June 30, 2010

Seventh-graders crawled through crowd to ask Obama a question

Spencer Kane and Gerald Davis, both seventh-graders at The Prairie School, asked President Barack Obama a question about financial aid during Wednesday's Town Hall meeting at Memorial Hall in Racine.

Spencer Kane and Gerald Davis will have a pretty strong endorsement if they run for homeroom president at The Prairie School next year.

The two 12-year-old seventh-graders got the opportunity to ask President Barack Obama a question during Wednesday's Town Hall meeting at Memorial Hall. Spencer and Gerald, trading lines, asked the president about financial aid for college students.

Obama, who had just talked at length about financial aid, took the question in stride. He first asked the students if they had spent so much time rehearsing their question that they forgot to listen to his answers. The comment drew laughs from the audience.

But Obama also applauded the students' question because it left no doubt that both boys planned to go to college.

"We want all young people to take for granted they're going to college," Obama said.

In response to the question, Obama said the federal government was working to increase the amount of financial aid that's available while also working with universities to control the cost of higher education. Both steps should help keep college affordable when Spencer and Gerald enroll in college.

Afterward, Spencer and Gerald reveled in their close encounter with the president. Gerald held out his right hand and said he'd never wash it.

The boys used a little trickery to get the president's attention. They were actually sitting several rows back from the stage in a room off to the side of Memorial Hall's main floor. With the encouragement of their parents, they crawled through the crowd during the president's speech and wound up just a few rows away.

After getting passed over a few times by Obama, the president called on Spencer for the Town Hall meeting's final question. Gerald then jumped right up, slightly confusing the president, who thought Gerald was trying to steal the moment. But really the boys had worked out a deal to ask the question together, each one alternating a few words.

Lynn Davis, Gerald's mom, said she was frightened when she realized how close the boys had crawled. She'd urged them to move closer so they could see the president, but then realized they might accidentally knock something over or pull a plug.

"At first I thought they were going too far," said a proud Davis.

As for political ambition, Spencer and Gerald both ran for homeroom president last year, but lost. After their encounter with Obama, they said they may make another run.

"I'll have to run again," Spencer said.