The writing prompt was simple: what do you want to say to President Trump?
Philadelphia third through eighth graders in the Writers Matter program, an effort of La Salle University, took on the challenge in the last month. Robert Vogel, the founding director of Writers Matter, gave the students the assignment shortly after the inauguration.
The students' classroom teachers told Vogel the president was on their mind. "They said, 'That's all the kids are talking about,'" Vogel said. "A lot of them are scared."
Vogel sent along some samples of the students’ work. Here are some excerpts:
Dear Mr. President,
Please do not send people from other countries back to their country like me. I do not want to go back to my country and neither do other people. You will send people's friends back to their country and they will not like you anymore. If you do that, you will lose a lot of doctors, lawyers, and nurses. You will not find people like them. God does not want you to do this, listen to him. I know there is good in you, you just won’t take the good. Do not make wars. Do not make World War 3 happen. Make the world a better place not a worse place. I hope you see this.
— Third grader, J. Hampton Moore Elementary
Dear Mr. President,
I am so grateful that you want to be our president. People are spreading rumors about you and that’s not right to me. No one deserves to be judged by people. You are the president of 2017, so celebrate yourself with honor and happiness. I know people said you don’t like black people but I don’t care because deep inside you maybe just want to do your family tradition and not upset your family. Everyone has secrets. You have to do whatever is necessary and I respect that. I personally honor, respect, and believe in you. Know you have me on your side always no matter what. Keep in mine you are special person and that is why you won the presidential election. I pray to god you never have a blue day or sick day. Stay happy. God bless your family and especially yourself. The world needs you in many ways. Please take care of us.
— Sixth grader, McDaniel Elementary
Dear Mr President,
People are scared about what you will do as president because you are taking families apart, ruining people’s freedom, ruining the lives of women (just because I’m a boy doesn’t mean I can’t fight for women), and making people die. Mr. Trump, if you don’t know, women are having problems in Pakistan and it is like you want the U.S to be the same way. Mr. President, many people are being separated because of your plot to deport illegal immigrants. Not all illegal immigrants are bad you know! And by doing that, those immigrants are moved back into their horrible life in a different place. And don’t think I’ve forgotten about the women! Before you go and start banning Planned Parenthood, start thinking about some of your loved ones and how they would suffer. But the main part of this message is that you want to change the lives of many families, maybe even forever for some families. So first, you might want to think about what if it was your family?
Sincerely, A kid who’s worried about other families
— Third grader, J. Hampton Moore Elementary
Dear Mr. President
To begin, as a student coming from South Africa to your country, to get a better education, I would like to let you know that I am not happy. It’s not because you’re the President of America, but because of the way you discriminate. I don’t like the way you talk about black people, women and disabled people. None of us chose to be the color that we are, or how we look, or our gender. As a matter of fact, I feel like you are committing a sin because God made us in his own image and for you to be discriminating, it is not cool at all. You are making fun of God’s beloved.
Also, I don’t mind you being President, I don’t mind you leading America, I respect you, but what I won’t respect is your attitude towards black people. We did nothing to you. Why do you hate us so much? So many people voted for you, that shows that they want you to be their leader. Many people like you, they wanted you to be president, not because of the way you act, but because they see a leader in you. They believe in you. We all want to believe in you, but how will we believe in you when we are scared of you and what you say you plan to do?
Although I want to praise you, I don’t know how to because all I’ve ever heard about you are bad and negative things. “Donald Trump is a mean man”, “ Donald Trump is racist.” Which isn’t fair because as the president of America, you deserve respect. One thing I want to ask of you is to change your attitude towards black people, the disabled people and women. I ask this of you because so many people are afraid of your words. They are scared that you’ll turn America into a mean country. But I believe you can prove them wrong because just like the saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, I think we may judge you at times by the way you appear to Americans. That’s because you choose to show us your bad side. I believe you have a good side which all of us would like to see.
