A lot of kids dream of being Presdient, but not many dream of having the leader of the free world deliver their high school graduation address.
But some duPont Manual students have set their sights on just that.
For Parker Bowling, Michael Perry, Matt Garofalo and Jack Sims, a little disappointment has only led to more determination.
About 18 months ago, the White House, yes, that White House, issued a challenge to schools across the U.S.
President Barack Obama would deliver the commencement address to the winner of the challenge. The challenge including telling the President why he should choose that school.
Well, duPont didn’t win the 2011 competition, and when this year’s challenge never came out they decided to create their own Commencement Challenge.
I caught up with Parker Bowling for a more personal look at The President Project.
How did the campaign for The President Project begin?
The idea of having the President of the United States deliver our commencement address began the summer after our sophomore year.
The class president, Michael Perry, and myself decided that we were going to apply for President Obama’s Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.
This challenge has high schools across the country compete for the honor of having the president deliver their commencement address. When the applications for this year’s challenge never came out (we speculated that it was because it is an election year), we decided to create our own effort to have the president at our graduation ceremony.
And that was how The President Project was born.
How does one go about reaching out to one of the most powerful people
in the world?
That’s a good question. As 18-year-old students, we really had no idea how to reach the leader of the free world.
With this daunting task ahead of us, we began to contact various leaders at all levels.
Talking to various politicians and community leaders from the school to state level built our base of support.
The White House contacted us in October and expressed an interest in the project, and from that point on we decided to run with it.
After that we have continued to build our base of support by making contact with people in D.C., including the Secretary of Education.
In addition to using other figures to reach out to the president, we have built a tremendous network of grassroots support.
Our FaceBook page has more than 1,200 likes and our YouTube account has over 15,000 views.
Utilizing social networking, something that 18-year-olds are very comfortable with, we built a large network of followers.
In addition to our website and various social networking sites, our official video invitation to President Obama has appeared on most local news stations.
We have appeared on WHAS-11’s Great Day Live!, and we have been in The Courier-Journal and Insider Louisville.
We also wanted to show President Obama and Mitch McConnell (who is a Manual alumnus) that Manual knew the meaning of bipartisanship, even if this idea may be a little foggy to those in Washington.
The Young Democrats and Teen Republicans clubs at Manual held a joint voter registration drive and registered 200 new voters for this upcoming election.
And students, teachers, and parents of all political philosophies wrote letters to the President and those letters are being sent to the White House over the course of the next week. With all of these tools, we are confident that we will catch the attention of the POTUS.
Who are some of the key supporters of The President Project?
As the project has grown larger and larger, so has our group of supporters.
I would definitely have to say the key supporter of our project is the school community.
Without the support of the students, teachers, parents, and alumni we wouldn’t be at the point we are now.
In terms of community leaders, Carol Haddad, Donna Hargens and Greg Fischer were the three key figures who helped us to establish our project’s legitimacy.
As the project progressed, John Yarmuth, James Ramsey, Dennis Horlander, Terry Holliday, and Steve Beshear all pledged their support to the project.
We had the distinct honor of meeting with all of these figures and even visiting the Kentucky capitol as guests of Dennis Horlander and the Governor.
If you were given the opportunity to speak with President Obama what would you like to say?
I would first like to thank him for showing his interest in the youth of America.
By delivering a high school commencement address annually and continuously working to lower interest rates on student loans and increase Pell Grants, President Obama has shown that he cares about the generation of citizens that will go from the classroom to the workforce in the next decade.
I would also like to ask him when he first dreamed of being the President of the United States and then I would ask him what his first action was to move towards making his dream the reality that it is today.