Press Release: A Lesson From Obama

St. Paul Preparatory students received a lesson on infrastructure from President Obama

ST. PAUL, Minn – Among the throng of Minnesotans crowded into the Union Depot Wednesday afternoon to hear President Barack Obama speak was a group of international high school students.IMG_2386

The group of about 50 students, together with a few teachers and staff members, walked just a couple blocks from the downtown campus of St. Paul Preparatory School.

The students were ecstatic at the president’s charisma. An Afghani student excitedly reported, “So my favorite part was that I said ‘Hi!’ to him and he waved back!” A student from Venezuela said, “It was amazing! It was something from another world. Getting to see a president so close – it’s like WHOA.” A Pakistani student told of her highlights, “I have many favorite parts but one of the favorites was when he did thumbs up. Then, when he was talking – seeing him talk was so exciting! He was always on the TV but seeing him live was so exciting and great.”

Yesterday’s speech from President Obama sparked a great dinner conversation topic for the international students and their American host families. The topics of his address – infrastructure and transportation – are of great significance for St. Paul Prep students, as almost all of them rely on public transportation every day to get to and from school.

A Hungarian student stated, “It was good to show up on this event because it was an amazing experience to see the President of the United States. I was excited about everything because this is my first time in the U.S.” A student from Colombia said, “It was a good experience because he’s doing reform for more opportunities for jobs here in Minnesota.”

St. Paul Preparatory social studies teacher and Model UN advisor Kara Redding had the idea Monday to walk her class down to the Union Depot to wait in line for tickets to hear the president speak. A few other teachers joined along with their classes. After waiting in the long line for a few hours, each student walked out with a ticket.

Ms. Kara Redding, chaperone and social studies teacher, reflects on the experience:

I was overjoyed to see how eager and excited the students were this morning. We took almost fifty students to the speech and many of them dressed for success by donning their best suits and fanciest dresses. Every single student who got a ticket on Monday came on time and ready to leave, carrying lunches and cameras. It was clear from the outset that every single student understood what a rare opportunity this was and how lucky they were to participate.

We stood in line outside of security for almost two hours and spent another hour and a half waiting inside the Depot for the President to arrive. Throughout the wait, students never lost their positivity, chatting with each other and engaging in the ever-present cultural exchange. We also met many community members excited to hear about our school and to learn from our students about their unique experiences and what brought them to the speech. I think our greatest accomplishment today was making a positive impression on our community.

Before the Pledge of Allegiance, students were eager for me to teach it to them so they could participate and they were fascinated with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, insisting they must learn the words to that as well. It was very difficult to see in the standing room only section, where people with our tickets were designated to stand, but my group was able to get near the railing at the far side of the stage, which ended up being where the President emerged. We were perhaps seven feet from him as he entered and our students were overwhelmed with excitement to see him so close. Throughout his speech, our students waved American flags and applauded his jokes about the cold Minnesota winter. It seemed his speech was so short, after waiting all that time, but many of the students were bounding out of the Depot, excited to share their photos and stories with each other.

2014-02-26 15.15.21 We're among the first couple hundred to arrive President Obama SPP students wait_Opportunity for All

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Nacel Open Door

Nacel Open Door, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to international understanding and language education.

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