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Letters to President Obama


Kathleen Hartley, Los Angeles, California

March 9, 2015

Dear President Obama,

I am an old white lady teaching social sciences in a truly diverse (racially, ethnically, socio-economically) independent high school in Los Angeles, California. Today I threw out my lesson plans, and in all five of my classes we watched your speech on the 50th anniversary of the Selma March. (Incidentally, in case you were wondering, it is every bit as compelling on the 6th viewing as it is on the 1st.) The kids applauded at the end in every class. One Asian boy said, "Now I feel proud to be an American." A shy black girl who rarely says anything in class spoke up to talk about how far we have come and how far we have to go. An immigrant from Mexico talked about dreams made possible. To say it was deeply touching and emotional is an understatement. I told them two things: they must remember your words and never hand over their power and voice by not voting. And I told them also that they must always vote for the candidate who appeals to their higher and most noble selves, not the candidates who rely on fear and division and hate. You might be interested to know that the last time I threw out my lesson plans was in March of 2008 when I screened for all my classes your speech on racism. I think many of the teachers in our school did the same. I hadn't yet decided how I would vote in the California primary, but when I saw the looks on the faces of my African-American 9th grade boys as they watched someone who looked like them speak on an issue that fundamentally impacted them, I knew there was no choice, and I proudly voted for you, as I have ever since. Those boys for the first time felt hope and promise and felt that they were included, that America was theirs as well as ours. It was an epiphany for them and for me. Thanks so much for all you do. It makes a profound impact. You are in my prayers always, and also of my church.

Kathy Hartley