On Friday, local advocate of government reform and expert on regionalism, Kevin Gaughan, came to speak with students at Oracle. His message was simple, straightforward, and compelling: “Find a problem. Figure out what you’re going to do about it.”
Following Gaughan’s visit to the school, students are able to connect their lives in Buffalo to historic events. Gaughan talked with students about Margaret St. John who stood up to British soldiers during the War of 1812 and the Burning of Buffalo in a house at Main near Mohawk St., about Theodore Roosevelt who was sworn in as President of the United States a block away from the school; about the Erie Canal, “the internet of its age” that brought the world together; about Abraham Lincoln, who visited Buffalo in 1845 on his way to Cambridge to deliver his son to Harvard, and who was so inspired by Niagara Falls that he wrote a poem and carried it with him in his jacket pocket. I, by the way, found this penny from 1845 in my drier. I have no explanation for its presence in this modern-day appliance, but I would like to think that this penny was present in Buffalo when Abraham Lincoln visited our city. Through the Smithsonian Museum, one can apply to see the contents of Lincoln’s pockets on the night when he was murdered at the Ford Theater. In his pockets were a To Do note from his wife, a draft of a note to a mother whose son was killed in the Civil War, a Swiss army knife, and that poem about Niagara Falls.
Gaughan said, “Young people think that history is something that happens elsewhere, but you’re up to your necks in history.” Here in Buffalo, our students are able to look out from the front windows of the school and see the landscape of history. They are “part of an institution with great name in the community; part of a great community.” Students in Buffalo are part of the story of a community which has played a rich part in the history of our country, but one, nonetheless, which Gaughan typified as “dying.” “And what are you going to do about it?,” Gaughan asked our students.
According to Gaughan, every hour and fifteen minutes someone leaves the Buffalo area because, as a community, we can offer no jobs and no hope. By a simple show of hands, Gaughan was able to draw out that only two Oracle students in the audience were planning to stay in the area. If they leave, Gaughan cautioned, students will be “abandoning one of the great stories” of American culture. If that’s not a compelling argument for rebuilding Buffalo, I’m not sure what is.
I was most proud of the student, L. Woods, who asked where they could go to get involved. Gaughan answered, “Let’s create a coalition. Let’s call it Oracle Charter School.” That coalition should express their thoughts and ideas on how to make this area liveable and engage in discourse to make our region stronger.
Students may want to get involved with Gaughan’s group to reform regional government, Let People Decide. Students may also want to define the problems that ignite their interests and work together to figure out what they’re going to do to make the region, and their world a better place. Check back here to find out how students choose to get involved!