Editor's note: Kids say the darnedest things—and write them in the darnedest ways. To make sure readers can understand the thoughtful quotes that follow, we've corrected the major errors but left them otherwise unedited. Do read them in their original form, though. They're powerful.
Last week, we posed a question to students via their teachers: What advice would you give to the new president?
We didn’t know what to expect—but the number and thoughtfulness of the submissions was far beyond what we could have hoped for. Students took this question very seriously; their answers made it clear that they are listening closely to President-elect Trump and that they care deeply about what the next four years will mean for the United States and for the people who live here.
We got responses in the form of essays, letters, drawings and even an acrostic poem. Many made us smile; more than a few made us cry. As we looked through the hundreds of submissions, some themes rose to the top.
Think before you speak. Dozens of students encouraged the president-elect to assume a professional tone and to be more presidential.
“If you can’t think of anything nice to say, you should think harder before you say it.”
“The advice I would [give] to President-elect Trump: Think before you speak because you can really hurt people.”
“I advise the [president-elect] Donald Trump to choose wisely what words come out of his mouth. By doing so, our country could become less divided, and more united. All of this division was caused by words, a powerful weapon that can be used for good or bad.”
Make good choices. The students who gave this advice expressed concern about the future president’s ability to put personal issues aside in service to the greater good.
“Please be an idol to all young children no matter what age, sex or race, please be aware we have feelings. Stop violence and wars, be thoughtful and have tolerance. Listen. Think. The Ku Klux Klan should not be making deals with you. MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE.”
“My advice would be to not have your actions only be based on how you live your life but how everyone else lives theirs. You have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You have to realize that every one of your actions can affect so many people’s lives in a major way.”
“Do what is right, not what is popular.”
Don’t build a wall. This message was mentioned in an overwhelming number of submissions. Students are very concerned about the border wall and about immigrant families being divided through deportation.
“I reconmend you to not build a wall because some people have family on the other side. Respectfully, a concerned citizen”
“My advice to president-elect Trump is to not hang with racists and not build a wall between America and Mexico.”
“Don’t build a wall. Everybody deserves a second chance.”
Don’t be prejudiced. Some students named groups they felt were targeted unfairly during the election, specifically Mexicans, Muslims, women and LGBT individuals; others made a broad appeal to equal rights and treatment for the good of all Americans.
“Remember despite our color, we are All AMERICANS.”
“I think you are being mean to Mexicans. I’m a Mexican. So respect us like we respect your people. I feel mad. You talk about Mexicans. Do you like when people call you names? No. You don’t. We don’t like it either.”
“Racial discrimination is at its all time high we need a leader that brings us together not further push this struggle for equality I’d advise you to refrain from stereotypical and hurtful words that target this nation's racially diverse.”
Keep us safe. Students explicitly asked the future president to keep calm and be strong when faced with threats or dangerous circumstances; many added the sentiment, “We need to be able to trust you.”
“Please make America a place where girls can walk around not afraid.”
“Could we please have no more wars because it’s tremendously harmful to the human population and the earth. It also costs a lot of money we could be using to clean the earth. Let’s keep this world clean and healthy for the future people who live here.”
“Open up to those in fear… Those in fear of losing their families, of not being able to love who they love, of not being able to protect themselves and their bodies, and at this point to those who are in complete fear of our country falling to the ground. … Make them feel comfortable and secure that they’re not going to lose everything.”
We know you can do it. Some students were excited about a Trump win and about the future. Even some of the most skeptical and critical responses, however, included messages of support and belief that Trump has it in him to be a good president—as long as he makes some adjustments.
“I hope you can say magnanimous things about everyone in our country. I foresee that you will be a great president and hope that you will impact this country in so many different ways!”
“I’m sure that you will be a great President and do what is best for the country. I do, however, have some advice… Listen to the people, but still stay true to your platform, which is how you won the election. … Do what you think will benefit the American people in the best way.”
“Use the power of your role in this nation to better it and to eliminate the sense of separation in the world. To create a country where we can really say we are free. After all, your slogan is to make America great again. And I believe many people would love to see that happen.”
If you haven’t yet asked your students how they would advise the new president, it’s not too late. Just follow these instructions. We’ll continue to post them on social media, and we’re even assembling a selection of submissions to feature in the Spring issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine.