Dear Mr. Clinton,

SARA ENGRAM

November 15, 1992|By SARA ENGRAM

Harford Heights Elementary School is Clinton country. In straw poll before the election, the third, fourth and fifth graders at this East Baltimore school voted for Governor Clinton over President Bush by a margin of five to one.

So on Nov. 4, in the bright autumn afterglow of a decisive Clinton victory, the school was buzzing with the nerve-tingling energy of excited children. Matthew Hornbeck, who teaches math and social living to gifted and talented students, took advantage of the elation by asking his pupils to write a letter to the president-elect.

They received no prompting on the content of their letters, just a careful review of spelling and syntax. But what they had to say shows clearly enough that there are plenty of tough issues that schoolchildren already know too much about.

"Dear President Clinton," wrote Jalal Colvin, a fifth grader, "As president of the United States of America you have power over almost everything. With that thought in mind I think you should take care of the violence on the streets. Almost every night, I hear gun shots and police sirens. . . ."

Stacey Harrison went straight to a problem few leaders have had the courage to address directly: ". . . As president I would like you to take care of racism. I think one way you could do this is by making a speech on TV. The speech should talk about how bad the issue is and how we could solve it. . . ."

From Tara Harris, a third grader, came this plea: ". . . Would you give the homeless a home and lower taxes? That would make life much easier for us. Good luck, and keep hope alive. Thanks for everything."

Dontae Burgess, 9, had a personal request: ". . . I want you to make sure nobody brings things that might hurt someone to school. Make school a better place so the teachers can teach students and they can get their education and grow up to be somebody. . . . "

Latosha Brown, 10, had this suggestion: ". . . I would like for you to donate needles for the drug dealers to use so they don't get the HIV virus. Also give money to schools so children can get a better education. . . ."

Troy McKenney had a simple wish list: ". . . Can you cut taxes, do something with the homeless and stop the violence? I hope you can because I don't like people dying every day."

Sasha Trent: ". . . I hope you can improve the U.S.A. by stopping crime, stopping robberies and providing houses for the homeless.

"It might not be fixed right away but I hope you will slow our problems down . . . "

Markeia Crowder had this request: ". . . I want you to try to get more jobs for the poor people and more medicine for diseases. . . . "

Kristopher Hall, 9 years old, wrote: " . . . I've heard people interview you, but I want to ask my own questions.

"I would like you to raise taxes on the rich and lower taxes on the middle class. Please use it to build homes for the homeless. . . ."

"I would like you to stop the violence, get more houses for the homeless and improve education by coming to schools to check to see if they are safe," wrote Anita Myers, a third grader.

"While you are president," wrote 10-year-old Devin McKenney, "you should try to stop violence and stop drugs. Many people are getting killed over drugs."

Charlotte Elder, 10, had this to say: "I really think that you will make a good president because you speak clearly and you don't hesitate. That makes me believe that you are telling the truth. . . ."

"How are you going to support the needy and homeless?" asked fourth-grader Tear Carter. "I want to know because some of them need things like clothes, a house and food! . . ."

"I hope you will stop the violence because there are too many kids getting killed and shot," wrote third-grader Tamia Jackson.

From 10-year-old Erica Brice, who confessed to Mr. Clinton that she, too, would like to be president someday: ". . . I am writing to you because I think that it is important for the president to know what his fellow people are thinking. I would also like to say congratulations.

"I want you to make life better for middle class people, like my family. You could do this by raising the taxes on the rich. Please make more jobs available for us. We are desperate. . . .

"When you first entered the presidential race, I was not sure about you. But now that you have expressed yourself, I know that you will make a change for the better."

The children are listening, Mr. President-elect. They too heard the sound bites and the campaign promises. But it is they, more nTC than any of the people who actually cast a vote, who ultimately will profit or suffer most from the decisions you make.

Sara Engram is editorial-page director of The Evening Sun.

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