Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Sad Spectacle

The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss reports

It’s a time-honored tradition: U.S. presidents, every year, take some time to meet the 2017 state Teachers of the Year and single out the national winner. But things went a little differently Wednesday when President Trump welcomed this year’s winners to the White House.

Usually, the National Teacher of the Year speaks. 

Only this time, on Wednesday

that didn’t happen. Usually, the president spends some time talking with the teachers, giving many of them individual attention. That barely happened Wednesday, according to several participants who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because they said they fear Trump addressing them on Twitter or press secretary Sean Spicer bringing them up at a daily briefing. Usually family members join the winners to meet the president. This time few were allowed — and relatives of the teachers, some who had traveled at their own expense for many hours to attend, were left to wait in a building near the White House, with, as one said, “no water in the hot rooms.”

This group of teachers had an interesting reaction to the humiliation the White House evidently was visiting upon them:

Rather than a ceremony in the East Room or the Rose Garden, as past presidents have done, Trump invited the teachers into the Oval Office, where he asked them all to gather around him, standing, while he sat at his desk. In the crowd were first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence, second lady Karen Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. It was the first lady’s birthday, and the teachers sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

The good news is that it wasn't Betsy DeVos' birthday because it simply got worse when

At one point, one of the state winners, Abdul Wright from Minnesota, asked Trump whether the group could sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often called the “Black National Anthem.” Trump, according to the Star Tribune, agreed, and thanked Wright for leading the song. Wright was quoted by the newspaper as saying:

“Yesterday superseded politics. Yesterday was about values, yesterday was about the human experience, yesterday was about the human heart. And I think we got caught up in that.”

Thursday night, approximately 100,000 people attended the NFL draft in Philadelphia.  That, too, superseded politics and was about values (the centrality of sports), human experience (bonding with other fans), the human heart (passion for, and loyalty to, the local team), and "getting caught up in that" (overwhelming enthusiasm, even among those not drinking).

Fortunately, other attendees were more sangune than the self-absorbed Wright. Upon being honored as Minnesota Teacher of the Year, the charter school teacher (no surprise, there) had told a gathering

I know that I have an opportunity to give young people who come from across this country, especially African-American people, a model of excellence to aspire to.  I know I will represent every educator in this room and every parent in this room. I want you to know that I will be deserving of this award.

That's a heavy burden to bear, but one which Wright knows he is deserving of because he possesses a humility exceeded only by that of Wednesday's host, President Donald Trump. Between characters like those two, Ameican teachers deserve far better.

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