On Tuesday morning, the 98 students at NYCiSchool gathered in their school’s common room to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama. This is a report about that experience from Raquel and Angelica, two students who are writing occasional columns for GothamSchools on their experiences attending a New York City public school.
Raquel: Returning to school after a 3-day weekend to sit in front of two flatscreen televisions and watch Obama’s inauguration was nothing short of amazing, because we were glued to something more than a television screen. We were glued into history.
We also created historical artifacts of our own. A school-wide assignment required each student to write a list of the topics we wanted to hear Obama address in his speech. As the speech progressed, we recorded what topics he actually covered. This way, we were able to document not only what we heard, but what it meant to us.
I predict that unlike many school assignments, we’ll remember this one as not just one more piece of paper. Instead, we will be able to use this assignment as a tool to evaluate whether Obama has kept his word to America, and to us.
Angelica: We are teenagers, a rowdy group to tame, especially when concentrated all in one room — and yet the sound of Barack Obama’s even voice, fierce and calm, muted us. Our chests were swelling with pride, the air filled with his deep, crystalline tone. He seemed to have complete, unconditional trust in us, an odd characteristic for a powerful ruler to have, but nonetheless an effective one, as it rendered us quiet. Silence had never come to us so easily, but our whispers faded as the television screen blared the beginning of Obama’s speech.
Barack Obama is an unbelievably persuasive person. During his speech, the authority in his sincere voice was firm yet humble, and did to us students what reprimanding, intimidating teachers rarely have the ability to do. We were listening, respectful, and nearly silent, with the exception of sporadic applause that often seemed necessary.
With his high standards and ideals, Obama’s sheer faith in us — as the future of America — is perhaps the part that struck me the most. So trusting and unquestioning of our potential, he convinced me to stop questioning it as well.
At the end of the speech, beneath my skin there was still that vague tingle lingering beneath my skin, like little ants racing into my fingertips. Teachers were teary-eyed, giving high-fives to each other and to us, the students. The excitement was so great that one teacher even forgot to collect the assignment!