Even though I came to your country for a better education, which America seems to have, I want to have that feeling that makes me feel like I am safe with you as the President. America has many great opportunities and I want to use them to my advantage. How can I, if you continue treating people, especially women disrespectfully. If you could be a better person, then America will give you all the respect that you deserve. Many people make fun of you, doesn’t that hurt your feelings? Doesn’t that make you think that maybe you should try to be a better person? I think that people disliking you isn’t fair, because you are the President. I understand that’s it’s not a congenial political race, however, respect is a huge factor in knowing our president has our backs and fronts. But how will we love you if you don’t love us? How will we respect you if you don’t respect us. We want to see the leader that we know you could be.
Even so, I want to go back to South Africa and talk about the great things you did for America but how will I say all those things if you don’t plan to do anything good, if you try to turn America into a discriminative country. What kind of a role model will you be? A role model who sets bad examples for his country? Or one that all people, man, woman and child can look up to. Many people like America, but now, some wouldn’t want to come anymore because they’re scared of your words.
In conclusion, I want you to change that hostility you have for many people into love. Mr. President, please change into a better person and take over America, look after all of us with love and kindness. I believe you can and will make America into a better place. I know you have a good side that all of us are waiting for you to show it. PROVE US RIGHT!
— Eighth grader, McDaniel Elementary
Dear Mr. President,
I am a 4th grade student at the E.M. Stanton School in Philadelphia, PA. Although I’m just 9years old I have something important to say and I think you should listen. My advice could make you a better president and I am sure you want this - don’t you?
To begin, I’ve heard a lot about your lack of respect for women. You should work on that. Also, please treat the people that work for you fairly. Your campaign advisors worked tirelessly to get you elected and they should be rewarded with respect for their efforts. They can help you politically because you lack experience holding office. I think you would benefit from hiring an image consultant because some Americans only know you from your TV show, beauty pageants, and lawsuits. I think that you can increase your popularity if you plan to focus on people with disabilities so that they can get the needed benefits as well as the people who served in our military and fight for us. These are Americans that need your help Mr. President.
In addition, people of color, Blacks, Hispanics and Muslims and all should have their rights protected – and Gay people too. You said in your campaign speeches that you were going to be the president of ALL the people. Well we are All the people and we should be united.
In my opinion, taxes should be reduced across the board especially for people in the middle and low-income bracket. They middle class are the backbone of our nation and work hard. The rich and big companies should pay their fair share. You should revitalize poor neighborhoods and create opportunities for low-income families to be successful like you say in speeches. They shouldn’t have to worry where their next meal is coming from or have to pay expensive amounts for childcare.
Lastly, building a wall as an executive order is ridiculous. The implications on immigration crackdowns could back fire on you -do you really want this to happen. This wall has been a headline grabber for the past several weeks. Building a wall could run through private property and national parks. Just not a good solution. I am a proud Mexican American and I have become very angry at how you view my people. Come to my house for dinner and let’s talk. Together we can come up with ideas that would make this country great again.
— Fourth grader, E.M. Stanton Elementary
The Dear George Washington Contest is an annual writing contest for Gilder Lehrman Affiliate School students in grades 2–5. The contest introduces them to the issues facing early Americans and encourages them to think critically about the founding of the nation.
Each student writes a letter (250–300 words) to President George Washington telling the President what to focus on during his first term. Students write as though they were present at George Washington’s inauguration on April 30, 1789, in New York City.
- First Place: $100 for the student and a copy of American History: An Introduction for the school
- Second Place: $75 for the student and a copy of American History: An Introduction for the school
- Third Place: $50 for the student and a copy of American History: An Introduction for the school
- Fourth Place: $25 for the student and a copy of American History: An Introduction for the school
- Honorable Mention (six students): US Constitution poster
The 2017–2018 Dear George Washington Contest is now open; the entry form can be found here. The deadline to receive entries is Monday, March 26, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. ET. Additional information, contest forms, a scoring rubric, and other important details on submissions can be found in the 2017–2018 Dear George Washington Contest information packet.