In what was a very historic day for the entire nation, students at P.S. 55 at 450 St. Paul’s Place got to watch President Barack Obama’s inauguration live in their auditorium, and have a weeklong schedule of activities planned around the passing of the baton to the new president.
On Tuesday, January 20, the children at P.S. 55, the Benjamin Franklin School, joined millions of other Americans in celebrating what was not only the nation’s but also their own choice for president.
Before the election, older students in the grade Pre-K through 5th grade elementary school participated in a presidential debate in which one student played President Obama and another opponent John McCain. The students picked Obama unanimously as their choice after the debate.
They also crafted a new school song, built on the theme of equality, called “I am a Person,” which was sung at the January 20 assembly.
“This will be a week-long exercise,” said P.S. 55 principal Luis Torres. “They will be writing letters to President Obama based on what he says in his inaugural address, asking that he come to the school. The students will also compare and contrast Obama’s speech with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream,’ speech.”
The fact that Martin Luther King Day, and President Obama’s inauguration as the first back president in the nation’s history, fell on back to back days, January 19 and 20, set the stage for an exciting teaching opportunity.
Students in the younger grades got an Obama coloring book which marked the different stages of his life: his birth to a Kenyan father and mother from Kansas; his formative years at Columbia University and Harvard Law School; his work as a community organizer on Chicago’s south side; his election first to the Illinois state senate and then the U.S. Senate; and his successful run for the presidency.
The students sat quietly through Obama’s inaugural address, cheering only when he paused at key points in the speech, including speaking of the need for “remaking America.”
Principal Torres said that the election of President Obama showed the students that anything is possible. The staff felt the same way.
“The students are really excited to see Obama sworn in as President because we had our own vote here,” said P.S. 55 school aide Charlyne Henry.
P.S. 55 is also home a very large collection of autographs of leading athletes in basketball, baseball, football, and all other kinds of sports donated by Steiner Sports.
The athletes like Mariano Rivera, Mookie Wilson, and others wrote positive messages to the students while signing the posters to students at P.S. 55, encouraging them to follow their dreams.
The autograph collection is located at the second floor of the school.