Maybe you feel like no one has your back, like you’ve been let down by people so many times that you’ve stopped believing in yourself. Maybe you feel like your destiny was written the day you were born and you ought to just rein in your hopes and scale back your dreams.
— Michelle Obama, Remarks at graduation for Anacostia High School, June 11, 2010
This week I want to put the President’s Weekly below the fold and First Lady Michelle Obama above the fold. The First Lady gave her second commencement address in DC at the Anacostia High School. Anacostia is just a stone’s throw from my old junior high school Kramer which we used to call “Lorton Junior High” (for the old Lorton prison in Virginia – now torn down). The first week of 7th grade, Kramer was on lock down until police could disperse a group of armed youth outside the school who wanted to settle a score with one of the students inside. Needless to say learning was tough in this kind of environment. I almost considered dropping out in 8th grade.
In those days Anacostia High School was where one began to act a little more mature. Nevertheless the school went into serious decline in attendance by students as well as teachers, academics, and a rise in violence. More than likely this prompted many parents to plan their sons’ and daughters’ escape to magnet and charters schools. [The magnet school was my life raft to avoid a third year in junior high.] More recently, D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee was asked to turn things around. She assigned the management of Anacostia to the Friendship Public Charter School. Anacostia High School maintains its original Native American name as the Academies at Anacostia. [Hopefully the Indian mascot is also on the chopping block.]
[Just as a matter of history, during the Jim Crow era, Anacostia was one of the all-white segregated high schools in DC. See more about D.C.’s segregated African American schools here.]
Two months ago I made a stop at Anacostia to deliver some English class materials. One step inside the door and you’re instantly greeted by the metal detectors and security personnel. You have to wonder if the security is to protect students from what’s happening outside the school. The hallway chatter was boisterous, bouncing off the walls. The old building still serves as the main entrance and hasn’t had its cosmetic makeover like a few other schools in the area (perhaps its time will come). In the mid 1970s, a new extension was built onto the school. If it’s like any school building of that era, I’m sure the newer wing is long overdue for an extreme makeover.
The First Lady and her advisers chose Anacostia for the White House’s residential outreach to D.C.’s neighborhoods. At DAR this week, Michelle Obama offered words of encouragement for a graduating class of less than 200.
As I read comments to the story on Washington Post on-line I notice there are still many people who have low expectations of DC public school students and DC public schools. The cruelty of some commentary aims to rob these students of dreams, hopes, or effort for personal success.
Let’s see how many are in jail and/or pregnant before the end of the summer.
At my high school graduation, our school’s co-founder Peggy Cooper Cafritz warned us about these people — the ones who wanted to see us fail. That was their expectation and hope. We were student artists, mostly African American, occupying prime Georgetown real estate. During a student fundraising activity one resident said to my friend “I don’t support government-funded n*gger schools.” The Duke Ellington School of the Arts has more than earned their keep. But they’re not out of the woods yet, as rumors still persist about moving the school to make room for Georgetown residents who desire a neighborhood public high school.
Perhaps these Anacostia graduates could use a few good fighting words to send them on their way. The old “prove them wrong” charge. Michelle Obama wouldn’t have to reach as far back as the sage of Anacostia Frederick Douglass for examples.
Full text of Michelle Obama’s remarks here.
THE PRESIDENT’S WEEKLY
I’ll just post what the White House wrote on their blog:
With doctors facing deep cuts in their reimbursements from Medicare unless Congress acts to correct long-standing problems, the President calls on Senate Republicans to stop blocking the remedy and pledges to work toward a permanent solution. The cuts would potentially mean widespread trouble for seniors getting needed care.
To read the transcript, watch the video or download the MP3 file, go here.
It’s Tony Awards night and Sunday. Time to wind down and chill.