The 60 juniors in Michael Gatenby’s and John Daniels’ combined History-English class at James Lick High in East San Jose watched intently, at least through most of Donald Trump’s 18-minute inaugural address. Then, coaxed by their teachers to speak, partly for the sake of the reporter in the room, a few offered up mostly tentative impressions of what they heard.
But when they put pencils to paper, thoughts quickly flowed: anger and dislike, indifference and resignation, along with degrees of optimism. They did it in 17 syllables – Donald Trump in haiku, by Generation Z.It’s not surprising that Trump faced a tough sell at James Lick. Its largely low-income Hispanic students live in an old neighborhood, some where families worry whether the new president will uproot them and send them back to Mexico and how they’ll make the next rent check and pay for college. Asked how they liked the new president after viewing the address, on a scale of a fist (zero) to five fingers, there were many single digits and tight fists.
But there were also a couple of four fingers in the air, including Brandon Mendoza, who indicated he was less sure about Trump than before. “He called out politicians and said he would give power back to people.” He said that while he doesn’t like Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants, there will be more opportunity, “and all Americans can prosper if we make more products again in America.”
Emily Brazelton said she was expecting Trump to spell out how he would keep his promises, and she didn’t hear it. But “while his victory is not my victory,” she said she was willing to keep an open mind. “I’ve been against him, and I’m still against him, but I have no choice but to really hope he won’t screw things up.”Daniels acknowledged that around school, “it is probably uncool to be a Trump supporter.” Some students really have a fear of being deported, but otherwise, students tend to react to sound bites, he said.
“I’d say most students operated under preconceived notions,” Gatenby agreed. “A few seemed to genuinely listen to the speech and keep an open mind.”
The poems reflected a range of feelings, like those of their parents, some vehement, some indifferent.
And then there was Mitch Orozco, who, because he was being interviewed, never had time to finish a haiku – though everyone knows where he stands. A man on a mission, he’s been the only identifiable Trump backer in the class – and out to change others’ minds.
“The media fed this narrative that he was a bad guy, so I studied him. Everyone else was saying he is a racist and sexist,” he said. “I looked at the news, not CNN, but Fox and Breitbart (News Network). He’s not bad, he wants America to thrive,” he said.
“As a Latino, it takes more strength to talk (positively) about Trump; it’s not the popular thing to do,”Orozco said. “I was concerned at first that I would get shunned.” He wasn’t.
“What Trump said (in his inaugural address) reinforced what I believe he will do – give power from Washington, D.C., back to people.” he said. “He is a true patriot.”
Photos by John Fensterwald / EdSource.