Kids see hopeful future with Obama

To many children, the question of whether a president could be black had barely occurred to them.



YOUNGSTOWN — City schools are abuzz with talk of the president-elect, but perhaps for a different reason than their parents.

Principal Diane Guarnieri of Harding Elementary said the talk of the school Wednesday morning was all about Sen. Barack Obama. But speaking with the school’s pupils, between the second and fifth grade, revealed a different take on the election’s significance.

Sure, Obama is the first black man to be elected U.S. president, the children said, but he’s also the guy who can fix the country’s problems.

“He’s our future,” said Tyriq Ellis, a 10-year-old in fourth grade who thinks Obama represents a “good change.”

He and other pupils spouted a lengthy agenda of items they expect Obama will work to accomplish. Among their objectives for the 44th president, the pupils said, are helping the environment, repairing a broken economy and making school affordable.

“He’d be good for the job because he’s trying to lower school prices so everyone can go,” said Tyriq, who mentioned that he plans to attend college in eight years.

Ashligh George, 8, who wasn’t able to stay up past her 8 p.m. bedtime to watch Obama seize a majority of electoral votes Tuesday, said Obama will be a great president because he will lower taxes and “stop people from shipping the jobs overseas.”

Ten-year-old Shicole Cornwell agreed with Ashligh, citing the issues that concern her.

“I think he might be a good president because he could lower gas prices and help [reduce] pollution,” she said.

Several other pupils exhibited parallels to their parents in their worries for the future. Many are hopeful that the next president will address the problems of the homeless and hungry, of drug trafficking and gun violence.

For many of the children, the question of whether a president could be black had barely occurred to them. Several even said they would expect nothing less than a woman to be president soon.

If Sarah Palin doesn’t run in 2012, many of the girls pledged to run for high office when they become old enough.

“I want to grow up to be president, so I can stop people from cutting down trees,” Ashligh said. “Some people aren’t even replanting them!”

But Destiny Merriwether, 7, posed competition for Ashligh. “I want Mrs. G [Guarnieri] to be president,” she said.

The kids expressed an understanding that Obama’s election is not only historic, but inspirational. Alongside their parents, many watched the race twist and turn over a nearly two-year period. Some heard the stump speeches, watched the debates and read the headlines.

Wendy Webb, superintendent of Youngstown schools, said Obama’s rise to presidency will give pupils in the district a sense of hope.

“It puts a goal out there to reach,” she said. “When you take responsibility for your actions and you work hard, you can achieve anything.”

That message was not lost on the many miniature politicos at Harding Elementary.

“I always wanted Barack to be president,” said 9-year-old Elishja King, a fourth-grader. “He worked hard; he never stopped trying.”

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