Monday, June 8, 2009
Pictured above from left to right: Kristina, Buffalo Organizer of 2012 Draft Sarah Committee, Jeff Graham, Mayor of Watertown, NY, and me, Executive Board Member and New York Organizer of 2012 Draft Sarah Committee
Today I had the opportunity to share with my students what transpired in Auburn and Purchase, NY this past weekend. I told them the story of William Seward's purchase of Alaska, his devotion to Harriet Tubman, and the occasion that brought Governor Sarah Palin to the area this past weekend: Alaska's 50th year of statehood. Also, in light of Sunday's Walk for Autism, we briefly talked about autism. Some said they know people who are autistic. Others asked what autism is.
Although I spoke well of the Palins, I did not even attempt to express the depth of my emotions throughout the weekend. I can't even express it internally, so I know any effort to adequately give voice to these emotions to my students simply wasn't going to succeed.
I observed several things as students in my different classes took in the pictures and the facts. I was surprised to note that there was one question that was asked in a couple different classes: "Is she nice?" I said, "Oh yes, she's very gracious." Do you remember the student I wrote about in Part I: Sarah Palin Teaches my Classes Here in Upstate New York? Well, she commented after class that Sarah looked different in these pictures, that she seems nice. I don't know what kind of person she thought Sarah was, but I told her that Sarah is indeed a very "nice" person, and I questioned why she thought otherwise. She said, "No, she just seems nicer now. She looks more relaxed in these pictures, and not so uptight."
That was news to me because I always thought Sarah looked comfortable addressing the people, but the comment did give me something to think about. Why did she, who previously thought Sarah had never said anything of value, also think she was some kind of uptight rogue. Every time I saw Sarah among the people during the campaign, she was always kind, incredibly friendly, and so very giving--of her smile, her handshake, her time. But just as we discussed a couple weeks ago, it's amazing the impression left upon people by the likes of the mainstream media, but--although not any more gracious than she had always been--perhaps Sarah is indeed more relaxed. Maybe that's what happens when you're the one calling the shots now and not being mishandled. Just a thought...
A student in my afternoon class asked the same question. When, in answer to her question, I assured her that yes, Sarah was "nice," she said, "So she's not snobby, thinking she's all that or anything?" I find that question laughable, kind of like the "diva" allegations that came out after the election. "Oh no, she's not like that at all. She really is gracious," I stated.
After meeting Sarah and watching her in real time, that question sort of shocked me. Having seen her and talked to her, I cannot even fathom questioning her character, her heart, or her willingness to show grace toward others. She oozes these qualities. It's one of those things that has to be experienced first hand to fully understand, I suppose, but I did stress that she is most liberal in her kindness toward people. (This, by the way, is the only way in which she is a liberal!) And I don't know how she does it. I think I would find it all too much, and I would probably succumb to the urge to yell, "Get up off me!"
I think in each class at least one person mentioned that her cheeks must really hurt "from all that smiling." One boy said, "She must tie them up to keep them that way!" I explained to each class,"That's just the way she is," but I don't think they got it. I don't think they can--nor can you--without seeing firsthand how she treats those around her. These kids are conditioned--as even most adults are--to believe that people do what they do for reasons other than authenticity. We have become used to politicians, but we are not yet accustomed to public servants--and Sarah is a public servant.
I thought it was cute when one student shockingly observed, "She's not wearing red!" I said, "No, but she did wear some red shoes this weekend." Her response was, "I knew it! She has to wear some red. She always wears red."
I could also hear the "She's pretty!" comments, followed by "Yeah, she is!" I mentioned to a couple classes that the camera couldn't really capture the beauty she and Todd truly have. But again, you can't fathom that either, unless you see it in person.
One of the sweetest comments I heard was from a girl, who said with such awe in her voice, "I think it's so cool that you got to be right next to her."It was really cool.
As I wind down here, I can't fail to share the one comment that had a bunch of us baffled. Toward the end of one class, we had a fire drill. We had already finished talking about Auburn and Purchase, and the students were working in groups on a final project. As I walked up the line in the grass awaiting the end of the drill, I heard one student exclaim to another, "You don't know who Sarah Palin is?!" Apparently the unknowing student asked who that lady in the pictures was! I find this unbelievable, so you know I had to join in and give her a hard time. After all, we spent many a class this fall discussing the election campaign, talking about each candidate, and even seeing video footage of the candidates addressing certain key issues. Finally, on November 4, we held a class election. All that, and after 20 minutes of seeing pictures and hearing comments, she asks who Sarah Palin is! Oh, nobody. Just the next President of the United States!
Today the Mayor of Watertown, NY emailed me some pictures that he had, unbeknownst to me, captured during the Seward House reception in Auburn Saturday afternoon. I'll post some here.