Nuggets of hope, from kids to a president


POSTED: Sunday, April 26, 2009

This is America, kids, and any one of you could grow up to be president. Even kids from Hawaii. Barack Obama proved it.





        Hongwanji Mission School celebrates its 60th birthday today. Founded in 1949 under the aegis of Bishop Kodo Fujitani, it remains the only Hongwanji Buddhist school outside of Japan.




”;Dear President Obama: Letters of Hope from Children Across America”;


(Beckham Publications, $19.95)


Currently being distributed to bookstores




Obama's election created nationwide chatter about the power of hope and dreams and the future, and naturally, a number of authors turned to kids themselves, mining nuggets of insight out of the mouths of babes.

There are at least a half-dozen books in the pipeline in which kids talk about Obama, but today we're concerned with just one: “;Dear President Obama: Letters of Hope from Children Across America,”; by Bruce Kluger and David Tabatsky, in which some 200 letters and drawings recapture the thoughtful exhilaration of the first Tuesday of November 2008.

More to the point, four of the letters in “;Dear President Obama”; come from kids at Hongwanji Mission School in Honolulu, Obama's hometown.

“;Our teacher, Mrs. Jennifer Wells, told us to write a note when the election happened,”; said Jacey Moriguchi, 8.

Along with Kyla Yamashita and Zachery Brunn, also 8, they're in third grade at Hongwanji. Eighth-grader Erina Yamamoto is the token older kid, at 14.

Yamamoto's teacher, Erin Sakamoto, regularly has her kids write in journals, building up their vocabularies and communication skills, often based on a current event or quote suggested by the teacher.

Yamamoto's letter to Obama was a journal entry, “;about the economy and how he now has a lot of power and how to use it,”; she said, blushing when asked if she were giving the president advice. “;I probably would have written a lot more if I'd known the president was actually going to read it.”;

“;Me, I congratulated the 44th president,”; said Brunn. “;We wrote it on the morning of the inauguration.”;

“;I'm happy he's president!”; said Yamashita. “;I hope he'll be a good president!”;

“;I pretty much congratulated him too,”; said Moriguchi. “;I want a good president!”;

Authors Kluger and Tabatsky sought out the letters by exploiting e-mail connections with friends and associates. The kids aren't quite sure how their letters wound up being chosen, although Yamamoto suspects the school drama teacher has some sort of connection.

“;Another kid even made an Internet talk about how his grandma cried, she was so happy Mr. Obama won,”; said Brunn.

And when they learned about being chosen ...

...”;I was surprised!”; said Moriguchi.

“;I was surprised, plus, my dad says it's cool,”; said Yamashita.

“;I told some of my friends, tried to be casual about it,”; proffered Yamamoto.

“;I was shocked!”; said Brunn. “;Shocked! But I'm OK with it now.”;

“;And all of you were ...”; interjected Hongwanji principal Carol Riley. “;P ... P ... P ...”;

They all stared at her.

“;Proud?”; guessed Yamamoto. “;Proud?”;

“;Me and my mom already ordered it online,”; said Moriguchi. “;I think my uncle Paul went to Punahou with him ... President Obama.”;

Are any of you kids now interested into going into politics?

“;What,”; deadpanned Moriguchi, “;is politics?”;