In class today we talked about Obama’s State of the Union last night. The students claimed they were not bored listening to it like Donald Trump was who claimed in a tweet, “It was boring.” They were intrigued with the choreography of who stood and applauded and who didn’t during different portions of the speech and had all sorts of comments about the differences between Joe Biden’s and Paul Ryan’s responses to what Obama said (the two of them directly behind Obama). They observed the stolid faces of the military and Supreme Court Justices. They totally saw how Obama was calling out Trump and other presidential Republican candidates in his pointed words. Having just studied the Constitution they also felt pretty good about understanding his jab at gerrymandering.
Presently in our discussion of Reconstruction we are working through some pretty complicated documents of inaugural speeches, published letters and articles, editorial cartoons. We talked about how the words of last night’s State of the Union might one day become fodder in a future 8th grade or high school class some twenty or 100 years from now that would examine the politics of the early 21st century.
Abraham Lincoln in his First Inaugural Address, which we had just finished reading together, calls for compromise between the north and the south, between the majority and the minority, claiming that one side has to/ must acquiesce to the other. Lincoln said that is how a democracy works. Otherwise everything falls apart and breaks down into anarchy and chaos. The students spent time thoughtfully comparing Obama’s words (organically, without any interference or direction from me) to this idea and his clarion call to participate in a democracy. Otherwise that democracy, Obama said, will fail to work for the people. It’s not just voting, Obama continued, but speaking out and standing up for others. Both men, they concluded, believed in the ultimate sovereignty of the people, but the people needed to believe in their own power themselves for their sovereignty to play out. By not using this power, they would lose it.
I love my job.