My daughter Molly wiped away her own tears as she entered her grade school classroom last Wednesday morning. Molly was as prepared as she could be. Already that morning the head of Near North Montessori had sent the faculty a teaching tolerance article meant to help teachers like Molly process the election with their students. What her kids needed to know, Molly tells me, was “that they were safe, and that their feelings were valid, regardless of what they were.”
But this wasn’t the outcome anyone expected. Molly teaches a classroom of 29 fourth- , fifth- , and sixth-graders. “The children came in that morning with varying degrees of awareness. It seemed a number of them had been crying,” she says. “There were a number of questions about the wall. There were some questions about their Muslim friends. One girl asked if someone would stay with Trump at all times to make sure that he didn’t molest anyone. It was extremely hard for me to keep my feelings off of my face. I did my best, though I’m sure my more perceptive students knew exactly how I was feeling . . .
“I told them that they were safe, that their friends were safe, and that there are many people in our country, myself included, committed to making sure that nothing bad happens to them. I couldn’t say that any of his plans wouldn’t happen. I could say that some of his plans would be very difficult to execute. We talked about what it means to live in a Democracy.”
When can we vote? one student asked, and several others said, “Not until we’re 18″—an eternity. You don’t have a vote yet, said Molly, but you do have a voice. She suggested that the students write letters to the president-elect. “I reminded them that it’s hard to hear what someone says if you do not feel respected by that person,” Molly tells me. So first, congratulate the president-elect, she told them, and then say what you have to say.
As you’ll see, they dutifully followed this instruction. A few students were too overwhelmed to write a letter, but most did. With the permission of the school and the families, Molly has shared some of them with me:
Dear Donald Trump,
I’ve heard you were recently elected president of the united States of America. I first want to congratulate you for winning. But I also want to say that you should always listen to the little things in life. So please listen to me. I think you should follow your thoughts and do what you think is right. But you should also think again. Think if it really is right for our country, think if it really is right to arrest people just because they’re a different race. You can’t accuse someone for something they didn’t do. Being president is a big role, so do good things. You are a role model for kids like me. I know I’m just a kid but I still have a voice.
Congratulations on becoming America’s 45th president! Can you make America great again? I am curious to see what you do next. I hope you keep the muslims in the country so I can keep my friends. How will you pay for the wall? I think with paying for the wall with our funds would raise taxes. I don’t think bringing back waterboarding is a good idea. Please protect America and it’s citizens from hostile forces. A few magnanimous gestures and no Trans Pacific Partnership. Come up with a way to fight ISIS, train our armies, and protect the country. But first listen to the small things like gender, race, discrimination, orientation, culture, and beliefs. Immigration is a hard problem to take care of. Please consult your nation. The world has many problems and it’s no easy task to solve all of them. Remember the pledge of allegiance—one nation, under God, indivisible. Remember that. We’re inseparable. A tale of two cities: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. That’s us. . .
Congrats on becoming President. Although you will be president now I worry about some things you have said. First, women’s rights; Women have the same amount of rights as men. Just because they are different gender does not mean they’re not equal to men. Another thing is banning Muslims. I have a friend who is muslim and I would not want her to leave. Besides, Someone who is Muslim could have voted for you. Next Making a wall between Mexico and the USA and making the Mexico citizens build it would be Plain mean and what if the Mexicans did not build it? Would you wip them like Slaves? Next Making Poor People Pay more than the Rich people would not work. As the new President try to think things over before you say them, try not to run the USA as a business because it may not work. Please respond.
Congratulations on being elected president of the United States of America. I hope when you get put into office you will make some great decisions to make America better than it already is. You have made some bad decisions in the past, but I believe everyone deserves a fresh start. I hope you will be a great al mighty leader of the U.S.A. America has chosen a new president, and they chose a good person to rule. These are some things I hope you can make happen. I hope that one day there will be no more ISIS. I hope that one day there will be no more discrimination of race, and everyone is equal. And one day everyone has a decent job with decent pay. Please don’t kick muslims out of the country. I don’t know what you have against them, but it’s not right. I hope that one day I can live in a place where I feel safe. Maybe one day you can make that happen. It would be a miracle if you would write back. I know you are a busy man. So you don’t have to, but you would make a 12 year old very very happy. Sincerely, A fellow American.
Can you make America great again? I am curious to see what is next. I hope you keep some muslims in the country because some muslims are good people. You are cool. I want the country to be peaceful and full of freedom. How are you going to build the wall? I want you to find ways to fight Isis, train our military, and protect our country. If you can do all this, thank you!
Dear Donald Trump, One of my best friends is a Muslim. So if you kick him out I will feel very sad. Please don’t build that wall. . . . I wanna live in a country where everyone has equal rights and I don’t want you to harm anyone and I want my children to live in a world better than the current state of our country. My family didn’t vote for you and I didn’t like you while you were running but I think you can do it. I think you can be a good president. Your fellow American. PS Bigly isn’t a word.
Congratulations on becoming the forty fifth president in the U.S. Your very cool and a good business man. I think you will be a good president and I support you but you say some stuff that can heart people like the wall. It’s like the civil war again but do well as pres.
Congratulations on becoming the president. I know that becoming the president is a special thing that you worked hard to earn. I believe you should probably think about how it would feel to be kicked out of the country, or to be called a rapist when you’re not. Remember, no matter what gender or race someone is they still are a person. They still matter and they still deserve to be treated fairly. I am a kid that doesn’t have any say if you’re president or not. Honestly, I don’t mind you being president as long as you treat everyone fairly. Everyone has their own voice, and this is how I used mine. I hope you listen to the words I have to say and treat everyone fairly. Sincerely, Someone who cares.
Dear Donald Trump, Congratulations on winning the election. I know it is not easy to do. A lot of people have disagreed with you on a lot of things. I do not always agree with you, but there is one thing we do agree on, and that is that we have America’s best interests at heart. We have different ideas of how to get there, but we have a common goal. I just want you to know the things that are important to me. I think that everybody should be able to be themselves, without having to be afraid of being judged. I also think America should be a nation of diversity, with different genders, races, and religions. And I think that everything in America, should be fair. You don’t have to listen to me, I’m only 11 years old, but I’m trying to make my voice heard. Remember, when you are trying to make America great again that everybody cares about our country. We just have different ideas. I know you are very busy, so thank you for reading this.