The 2016 presidential election was a source of division in homes and in schools. With extensive media coverage and dramatic headlines about the candidates hitting tabloids, newspapers, and talk shows each week, there was no way to avoid the dramatic split and heightened emotions of our country. Verbal attacks, mud slinging, and scandal surrounding the presidential campaigns were unlike any this country has ever had. Of course, many news sites have stated these facts. You can go to any blog, website, or news outlet and find outrage or triumph, sadness or jubilation, or simple, generic messages about accepting the results, celebrating the new era, the divisive nature of this election, and how shocked American citizens and other countries were as they watched it unfold. America is struggling to reconcile a climate of completely different political ideals, with many groups feeling threatened based on the messaging and perceptions about presidential-elect Donald Trump. Throughout the country, school-communities, both students and teachers alike, have voiced concerns about racism, violence, and bullying. Many students have expressed feeling unsafe in the current political climate. But what about our school? What has our community had to say about this? What is our response going to be? What has it been so far? How can we come together, despite differing views on the results of the election, to stay true to our own beliefs and improve America?
The day after election day was fraught with emotion. Celebrations were interwoven with sobbing and struggling students. Some students remained neutral. But despite polar opposite reactions surrounding the results, our community remained a safe place for every individual, no matter their political view or emotion, to seek affirmation, company, and respect.
In the spirit of the political debate held by the Republican, Democratic, and Independent clubs prior to the election, club leaders Jacob Hutt of the Democratic Club, and Mickey Wootten of the Republican Club, addressed the community the following day. Both boys stated their hope that Friends Academy would “unify under the impending leadership.” Class deans and teachers continuously reiterated this message throughout the day. One teacher aptly stated: “We have a new president of the United States. Though this is emotional in different ways for everyone, we must remember that.”
Interviews with various students (names omitted for anonymity) revealed differing, yet progress-oriented views. One student expressed his “pride in the decision that we as America made together. The lack of communication between Democrats and Republicans was appalling this election, but hopefully people will learn to be more open-minded about Trump and his supporters. I believe that Trump’s business experience, outside perspective, and strong opinions will give our country the new voice and leadership it needs.”
Another student expressed her “disappointment and fear due to the results of the election. Trump’s policies and views toward minority groups are exclusionist and wrong, and I am worried that many families will not have a place in America anymore. I have extreme concern for women’s reproductive rights, environmental issues, and religious and racial tolerance. I believe Trump does not stand to improve policies surrounding those issues, but interrupt and destroy the progress we have been making.”
Other students revealed ambivalence toward the election, with one stating that “neither candidate was appealing to me. They both said gross things about each other, and I didn’t feel compelled to support either person. I just hope that Trump doesn’t divide our country too much.” These, as well as additional statements by students, highlight the diversity of opinions at Friends regarding the president-elect– but every student voiced the same goal: to improve our country.
There are different views as to what constitutes improvement, but despite the raw emotions and reactions surrounding Election Day, Friends Academy was able to facilitate an environment respectful of everyone’s opinions and reactions. Future developments and appointments by president-elect Trump may prove to be sources of division in our country.
For those who choose to support certain developments, there will be a place of gathering and dialogue for you. For those who oppose these developments, there are many organizations, even clubs at our school where you can get involved in activism and voicing your opinions about certain issues that feel threatened. And for those who feel conflicted, there is a place for you to hear all perspectives. Our school is experiencing this time of uncertainty along with the rest of our country, and our community’s past attitude and recurring messages of peace, tolerance, and respectful dialogue remain, no matter the individual opinions on politicians, policies, and developments in Washington. No matter how you feel, your voice should, and will be, respected and heard at our school. Peaceful ways you feel inspired to catalyze positive change for our country should be enacted.
We as a school should and will not ignore the conflicts in our country. We have not in the past, and we will not now. We will continue to face each issue, work toward positive change in our country, and treat every member of our community with respect. Hopefully those in Washington can do the same.
Image Source: http://www.businessinsider.fr/presidentielle-americaine-les-premiers-resultats-sont-tombes-donald-trump-a-lavantage/