders at Brooklawn Middle Schoolassembled in the school's media center Monday morning to take in a historic event: the second inaugural address of the 44th President of the United States, Barack H. Obama.

The children watched intently, taking notes as they watched the television broadcast. Social studies teacher Josh Weinstein said the students will be writing letters to President Obama after his speech.

Weinstein said teachers at Brooklawn are trying to inspire students to become politically aware and active at an early age.

"A lot of time kids don't get that lesson until they're in high school," he told Patch. "But if you haven't gotten them by middle school, it's done."

The official theme of the 57th inauguration was "Faith in America's Future," but what the children noticed was that in his speech, the president mentioned the word "together" seven times.

In a post-speech discussion, Weinstein told students that togetherness and unity were vital factors in making and keeping the U.S. a successful nation.

"Without the participation of the people, nations fall," he said, encouraging the girls and boys to get involved in politics, in Parsippany—and even in school.

"If you have a problem, call the mayor. He works for you. You pay his salary. [at school], talk to the principal," he said. "That's how you can make a difference."

Weinstein asked the students for questions about what they had seen and heard, given that references to "Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall"—about the struggles for equality for women, African-Americans and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens—likely went over their heads.

One student asked about the words of Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco, and the teacher pointed out that Blanco's words described how all citizens are bound together as a nation.

The children also mentioned how much they enjoyed the performances of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and pop star (and the first American Idol) Kelly Clarkson, and that they got a kick out of seeing rapper Jay-Z in the audience. (Teachers mentioned their enjoyment of the choir and singer-songwriter James Taylor.)

More than anything, though, the students paid close attention to the president's words during his 19-minute address.

"The best part was how our journey doesn't end until we solve the problems in our nation," said student Lydia Parker. "I'm an animal person, so the most important thing to me is working to completely end animal cruelty."

Lydia said she hopes to do her part by becoming a veterinarian and focusing on animals' health. Until then, she said she is helping out at the Parsippany Animal Shelter.

Her classmate Vrinda Jain said she also was inspired by the speech and will tell President Obama that in her letter to him.

"I'm going to ask him to work on ending world hunger," she said. "I also want him to help the poor."

Vrinda said she has helped with her church's work to help feed needy people.

"I think Parsippany is doing a good job there."

Another student said the inaugural address didn't really capture his attention until the president spoke of American children.

"Obama talked a lot about kids then, and I really liked that," said seventh grader Ben Walek. "He said we had to get kids into the workforce sooner. After college, I want to go right into work. He also said that we, us, working together, can get the economy in better shape."

The youngster said he hopes to work in the field of law when he grows up. He also said the inaugural address changed his mind about the president.

"I wasn't a big Obama supporter; I didn't really like Obama," Ben said. "But I liked the speech. He did a good job."

Natalie Davis January 22, 2013 at 04:43 PM
Oh! One more thing, the teachers at BMS yesterday told me that Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen will be making another visit to the school soon. Is that acceptable?
Citizen Jane January 22, 2013 at 06:23 PM
So, do you figure that if Romney had been elected the plans would be different? I doubt it, I remember watching Reagan and Bush do the same thing. I look at all of them as a celebration that we can disagree about candidates and move on as a country. My kid takes civics at PHS with Mr. Kyle, and loves talking about topics they don't get to discuss in the typical social studies class. Couple of things that might make you want to rethink your position - many seniors in HS can vote, and even if they are one of the rare ones who are not 18 when they graduate, it is still in everyone's best interest if we produce active and involved citizens. And although my kid is liberal in his political beliefs, he is often assigned a conservative viewpoint for debates - it never hurts to consider other people's viewpoints.
patchitup1 January 22, 2013 at 11:22 PM
Natalie I want you to go to wiki and look up liberalism. Then rethink your attack on me. I do believe these children are too young to be involved in politics. High school yes but middle school? I hear you and your point is noted.
Natalie Davis January 22, 2013 at 11:43 PM
Sir, there was no attack, merely an explanation of civics education and the truth that we don't know the teacher's politics. Again, with respect, we do not. And I do not, would not, will not attack you or anyone. Just pointing out the facts (which are questionable on Wikipedia, given that anyone can edit the 'definitions'). I was there, sir, and the teacher was not promoting any political opinion whatsoever. If you believe middle schoolers are too young for civics education, that is your right to hold and express it. But the teacher did not promote any viewpoint at all.
Ben Walek December 10, 2013 at 09:54 PM
And how true Natalie was and not you Mr. Patchitup1 and how ignorant your remarks were now thats an attack from a 8th grader buddy


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