The nation’s top teachers were in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump Wednesday afternoon as part of their celebratory trip to Washington, D.C. After they recited the Pledge of Allegiance, Minnesota Teacher of the Year Abdul Wright spoke up: Could the group sing the Black National Anthem, too?
That’s Wright’s weekly routine at Best Academy, the Minneapolis charter school where he teaches eighth-grade language arts. Trump agreed, and the group sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in the White House.
Those who didn’t know all the words sang along as well as they could, and Trump thanked Wright for facilitating the song. The symbolism touched Wright.
“Yesterday superseded politics,” Wright said in an interview Thursday. “Yesterday was about values, yesterday was about the human experience, yesterday was about the human heart. And I think we got caught up in that.”
When he told Trump where he was from, Trump called Minnesota a “good state,” Wright said. Trump added that he’d lost Minnesota by only one point in the election, Wright said.
Along with Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, joined the teachers.
In a tweet yesterday, Trump called it “a great great honor” to celebrate the national and state teachers of the year. He tweeted a video of the teachers standing with him around his desk.
“Each of you has dedicated yourself to inspiring young minds and to putting our children on a path to happiness and success — lots of success,” Trump said, according to a White House release.
It was Wright’s first time in Washington, D.C., and his trip was peppered with sights of the monuments and memorials, and a visit to the National Museum of African-American History. He’s been FaceTiming with his students daily, he said.
Wright, 30, is the state’s first black male and first charter-school teacher to win the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award, and the youngest-ever recipient.
The selection process for the 2017 Minnesota Teacher of the Year has begun, and Wright will announce the winner May 7. The statewide teachers’ union, Education Minnesota, arranges the program, and an independent selection panel makes the choice.
The Oval Office visit was powerful, Wright said, and added that his students will know that he got to stand there.
“I believe that what happened in that office is indicative of what we want to happen across this country — where people want to be a part of lifting everyone up,” he said.
Beena Raghavendran • 612-673-4569