Obamas' Visit Has Kids Over The Moon

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama paid a visit to Capital City Public Charter School to read the book "Moon Over Star," about the first moon landing. Video by Hamil Harris/The Washington Post, Edited by washingtonpost.com
By Hamil R. Harris, David Nakamura and Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 5, 2009

Does it mean anything that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama visited a public charter school in the District this week?

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton thinks so.

"I think that it is significant that after first lady Michelle Obama goes to the Department of Education, the next day, the president goes to a public charter school in the District of Columbia," Norton (D) said.

"I think the president appreciates the fact that the District leads the country in public alternative schools. This is a typical neighborhood school, 600 students on the waiting list, that is also a very high-performing public charter school," she said.

Obama went to the Capital City Public Charter School on Tuesday with an autographed copy of "The Moon Over Stars," by Dianna Hutts Aston, a book that chronicles the story of the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing. In addition to reading the book to 25 second-graders, the president and first lady toured parts of the building at 15th and Irving streets NW and met several older students.

"I made the case to him for D.C. voting rights," said Karen Tchemi, a 10-year-old from Northeast. She and members of her fifth-grade class have been learning from teacher Wanda Gregory about the District's efforts to get a vote in Congress.

"They will remember this event for the rest of their lives," Gregory said Tuesday.

When told about the student's actions, Norton said, "I guess the president has heard from the citizens who count most."

The principal of Capital City Public Charter School, Jasmine Gomez, said: "It was such an honor for him and the first lady to come to the school. The fact that they came together, just for him to be such a role model . . . and to talk about dreams and the book. I can't even find the right worlds to describe the feeling."

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said the fact that Obama would visit a community that has had its share of troubles was a big shot in the arm.

"To come right to 15th and Irving, in the heart of Columbia Heights, means that he values what we are trying to do in terms of working with young people and showing them a different way of life and giving young people a quality education," Graham said.

As the Obama motorcade left the school, it passed a bus stop at 16th and Harvard streets, where Heather McClendon, who works at the nearby Latin American Youth Center, watched it go by.

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