What makes a good leader?
That’s one of the questions Jennifer Crawford’s second-grade class at Burgess Elementary School has been discussing – like many adults – as the presidential election looms.
The students, with an average age of 7, have been reading books about fictional characters that are running for president and learning facts about those who are running for real, Crawford said. Recently, they related some of what they know, such as the fact that a candidate must be at least 35 years old to run, the president can sign new laws and – one of their favorite concepts – the power of the veto.
“If he doesn’t like a law, he says ‘veto’ and sends it back,” Myasia Majjett said.
“Then they have to make a new one,” Ariyan Bunting said. “And make it better,” added Brandon Fabina.
Some of the kids said they watched the debate with their parents, but whether they learned at school or at home, they all had at least heard about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
“I knew Barack Obama was running again. My mom said he is running against Mitt Romney, and she found some other presidents to show me on the Internet,” Erik Quick said. “One was George Washington, but I don’t know what happened to him. He got replaced by someone.”
Erik talked as he worked on a class exercise. The assignment was to draw what a leader looks like, following a generic outline of a person they each received on paper. Crawford said the outline represented “a shell of a person,” and they could draw whatever they wanted and write out descriptions, but they had to be able to explain what they had done.
Of the 18 students who were present, eight of them actually drew the presidential candidates, with five Obamas and three Romneys.
Dorian Schindler said he thought Romney was a good person to pick and drew him “because it’s easier.”
“I know that he doesn’t go in the White House often,” he said.
While Romney and Obama were usually drawn wearing suits, Luke Propst gave his Romney some polish with a spiffy pink flower in the lapel of his black jacket. He said Romney needed a tuxedo, “good hair,” “handsome pants” and “handsome shoes,” and even though the eyes he’d drawn looked a little crazy, he said they were meant to show how Romney squints.
Anya Baltenbach chose to draw Obama because, “He’s really nice. He doesn’t get in any fights with anybody and does cool things like parades.”
“When I see him on TV giving speeches, he doesn’t look like he’s doing anything wrong,” added Cooper Murphy.
Despite being in the news, however, the candidates were outnumbered by drawings of other leaders, including Grayson Gollie’s Secret Service agent, a fireman from Zykon Smalls-Alston – “because they help people” – six friends and two self-portraits, including the one drawn by Nina Hein.
“I’m a good leader,” Nina said, “and I’m the only one who cleans. I’m smart and funny, and I own a store in my room, but no one goes to it.”
Sarah Elizabeth Elliott drew fellow classmate McKenzie Jenne.
“I think she’s a good leader, brave and a good example for other people.”
Crawford said the students pick up a lot of ideas about the president and the office through their access to programs on the Internet. She said one student was more knowledgeable about the White House after having seen a tour of it online.
“It’s amazing the information they latch onto,” Crawford said. “Some were shocked a woman hadn’t been president.”
Twelve of the kids said they would like to be president, including Sarah Elizabeth, who said she wanted to be the first female to make it to office, where she could make changes to things she doesn’t like. Others said some of the perks of the job come from living in the White House: sleeping in nice beds in different colored rooms, having a flower shop and garden and having a movie theater where no one has to pay.
“And you could say that every Wednesday, you have to wear purple clothes,” said Anissa Belarbi, to which Grayson quickly shouted, “Veto!”
Erik said he thought it would be an honor to be president and to stop bombs from being made that destroy people, but the perks of the White House would be very cool.
“There’s all these things you get to do when you get your break – you can eat in a fancy room and see shows,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but I’d give it a shot.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.