Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day 2009

It was almost 11:00AM yesterday morning, the 20th of January. I had just put the public address phone up to the radio so that the entire school could hear our President be sworn in to Office. It was the only thing I could do. We don't have cable television, and to try to get a live stream off of the internet was proving to be impossible. Everyone in America must have been trying to access the internet at once. It was the best we could do, and I was afraid that it wouldn't be enough. In my eyes, the biggest, most important political event in our lifetime, and all we could do was listen.
A whole range of thoughts entered my mind - what if the teachers don't share my enthusiasm? What if the kids just don't care? What if they don't have the attention span to pay attention for that long? I was panicked, so I secured the receiver next to the radio speaker, bade my secretary goodbye, and went for a walk. I couldn't take it.
Stepping out into the hallway, an eerie feeling overtook me. It was a sound that is not familiar to schools; at least it shouldn't be, anyway! The place was silent. The only sound that of the speakers in classrooms, of a voice introducing Chief Justice Roberts for the swearing-in. I went from room to room. In one fourth grade classroom, all of the kids had gathered around the classroom speaker and were staring up at it, as if it were a television set they couldn't tear their eyes away from. Walking down the stairs and into the first grade hallway, I peeked into a classroom full of seven and eight year-olds. Sixty of them! Two classrooms packed into one, all of the desks and chairs pushed back and all of the kids sitting on the floor, intently listening to the broadcast! I was floored!
Down the third grade hall I went, not believing what was happening. It was like a ghost town! Not a soul was out in the hallway. Peeking into a third grade room, a sight that I will never forget. Her name is Jacqi. She was standing at the front of the room, as close as she could get to the classroom speaker. Her hands were folded and her eyes closed.
She was praying as hard as I have ever seen anyone pray and she didn't care who was watching her or if anyone was saying anything about her.
She didn't have to worry. They weren't.
I went in and was flocked by kids, third graders who wanted to share this moment with me. I put my arms around as many of them as I could get hold of and we listened to President Obama take the Oath of Office.
It was an incredible moment, an historic moment on so many levels. But the greatest pleasure for me that day, was the pleasure I took in hoping that this day was one these kids would never forget. It is these kinds of moments that kids remember about school, and I was thrilled to be able to share it with them.