Students Speaking Out on the State of Politics in the US

By Kylie Williams, Jaiden Montero and Vanessa Ramos

Original Artwork by Michelle Oliveira, 7th Grade

Long Island City - On November 8th, 2016, Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States of America. There were lots of mixed feelings on this event from many different students at Hunters Point Community Middle School in Long Island City.

Some students have felt the need to discuss Trump's presidency and the state of US politics, whether it be in the cafeteria at lunch, in the classroom, or at the dinner table at home. So we have gathered a group of students from HPCMS to interview them on their opinions about US politics. That way, people can have an understanding of what kids think when they hear the word “politics.”

“There’s actually a split in my family. None of us support Trump and I supported one of the candidates, but of course I don’t get to vote,” said 6th grader Griffin Weiss. “My mother voted for Bernie until he got out. Then she voted for Hillary and that caused a lot of arguments at the dinner table for me.”

7th grader Niamh Smith explained how her classmates reacted the day after Trump was elected. “I remember Ms. Aldige and Ms. Khan being in the room and everyone was really upset...We had a really deep discussion about immigration and some of the teachers were even crying. I remember it being very sad and the teachers being very proud of us for understanding what was happening.”

Michelle Oliveira, a 7th grader, remembers her experience the day after the election. “Mr. Piscitello made us sit down and draw a picture about what we thought about DJT becoming our president, and what we thought was going to happen to New York politics.” She went on to say, “I mean, I didn’t really like Hillary...but at the same time, I didn’t like Trump because of how he was treating women. I was confused and scared about what was going to happen. He was saying things about deportation and I was worried about my family.”

Griffin Weiss remembered that on the day after Trump was elected, people in his elementary school were taking sides based on who voted for each candidate. And some kids were even being bullied because their parents were Trump supporters.

“Kids have a lot of negative feedback on our president and sometimes this becomes a bullying issue. You would see students leaving other students out on the playground during recess.”

Trump’s presidency so far has been a little rocky and confusing for students. “DJT’s presidency is a really popular topic right now,” said Cassius Quinn-Crandall of class 603. “At the moment I’m really upset, but it’s surprising because I don’t really like politics, so I never really actually had a big interest in it, but there’s always this back and forth on everyone's opinions.”

For example, Trump recently called Kim Jong-Un, the leader of North Korea, “little rocket man,” which is problematic because Kim Jong-Un is a dictator who has access to destructive nuclear weapons, which he continues to test. On October 1st, Trump tweeted: “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…”

Then again on November 11th he said in another tweet to Kim Jong-Un: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen!”

Many people from North Korea and all over the world took this as an insult, including some of our students. This kind of communication stresses kids out. 7th grader Sebastian Kois said:

It makes me feel weird in a way because two leaders fighting could result in worse things happening, like little insults could lead to bigger things happening. People could launch rockets. There could be terrorist attacks. It scares me.

6th grader Cara Giardina said, “I think he says things before he thinks about what he’s going to say...It makes me mad that he doesn’t think about others before he thinks about himself. He says very rude things...and he makes these mistakes over and over again because he never actually recognizes the problem.”

Other students are upset about some of the choices Trump makes when it comes to immigration, specifically the travel bans. “I feel bad that [certain immigrants] have to go because some families went out of their way to get here, and sometimes they do it for their children to have a better life and now they’re thinking, ‘is it safer where I was before, or is it safer here?’ Because they’re forced to make that choice,” said 6th grader, Alix Hernandez.

These issues are serious ones for students. So how can we bring people on both sides together? As a community, discussing the president in a negative way isn’t helping, so what do we do now?