Yesterday morning we gathered in our West common room and held a Quaker-style meeting to assess the previous night’s election results. One by one, our students shared hopes, fears, questions, and ideas.
The mood was reflective and, at times, somber. Many of our students wished Hillary Clinton had won. A smaller number favored Donald Trump. None of them is used to dramatic political change: Barack Obama is the only President they have really known. Indeed, this may be the first event that has shifted the earth under their feet.
Many of the comments in our meeting were inspiring and forward-looking. Following something James Comey said several weeks ago, several students noted the “bubble” and “confirmation bias” that had kept them from understanding the full electorate. They pledged to seek out other views. They committed to taking positive action in their communities. They expressed support for one another. “Don’t mourn, organize!” said one Clinton supporter.
(For those trying to move beyond assumptions about racism and misogyny to understand the electorate, here is a video clip from March that might be useful. The four-minute clip features leading African American academic Henry Louis Gates, Jr. discussing Trump supporters with leading documentary film maker Ken Burns in March.)
Afterward, the students signed out: for a run, to purchase a newspaper, to reflect in a house of worship, to pet dogs in Lincoln Park. Some also watched Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. And then we had quinoa chili for lunch, heard the results of SEGL’s own internal Presidential election, and went to work on the collaborative policy document (which addresses freedom of the press in Eritrea) rough draft. Advisors checked in with students throughout the day.
Later in the afternoon, we went to Thomson Elementary for our weekly Books and Basketball session. Most of the students there are the children of immigrants. Many of them were nervous about Donald Trump, and it was poignant to see our students mentor and learn from their little friends. (I have included some photos at the bottom of this post.)
In the evening they had dinner and were hard at work in study hall. One of the books they are reading is the negotiation classic, Getting to Yes, about finding agreement without losing your principles: a particularly appropriate topic for a new political era.