One of my favorite things to do when I was an elected official was speaking to elementary school students. Somehow, the young display a level of openness and wisdom that many adults lack for fear of offending someone. So, recently I was invited to speak to a group of fifth grade Long Island students about politics and government.
After a 15-minute talk about federal and state government, I was pelted with questions, and I in turn asked a few on my own. Our kids are more focused on the news more than ever before. They occasionally watch television at the same time as their parents and pick up little tidbits about politicians and government.
There were 28 students in the classroom, so I asked what any questioner should ask. That was, “How many of you would like to grow up to be president?” To my surprise, only one student in the room raised his hand. I then asked the others why they didn’t want to grow up to be the president? One answer was “I don’t want to be like Donald Trump.” Others made very negative remarks about the president. A few just laughed at the mention of his name. A pleasant, dark-haired young girl shouted out that “Trump doesn’t respect women.”
I asked the students to name presidents that they like, and the names of Kennedy, Clinton, Bush and Obama came up. I have no doubt that a fifth grader in Kansas City might want to be a president like Trump, but it’s a sad commentary if our country is so divided that even the children are at odds when it comes to any discussion about President Donald Trump.
Because I am considered a senior citizen, my memory stretches back to such names like Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt and Nixon. Each one of their names evokes a comment like “war hero,” “the buck stops here,” “the New Deal” and “restoring relations with China.” While some of them were not universally loved, each one raised the office of the president to the level of being called the true leader of the free world.
Over the years, many of us thought that it would only be a matter of time before a third party candidate would be elected president. In theory, Donald Trump, who we thought wasn’t really a Republican, would fall into the category of being a true independent. Some voters were attracted to the idea that it was time for a businessman to get elected and some of the true believers backed him because they thought he would shake up Washington.
Of all the promises that Donald Trump made, the only real one he has kept is that he would shake up Washington. He has done such a good job that he has split the Republican House of Representatives into two bigger factions and has forced the moderates to abandon him as well. He claims he will work with the Democrats but does nothing but insult them on any given occasion. His childish daily tweets have made a mockery of his office and have also alienated some of America’s closest allies.
So in one brief hour with 29 fifth graders, I learned that the unhappiness of most adult Americans has already trickled down to our future leaders. They say that “out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom.” I sure heard it loud and clear that as long as Donald Trump is our president, the title means nothing.
Former State Assemblyman Jerry Kremer is a partner at Ruskin Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.