Governor Hogan came to JDS on December 16, 2016. Every teacher and student was there in the gym that Friday afternoon. Students were talking to each other, just like before any assembly. But soon enough, a camera flash was heard. Then another, and another... and that's when I realized what was happening. The Governor had arrived!
A crowd of cameras was swarming the entrance to the gym. Shutters clicked, cameras flashed, and people clapped as Governor Hogan made his way through the entrance of the gym. Everyone was extremely excited to see the Governor. Once everyone had sat down, Rabbi Bellas walked over to the podium.
"Thank you all very much for coming," Rabbi Bellas said. "It's not everyday we get an opportunity like this. There is a prayer in Jewish tradition for Heads of State. So we're going to learn it." After the blessing was said, Rabbi Bellas announced that he would show us one scene of the Hanukkah musical: "Macca Bia." And with that, a group of students from fifth grade walked onto the stage for their scene, followed by the CESJDS Singers who sang the song "Judah Maccabee." After the song, there was a huge applause. Rabbi Bellas got up to the podium again, and thanked everyone for making this all possible.
He stepped down to make way for a woman, Meredith Weisel, who came up to the podium and introduced herself. She told us that she has two children at JDS, and she works for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. She works with Governor Hogan. She talked about Hogan's recent trip to Israel. "Hogan is very interested in Israeli culture," she said.
There was another huge applause as Governor Hogan walked up to the podium to give his speech. I listened in as he talked about how happy he was with this warm welcome. After his last few thank yous, he asked, "How many of you have been to Israel?" Hundreds of hands shot into the air. "Seems like a lot," said Hogan.
He said he had seen the wall in Jerusalem. "I had an incredible visit to the Holocaust Museum," he said. It seemed to me like Hogan had learned a lot of new things about the history of Israel while on his trip.
He moved on to the rest of his speech, which was about trying to improve Maryland schools and education. "Sound like a good idea?" he asked. He talked about education for deserving families and kids all around Maryland. I think this is an important topic. Our government needs to invest more in education. Children are the future!
Hogan said that when he was younger, he wanted to be the Governor, but nobody thought he could. And there he was, giving his speech to our school. "You can get through those challenges," he said. "I had cancer once--but I got through it with a chance to meet many people--and now, I am completely cancer-free!" Another huge applause from the crowd. "It was all because of good healthcare and hospitals," he said. "Whatever you want to do -- study hard, be focused, listen to your teachers, and have a good attitude. Then you can be anything!"
And that was that. There was one last applause from the crowd, and Hogan said his last words to the crowd. "Thank you for coming today!" he said, as he walked down from the podium.
Governor Hogan's visit with 5th Grade
Following the all-school assembly, Governor Hogan held a Q&A with 5th graders in the Beit Midrash.
Cameras were everywhere like the fog from a steamy shower. I could barely even see a glimpse of Hogan. "You'd get a better picture of Hogan if you actually waited for an opportunity to see him," I thought to myself. Everyone was hyped when Governor Hogan walked into the Beit Midrash, and there was another applause. Then, there was a small speech from the Language Arts and Social Studies Coordinator, Catherine Welch, and then Hogan came up and taught us a little about the state of Maryland. He said that he works in the State House, which used to be the largest wooden dome in the world, and it used to be the capitol building. He knew that we were learning about the American Revolution, and talked a little bit about the Treaty of Paris.
Hogan told the students that he couldn't wait for the 5th grade field trip to Annapolis this spring, where he would answer questions and talk to us more about Maryland's history.
Students were ready to share their questions with Hogan. His answers told us that his hardest decision took place 90 days after he was elected, when there was violence in Baltimore, and he didn't know how to handle it, but he sent help, and the situation was fixed.
We also found out that he feels like he couldn't govern a better state, but it wasn't always that good. Maryland was in 48th place for strongest economy, now it is 3rd place. He believes that his biggest contribution was creating a much better economy for the state of Maryland. In addition, he is doing everything he can to protect the Chesapeake Bay. He is trying his best to keep our water clean.
Hogan knows that every child, no matter what, deserves to have a great education, and good schools need teachers who enjoy teaching. He said our school is a great example. Hogan is proud of the Justice Reinvestment Act, which is an effort to improve the Criminal Justice system. Hogan also discussed how we have the 2nd worst traffic in the U.S, and we have for the past eight years. Our former governor had not prioritized road construction, but Hogan is working on this issue.
He ended his speech there, as he said his goodbyes, and left to speak with members of the press outside the Beit Midrash.
The entire school was honored to have the governor with them. We learned a lot about the history of Maryland, and a lot more about Hogan's job. I have never had more exciting opportunity than the one I had that day.
Sean Levitan is a 5th grade student at CESJDS.