Colin Saltry and Joey Daniel, students at Scranton High School in Pennsylvaina, were suspended for one day after skipping gym class last week when they noticed Senator Barack Obama’s caravan pulling into a diner and decided to stop by and make history. Saltry was also forced to resign as senior class president. Senator Obama wrote notes asking the school to excuse both boys from missing class, but to no avail. This incident screams out the lack of common sense employed in our modern day educational system. Let’s look at the big picture, folks! These kids had a chance to talk to the first viable black candidate for president and be a part of the crazy, history-making campaign this democratic contest has been. And even though I’m not a fan of Senator Clinton, heck, chatting with her on an unplanned campaign stop still trumps calesthenics or dodgeball any day!

Part of what kids need to learn to be members of society, employees, and grown-ups is common sense. Life is not about following a prescribed set of rules–it is about using your brain to sort out what’s truly important. Missing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, which come around all-too-seldom, is pure foolishness. As a thirty-nine-year-old woman barreling toward 40, I wish I’d skipped more classes. Why don’t we reward these boys for taking a chance, being part of something bigger than high school, the memories of which will fade into oblivion before they graduate from college?

I wish I could say that I’d briefly contemplated this issue and let it stop there, but, alas, I was so worked up that I actually called Scranton High School (I later remembered the proverbial injunction about not getting involved in a quarrel not my own, and let it go.). When the person who answered the phone refused to discuss the issue with me, I called back and selected an extension which got me a guidance counselor, who verified that the students did indeed attend Scranton High, and who just kept repeating, “but they broke the rules,” over and over again. When he transferred me to the principal’s secretary, I got more of the same, as well as “you don’t know the whole story.” No, I don’t, but frankly, I don’t see what the rest of the story has to do with this particular incident. Whatever the case is with these boys, discouraging them from being politically aware doesn’t seem like the best way to address it. I was unable to find much information about Joey Daniel, as he has a popular name, but when I googled Colin Saltry, I found that, in addition to being senior class president, he ran track and performed musically at a public venue a couple of years ago–certainly all indications of a chronic ne’er-do-well just making excuses for skipping class rather than an astute, responsible young man enthusiastic about life and his part in it!

Following rules is necessary, sure, but as children become grown-ups, the onus is on the adults in their lives to let more and more of the freedom and responsibility of their choices to fall squarely on their shoulders–that is how it will be when these young men go to college–no one is going to be punishing Colin Saltry for missing class next fall–he will just have to make his own choices–and I can’t think of any college professor I have ever met (and there have been many of whom I was not particularly fond) who would penalize I student for missing class to visit with a major presidential candidate. Give me a break!

I worked at a university in a college of education, and saw many teachers pursuing their masters’ degrees, mostly so that they would get a bigger paycheck. In my own graduate coursework, I was in class with many of these people as well, and the sad fact was that a large portion of them were intellectually lazy, and it seemed from hearing them talk that many of them were teachers in large part so that they could have their summers off. This is pathetic. I have a rambunctious, creative six-year-old who I am home-schooling, and my house seems to be in constant chaos from her artistic endeavors and scientific experiments. I am also asked a seemingly endless number of questions. ( I am a person who could sit at a coffeehouse by myself for five hours just reading, writing, and thinking, so this endless stream of noise makes me really nutty sometimes.) I would love to dump my daughter off at a school some days just to hear myself think! But if the price is teaching her to be a sheep, to choose following a rule rather than being a part of history, I’ll take the noise.


Mr. Gaines,
“Pimping out”is a colloquialism. It was not, I’m sure, intended to be offensive. However, by kowtowing to the Clintons through your suspension of Mr. Shuster, you have given Hillary a platform to cry “Sexism, ” which will undoubtedly be used to further her campaign, particularly her support among feminists. MSNBC’s job is to be journalists, to inform voters about issues so that they can make wise, well-informed voting decisions. The way this issue was handled instead detracted from issues and just allowed Hillary Clinton to gain a lot of free advertising at your expense. I formerly enjoyed watching your network a great deal more than CNN, because I felt that you didn’t pander to the Clintons as they did–now I’m not so sure. Please reinstate Mr. Shuster immediately and spend more of your network’s time on what matters–not what is politically correct.

Michele Franks

I don’t remember much about September 11th. Fifteen days earlier, after my water broke at only 27 ½ weeks gestation, my daughter Isabel was born, weighing only 2 pounds.

It is September 12th I remember, when I drove nearly an hour to Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University. As I drove past the hospital toward the parking area, I noticed that it seemed like everyone, doctors, nurses, and patients, was outside of the hospital. I asked someone what was going on, and they told me that there had been a bomb threat. My two-pound daughter, her wrist small enough for her father’s wedding band to fit it like a giant gold bangle bracelet, was still inside the NICU, one of only two departments not having yet been evacuated. The only parking spot I could find was at the Stanford mall, and I ran, c-section scar not entirely healed and all, breathless and crying, and told the security guards posted at the hospital door that I had to go inside because my daughter was still in there. Somehow they let me in, and I waited, anxiously, with my daughter and the nurses, pretty much the only people left, until we were assured that all was clear (how do they really know that, anyway?). Days later, someone told me the incident was instigated by a prank call from a Stanford student.

In the days and months that followed, with all of the fear and trembling we as individuals and as a nation had to endure, George W. Bush made me feel safe, like I could rest well at night, because he had things under control.

Six years later, after my husband was laid off from his high tech job, and we went from a six-figure income to digging for change on the floor of our car to have enough money for gas, George W. Bush vetoed providing health insurance to my uninsured, formerly two-pound baby.

