Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where were YOU?

Where were you as the 44th President of the United States took the Oath of Office? I was sharing the moment with my first grade class. As this historic day began the children's daily Morning Message consisted of sentences about the President for the children to correct. At 11:30 the teachers turned on the television so that the children could watch the minutes leading up to the Inauguration. The teachers pointed out all of the important officials - the former Presidents and Vice President, the stylish First Lady and, of course, Sasha and Malia. The children found Barack Obama's name on the screen and held up their hands when they first spotted him. Of course, even with all the conversation at school and at home, one child wanted to know where John McCain was!

Rick Warren got up for the prayer but... it was time for our class to go to lunch. The teachers tried to remain respectful and bowed their heads, but as the minutes passed and the five minute window between classes in the lunch line began to close, they quietly lined the children up for lunch. School must go on even as history is being made. Three televisions were on in the Dining Room but very few of the students paid attention. At that time of day the Dining Room is full of kindergartners and first graders who went about their normal business of eating lunch and socializing with friends without realizing that they were living through such an historic day for our country.

Our custodian stayed close to the television hanging on every word and the para professionals manning the Dining Room and teachers as they came and went, would glance at the television to check what was happening. As the Vice President took the oath, one of the paraprofessionals quieted the children and then led in a round of applause as he finished. As the President stepped up to take the oath, the Dining Room was quieted again, but as Barack Obama began to speak the children went back to their business of eating and chatting while most of the adults hung close to the television to catch each word of this historic speech.

I sat back down to eat, knowing that I would be able to catch the high points on the news for the rest of the day. As I sat there, the historical implications of the events unfolding in front of my eyes were profound and I wondered if these little ones would one day stand as parents with a questioning first grader of their own who would ask, "Where were you when the first African American President was sworn into office?" Will they remember that they sat in Mrs. Daniels and Mrs. Timmons' first grade classroom or that the Dining Room was quieted as the oaths were taken? Maybe they will remember. Maybe they won't... but I shall never forget.

3 comments:

Linda Hegdal said...

I was having lunch with my own first graders today as the President and Vice President were taking the oath of office. As I watched my students explode with excitement for Barak Obama I was thinking about all of the possibilities for the future...

Mrs.Mallon & Mrs. Dillard said...

We also watched for 10 minutes - all the kids could say was, "Look at all the people!" It was an amazing sight to see and a testament to the vision and foresight of the founding fathers. This is truly historic and transformational time in American history. MM

Suzanne said...

As the historic oath was taken, I sat in awe next to my 1st grade son. I quietly explained the process and why this day was so historic. He asked many good questions and I explained that this peaceful transfer of power is all too rare in our world and that we are very lucky to live in this glorious country.

Maybe he will remember where he was and maybe he won't. But if he doesn't, I can help him recall and he'll never have to wonder. He witnessed history.