A Civics Education

In honor of this year’s election cycle, Gann has focused much of our student programs on civics education.  This year’s program echoed the Inauguration Day programming that we’ve planned every four years since Gann’s inception to join with each other and our fellow citizens to witness key moments in our country’s history. Our tekkes (ceremony) framed Inauguration Day in an “only at Gann” way. We heard from students who shared d’var Torahs, charges, and prayers that reflect their hopes and dreams as new voters and the next generation of engaged citizenry. 
 
Yakira ’22, delivered this year’s charge and noted, “I feel extremely grateful and honored to be a part of the Inauguration day programing at Gann. I have been given an amazing opportunity to create a piece that speaks to people. Trying to decide what to say and what people needed and wanted to hear was somewhat difficult. There were many ways I could’ve approached this, but after a lot of brainstorming, I decided this charge would speak directly to people and give them a reason to care. I hope I did it justice and gave the Gann community the hope that they deserve.”
 
Read Yakira’s full charge to the Gann community below:

Across our country there are so many people gathered today to watch the peaceful transition of power from one president to another.  Each of us are watching through a different lens.  Some of us believe that our country is a shining beacon of freedom and democracy.  America is living out its best values.  Some of us dream of a country with enormous potential – but one that has never kept its promises and still has lots of work to do to honor those commitments.  And, finally, there are those who believe that our country has broken from its long traditions of liberty and democracy. Today, we stand together to bear witness to the same historical moment, the swearing-in of a new president.  This is a moment that ought to represent hope for us all.  
 
Inaugurations represent the rule of law in our country.  They exemplify and embody the possibility of peaceful transitions between two parties – even parties that believe in drastically different things.  This alone is something to celebrate. 
 
I would like to speak to each of the three groups I named just a moment ago, starting with those who see this year’s inauguration as a continuation and manifestation of everything commendable about our country. Even for those hoping for a different electoral outcome, the rule of law and constitutional institutions in our country are strong.  We still uphold standards of equal access for everyone and there is much reason to celebrate our country and its government. Inauguration day symbolizes our constitutional promise that anyone – anyone of any status or position might someday hold this very office.  
 
Some of us might hear this and be thinking “this country has never lived up to that promise.”  Some of us believe that our country is not a place where someone from any gender or any class or any color might rise to the highest offices of this land. There are those of us thinking that our country has never been true to its constitutional aspirations and might be wondering why this year’s inauguration might be different.  To each of us who feel this way, I want to offer the following thought from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose 92nd birthday we celebrated just days ago.  In 1963 he stood at the Lincoln Memorial before a country who similarly believed that the country had not yet lived up to its ideals.  What he said to them has resonance for us today. “In a sense, we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check,” he told America. 
 
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note.  But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So, we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
 
While many of us believe that there is a check still yet to be cashed, every inauguration takes us a step closer to the bank. An inauguration of a duly elected person – in this instance a person born into a family struggling economically with a speech impediment early in life – that inauguration promises that anyone can be president. Even if it still feels as though we are longingly gazing at that promise through a store front window, unable to fully access it, it may be possible someday. Inauguration day symbolizes that possibility.
 
And there are those among us who do not believe this year’s inauguration represents a legitimate transfer of power as have been inaugurations of the past.  What might inauguration mean to those of us? 
 
While today may feel like a painful day, their inauguration day is still a day of hope.
 
Join with the people who believe that our country has never fulfilled its promise. Join together in fighting for a country in which rule of law matters above all. Join together in fighting for a country in which power is peacefully transferred even when it is being transferred to an opposing party. Join together in fighting for a country where even those with the least opportunities can achieve that level of power. 
 
My charge to us all is that we use whatever power, privilege, and knowledge we have to advance the causes of freedom and democracy for everyone.  May we be able to say at our next inauguration in 2025 that we all helped to brighten the shining beacon of American liberty for us all.
 
-Yakira '22
 
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