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Published: Wednesday, 1/21/2009

History tops Lincoln Academy's lessons

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Fifth grader Allen Gregory portrays President Obama during a program for students at Lincoln Academy for Boys. Allen says Mr. Obama's presidency 'tells me I can do anything.' Fifth grader Allen Gregory portrays President Obama during a program for students at Lincoln Academy for Boys. Allen says Mr. Obama's presidency 'tells me I can do anything.'
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Allen Gregory stood in front of his school and gave a brief biography of one of 10 influential African-Americans in history.

His classmates before him at Lincoln Academy for Boys had portrayed leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela.

When it was his turn as the last speaker, Allen described his qualifications: He was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review and he worked in the U.S. Senate.

Immediately, the boys around him started to whisper in recognition.

The fifth-grade student confirmed his classmates' thoughts with a confident, "I am Barack Obama," which was greeted by a roar from the boys.

"It tells me I can do anything," Allen, 11, said about Mr. Obama's presidency.

The school had a special ceremony that included the "I am " presentations of the influential leaders, songs, and a live look at Mr. Obama taking the oath of office.

Davion Crockett, 6, and his peers stare intently at the television during President Obama's inauguration ceremony. Davion Crockett, 6, and his peers stare intently at the television during President Obama's inauguration ceremony.
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Allen wants to be a lawyer, so he looks up to Mr. Obama for his law career as well as his historic presidency.

"He's the first African-American president and can do a lot for the United States," he said after the ceremony, still dressed in his presidential black suit his grandfather bought him with a maroon tie and matching handkerchief.

It was a big day at Lincoln Academy for Boys.

Many of them wore red, white, and blue, matching the stars and other decor in the auditorium.

Their principal, Teresa Quinn, was patriotic with a red top, flag scarf, and starred tiara.

The election and inauguration of the 44th President represented exciting times in her school, Ms. Quinn said, not only because Mr. Obama is the first black president, but also because of the energy that surrounded the campaign.

"Those children can see a mirror reflection of themselves - 'I can be the president of the United States of America,'" Ms. Quinn said. "They see themselves. This is possible."

In her 30-plus years of teaching, Vicki Creekmore, who is a teacher in the school's responsible thinking classroom, said an election cycle has never been as full of energy as it was at Lincoln this school year.

"Before you'd say it and hoped it. Now you can prove they can be anything they want to be," she said.

The boys realized it too.

"I think it will help because a lot of African-American kids stop trying because they don't have role models," said Jordan Braden, 11, who is in sixth grade at Lincoln Academy. "He is a role model to show you that you can do anything you want."

Jordan has been following the election and is waiting for Mr. Obama to begin tackling the issues, like better textbooks for schools, fixing the economy, lower gas prices, and addressing the war.

"I really believe when he says change is coming," Jordan said. "He tells you so much in his words when he's speaking, you believe him."

Fellow sixth-grader Toriano Wright, 12, said Mr. Obama is an inspiration. "You know how parents can tell you that you can be whatever you want to be?," he said. "He shows the African-American culture you can."

Election day was on his birthday, and since he voted for Mr. Obama in the school's mock election that day, Toriano was happy Mr. Obama won the votes of America too.

Toriano and the other 140 boys in his school listened intently after their program as Mr. Obama took the oath of office.

They erupted in cheers and stomped their feet for the first black president. And when it came time for his speech, they quieted themselves to listen to what he had to say. "I think he did good," Toriano said after the speech. "I think that was the perfect statement on how our nation was and what we need to do to get it back together."

The boys, some of whom have only been alive for one president in George W. Bush, are excited about what a black president can do for the country.

"I think today means a lot to a lot of people, even me, to have a president people are happy about. People are happy to have the first black president" said Denzel Middleton, 11, who is in sixth grade.

"I'm ready for Barack Obama to get into the White House and make changes."

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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