A lifelong Republican, I am looking for, as the Poison song goes, “Something to Believe In.” Yes, I know that politicians are human, and disappointment is inevitable, but there seems to be a core of integrity that some people possess, and others don’t. While some Republican issues are important to me, like abortion, I think it’s important to face the fact that it’s extremely unlikely, after 35 years, that Roe V. Wade will be overturned. Other issues, like loving the poor, have been virtually ignored by the party I have been told embraces my values. (How does a “compassionate conservative” deny health insurance to any child?) The agenda set by the moral majority these last many years doesn’t accurately reflect the Bible I read. In the end, the only way to change people’s behavior is to change their hearts. You can’t legislate that.

Partisan politics don’t appeal to me. I don’t think I am alone. Proverbs 13:12a says that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and I think there are a whole bunch of us out here tired of being heartsick. We want to hope again, believe that we can be more than we are, while also stopping along the way to lend a hand to the oppressed and the overlooked. We want to dream again, listen to a president whose words send chills down the backs of our legs, whose speeches make us cry and remember who we are. In the end, our country is not simply an intellectual exercise in democracy, but rather an enterprise in which we invest our hearts, souls and minds. It’s time to fall in love with America again, and we’re looking for someone to light the spark. Obama’s the one.

Michele Franks

I’m so glad I have some hot sauce, fresh salsa and sour cream to make this big bowl of crow I’m eating this morning more palatable. How did she win? It doesn’t make sense—that many polls aren’t wrong and I can’t bring myself to believe I live in a country where the Wilder effect (in which people tell pollsters they are undecided or plan to vote for a black candidate and then actually vote for the white candidate) still exists.

So my husband and I started our own optimistic analysis, in the midst of our, “I can’t believe Obama lost” slump.

The conclusion?

It was the tears. Come on girls, how many of us haven’t turned on the tears in an attempt to get out of a traffic ticket? When you’re young and cute (Hillary isn’t) the tears work well on men; apparently when you’re old and tired, they work on women. Hillary took 47 percent of the female vote in New Hampshire, compared to Obama’s 34 percent. In Iowa, the female vote was startlingly different: Obama soundly beat Hillary by winning 35 percent of the female vote to her 30 percent. Yes, there are certainly demographic differences that contributed to the difference, but this seems like too big of a swing to be purely due to that. It was the tears, which she used masterfully to manipulate the women of New Hampshire. Bone-tired and road-weary, Hillary cast herself as an overworked, aging Everywoman, relating to overburdened, tired women everywhere. This Everyman/Everywoman theme is something she’s been slow to grasp, but this year, we want to feel like our presidential candidate is one of us. To use her husband’s now clichéd phrase, we want to know that she feels our pain. And her tearful “share and care” session let us know that she does. Or at least that she wants us to believe she does. I believe it was a sham, an emotional manipulation the likes of which we haven’t seen since Steel Magnolias. The question that was asked before her public display of emotion did not really fit her answer. A 64-year-old freelance photographer asked her how she kept going, and who did her hair, and received the now famous response. This was a prepared outburst, waiting in the wings for an opportunity to be presented. It looks like it worked.

Women of America, I know a lot of you loved Steel Magnolias, but please don’t fall for this again. If Hillary was really an emotional, touchy-feely woman, we would have seen it in her post-Lewinsky interview. These are just crocodile tears.

Michele Franks

Mark Shields, on the MacNeil-Lehr Report the night of the New Hampshire primary, talked about one voter he had spoken to who was trying to decide between Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. He said that the voter “saw virtues and values in both of them.”

This is the thing the pundits are missing—the inexplicable reason for the soaring popularity of both of these candidates: Partisanship is dying off among us regular folks—we are focused on the person, not the politics. I like Bill Kristol; I have watched him on Fox for years and eagerly read his debut column in The New York Times today, and then found myself becoming angry when I read him dissing Obama because of his leftist politics. I felt like he was saying he didn’t like a friend of mine, a guy who I might not agree with about everthing, but who is a stand-up, honorable guy who doesn’t deserve a bad rap just because you don’t agree with him. NBC’s Brian Williams discussed the difficulty reporter Lee Cowan had being objective when covering Barack, and described seeing “middle-aged women just throw their arms around Barack Obama, kiss him hard on the cheek and say, ‘You know, I’m with you, good luck.’ And I think he feels it, too.”

I have a been a pro-life Republican most of my life, and I love Barack. His words mesmerize me. When I read stories about his rallies to my husband, I cry. We talk about his vision, his charisma, his inspiration, how seven years ago he was so broke his debit card got declined (did this ever happen to George Bush?) and his wife shopping at Target and saying that the only reason their student loans are paid off (ours aren’t) is because her husband had two best-selling books. He is one of us. He was raised by a single mom, didn’t see his dad much (me either), knows how to use technology (is a master of using it in his campaign), and is thoughtful and contemplative. I don’t get the impression that his answers are canned. He has become Everyman.

I think the thing that a lot of pundits are missing is that many of us just don’t care about, and are even angered by partisanship. We are free thinkers, and after all of the divisiveness of the 90s, we all just want to get along, to rally behind a hero, to cheer for the same team. We are weary of all of the finger-pointing and angry words—we want to feel the love, baby.

Newt Gingrich said awhile ago that if the country wants therapy, they’ll elect Barack Obama. Well, Newt, maybe we do. After all of this country’s collective dysfunction over the past few years, we want to heal, to feel good, to trust someone again, to believe that someone with a passionate poetic voice could lead us all on to be “happy warriors.”

Michele Franks