Let’s Talk About the American Elections, Voting, and Democratic Values in English Class

Who makes the rules? Who chooses the rulers? Can citizens peacefully replace ineffective, unpopular leaders?

Yes, we can!

In the United States of America, voters enjoyed their opportunity to hire and fire their President. People voted, machines counted the votes, and millions of people around the nation smiled, laughed, and felt hopeful again. Senator Obama, as so often, captured the power and beauty of the peaceful transfer of power in his eloquent speech Tuesday.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. “

Barack Hussein Obama (1961- ), President-elect of the United States

Read Obama’s entire speech.

What a patriotic quotation celebrating freedom! Cara Fulton, at www.maestrousa.com and ESL maven, suggests adding Obama’s quote to the list of great quotes and next edition of Compelling Conversations. Cara, who helps students develop the full spectrum of English language skills, sees the power of Obama’s election as a celebration of America. Reka, another friend and ESL teacher is adding excerpts from Obama’s speech to her oral skills course for international students. (Note: Reka watch the two times – back to back – on election night.) Americans, across the country, felt united in a shared moment of hope and pride. Our system, the democratic system, still works! Voting counts.

We are coming back – to our ideals, our citizens, and our best traditions! The United States, the first nation explicitly created on enlightenment ideals, will become an inspiring 21st century nation.

This surprising election seems like a very teachable moment. Immigrants and international students can rest assured that they made the right decision to come to the United States. English language learners around the world should feel the enlarged possibilities that come with our strange tongue. European sceptics and Arab critics should candidly reassess their prejudices about Americans and the American government. After all, Obama – the son of an international African student and an adventurous Midwestern scholar – has just won the Presidency of the United States. Where else could that happen?

ESL teachers, especially in the United States, can and should celebrate this democratic tradition in our classrooms. Immigrants, refugees, and international students – in the United States and other western democratic countries – often understand the power of democracy on a deeper level than many jaded Americans. The passion of students for good government, justice, and voting will lead to an engaging discussions. Let’s give students a chance to speak up in our classes, and marvel at the election of Obama.

Click here for a free advanced ESL conversation lesson on Voting from Compelling Conversations.

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