Contrary to the results of the popular vote and against the hopes and predictions of countless leaders in our country, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. And so, my role as the principal of an all boys’ middle school changed as my students turned to me for answers.
The conversations weren’t easy. But during each one, there was one constant: we must respect the office of the presidency as an institution. As Americans, we learn about the value of the executive branch and we must work to respect the office and the position even when we don’t approve of the person in the role. I do not want my students to look at the individual holding the position and devalue the office. Donald Trump may be a lot of things –including a bigot– but beginning January 20, 2017, he will be the President of the United States.
We would be wise to heed Hillary Clinton’s advice: “We owe him an open mind.” We have to support and even root for the success of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. If Donald Trump fails as a president, then our country fails too.
Here is how I would talk to students about a Donald Trump Presidency:
Address his comments: We have to address the things Donald Trump said in the months leading up to the election. He did make some racist and sexist comments. Some of the things he said were said years before he ran for president of the United States. You have to explain to your students what all his comments meant and why he said some of the things he said.
Talk about his policies: Donald Trump ran as the Republican Nominee for President of the United States. We have to teach our students the policy differences between Republicans and Democrats. And we need to acknowledge that Donald Trump is having the same effect that Barack Obama had on American politics 8 years ago: he has shifted the conversation about elections and politics to a new audience.
- Forgive, but don’t forget: We have to teach our students the age-old lesson of forgive but don’t forget. We have to give Donald Trump a chance to be presidential. We owe him the opportunity to be a better President Trump than he was Candidate Trump. It was candidate Trump who made racist comments, sexist comments, and promised to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
What comes next in the days ahead as we close out the Obama Presidency and anticipate what a Trump Presidency will look like? We, as educators and as Americans, have the awesome responsibility of educating the younger generation. To convince them of the resolve of the American people and that this country is so much more than the person in the oval office; it’s about the millions of American citizens who live here.
The optimist in me is hopeful that a Trump presidency will bring our nation closer as we come together to fight for our country’s success. I am hopeful. I have to be. Four years from now my 8th grade students will be headed to college and I must believe that the America that awaits them is better than the one we are living in now. And the immediate future, whether we like it or not, will be shaped, at least in part, by the 45th President of the United States. Donald J. Trump.
We need to be part of shaping the future too.