Issues regarding equality, and racial perceptions and acceptance are all tackled in this PSHE assembly for key stages 4 and 5, which looks at the possible influence of the results of the 2008 USA presidential election

Resources

2 readers and a blue ball if possible.

Engagement

Leader: Imagine this: [holds up blue ball]

Reader 1: …a small, beautiful blue planet drifting through space with millions of microscopic creatures living on it, all doing their best to stay alive and to enjoy themselves.

Reader 2: On this planet it takes a long time for a creature from one side of the planet to meet another on the other side because the distances are too far for their little legs to walk. So the creatures on one side of the planet never know what those on the other side are doing.

Reader 1: So when the creatures on one side of the planet have a bad time, the creatures on the other side haven’t got a clue. The same happens when they’re having a good time.

Reader 2: Imagine what would happen though if they were all suddenly able to communicate with each other quicker than the speed of light! Imagine if everything that happened to any one of the creatures could potentially affect every other creature on the planet!

Leader: Today we live in an incredible world that seems to shrink a little every day as communications get more efficient. We have the internet, satellite communications and much faster and easier travel than in the past. Even as little as 20 years ago it would have taken far longer for any kind of problem or event in one country to affect people in the rest of the world, simply because the news would have taken much longer to travel. Think of recent disasters such as the 2004 tsunami in Asia or the recent fires in Northern California – we actually often hear about and even watch these events as they happen. Not months later as would have been the case not too many years ago.

In two week’s time, the United States of America will be voting for a new president to replace George Bush as their leader. The result will potentially affect people in every country in the world. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, and John McCain, the Republican candidate, represent the two main American parties who will be battling it out on election day. The battle will be covered very thoroughly in our news bulletins here in the UK, and we will know what is happening as quickly as most Americans.

Reflection

The United States of America is often referred to as a ‘Super Power’. Here are some of the reasons for this:

Reader 1: The USA is the third largest country on our planet.

Reader 2: It has approximately 305,500,000 people living in it – the world’s third largest population.

Reader 1: It is also the country with the biggest economy in the world and is very powerful.

Reader 2: The USA often leads the field in technology, science, and the arts, as well as having a very powerful military force.

Leader: The decisions that the United States government makes often have far-reaching consequences. The American invasion of Iraq, for instance, is an example of how a decision made by one country can affect people in many other parts of the world.

Recently it seems that all we hear about in the news is the ‘credit crunch’. The financial market of any country, including the powerful US, is linked to all the other countries in the world, so when the financial markets of the world lost confidence in the American dollar because the United States was having financial problems, shock waves spread throughout the whole world very quickly. Thousands of miles away, here in the United Kingdom, our lives have been affected as people worry more and more about the security of their jobs and their financial situations.

It is very likely that the American election will affect us too. Although it was originally populated by the North American Indian tribes, the United States of America is made up of an ethnic mix of people who have immigrated from all over the world, mainly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Since then, the black people in North America have always struggled – firstly for their freedom from slavery and later for equality and respect.

Someone who would be delighted that Barack Obama, a black American, is running for the presidency is Martin Luther King, who worked tirelessly for the cause of black people in the USA until he was assassinated at the age of 39 in 1968. He was a very wise and enlightened man who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for raising awareness of the inequality that black people had been suffering from for years. In 1963 he gave a famous speech to 250,000 people who peacefully marched to Washington DC as part of the Civil Rights Movement. The speech is often called the ‘I have a dream…’ speech. Here are some of the things he said:

Reader 1: ‘Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class and our nation and this means we must develop a world perspective.’

Reader 2: ‘We may have all come on different ships but we are in the same boat now.’

Reader 1: ‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed…..’

Reader 2: “We hold these truths to be self evident – that all men are created equal.”

Response

In many ways it seems odd that in 2008 the possibility of the new American president being black is an issue at all, but unfortunately many people still see other races as inferior to themselves. However, equal opportunities have gradually evolved to the point where we are hopefully beginning to realise how alike we all are, rather than how different. Many people nowadays recognise how unintelligent and narrow minded it is to think that any one race is more capable or superior than another. Whether or not he wins the presidency, the fact that Barack Obama is leading the Democrats in running for the role of President of the USA marks the fact that, hopefully, the days of discrimination and inequality are on the way to disappearing altogether. Even the potential of a black leader in the USA sends a positive message of equality all around the world, and will hopefully have far reaching consequences.

It seems that everything we do has the potential for far reaching consequences in our incredible shrinking world! If we think unpleasant thoughts, these thoughts can spread and turn into actions that will affect the lives of other people. You may have seen these ‘chains of reaction’ in school – for instance in the case of bullying. It’s the same if someone says or does something kind or helpful to us – it makes us feel as if we then want to behave that way to others. In the past, these reactions would only have potentially affected the people directly around us – our friends, our families, or people who live in the town or city that we do. Nowadays, if you are feeling sad, or angry, or happy, when you get onto the phone or your computer when you go home, in no time at all someone a long way away could be picking up your mood and your thoughts! Whether this ends up being a good thing or a bad thing, we must try and be aware of it.

[The following can be used as a prayer or meditation]

Reader 1: We hope (pray) that today we’ll think about the possible consequences of our actions, and about the fact that everything we do can affect others.

Reader 2: We also hope (or pray) that, like Martin Luther King, we will always speak up about the importance of treating all people as equals, and that we will respect all differences including those of race, beliefs and religion.
(Amen)

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2008

About the author: Jaki Miles-Windmill

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