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Local school children helping Centre campaign for presidential debate

August 03, 2003|HERB BROCK

Centre College's growing national reputation for turning the Danville community into a political science classroom might force officials of the Danville and Boyle County school districts and the Kentucky School for the Deaf to adopt a special addendum to their manuals:

"Every four years, in the year of a presidential election, some of the elementary students will write letters and draw pictures in support of Centre College's latest application to host either a vice-presidential debate or a presidential debate. Required materials: lined notebook paper, construction paper, pencils, crayons - and lots of community spirit."

Such a permanent addition to local curricula might be necessary because Centre seems to be establishing a pattern of applying for debates and involving the community, especially local school children, in their applications.

In 2000, scores of Danville, Boyle and KSD elementary students wrote letters to the Commission on Presidential Debates in support of Centre's application to host the vice-presidential debate. They told the panel what a wonderful place their little city was. The letters were accompanied by drawings of Danville, debate scenes and patriotic pictures.

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As it turned out, the primitive but peppy prose and the simple but animated stick figures must have stuck in the minds of commission members. Centre hosted the debate between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat Joe Lieberman. Commission Executive Director Janet Brown said a big reason was community support, and she specifically cited the words and art of local school children.

Centre hopes a reprise of the awesome display of youthful writing and art talent will leave a similar impression this time around. Centre is one of 14 sites in the running for a presidential debate in 2004.

In what likely was one of their last assignments of the 2002-03 school year, local school kids produced enough letters to fill a small book and enough drawings to line the walls of a small gallery.

Some excerpts from their letters

Here are excerpts of some of the letters written by third-graders at Hogsett Elementary School, all starting with the salutation, "Dear Commission on Presidential Debates":

Rachel L. Newcomb: "I think you should come to Danville because it is a safe community, we have Constitution Square, Perryville Battlefield, a lot of hotels and shops, and Danville is very patriotic."

Romaine Lewis: "Please come to Danville because we want you to go to Centre College. Kids can watch and learn more about politics and the people in Danville are safe and nice."

Dakota Brandenbury: "Please come back to Danville Centre College. No people will be getting in your way and kids can watch and learn about politics. It would bring money for Danville and money for schools."

Jessalyne (no last name written): "I think you should come to Danville because we have lots and lots of room here. We even have stores and not very expensive. We're a small city. We really want you to come."

Hannah Dotson: "I think you should come back to Danville next year because you can help us kids learn more about politics. We're a really small community that doesn't get much attention. Plus, you'd get to go to more stores that aren't like the others."

Tanner (no last name written): "Please come back to Danville and Centre College. It's not like other cities where people are getting hurt and getting in the way. Well, if you come I'm sure the president will be happy to see the kids and he will give more money to the schools."

Michael Morgan: "I think Danville is a great place to hold a presidential debate. It has good restaurants, it's quiet and beautiful with friendly people who are polite and good listeners."

Beanca Richardson: "Will you come to Danville to the debate? We'll sell you the finest food in the state. And we have good animal patrol, good police officers and lots of trees."

Patrick Shannon: "There is a whole lot of reasons for you should come to Danville. There is great food, great houses, great police officers, great stores and it's quiet, beautiful and (has) polite people, a great airport and good security. Don't forget, we're No. 1 (Patrick has drawn little flag pole with a "UK" banner flying from it next to Patrick's name).

The art is as impassioned as the prose

The art is as varied and impassioned as the prose. Drawings from Perryville Elementary School second-graders, for instance, include American flags of various sizes and several scenes featuring two candidates debating in front of crowds of people.

Amber Mattingly's debate scene, featuring smiling candidates raising their hands in the air, is titled, "Important talk takes place in Danville."

In Cayle Young's debate scene, the candidates are smiling but much less animated. They are standing at their podiums staring out at the crowd. Several in the crowd are carrying signs saying that they "want the debate." The drawing is titled, "Danville invites the world to listen."

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