Tell students that today, we will reflect on the major news over the weekend: On Saturday, November 7, presidential candidate Joe Biden, along with vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, were declared the winners of the 2020 election, defeating President Donald Trump.
The election has been a deeply contentious one, and it has stirred up many emotions in people across the country.
Today we’ll take a few moments to review what has happened and share our thoughts and feelings about it.
Before you begin, revisit your class’s community agreements. How do we want to show up for each other during this discussion and throughout this period? Community agreements could include:
- One mic
- It's okay to pass if you need more time to think or would rather not respond
- Speak from the “I,” not about the “you.”
- Respect different opinions, especially those that are different from your own
- Be your own barometer – share as much as you feel comfortable sharing
- Confidentiality: what is said in this space stays in the space
Tell students that this has been a very tense few weeks for many of us. So before we begin, we’ll take a few deep breaths.
Ask students to do the following:
- Settle yourself in your chair. (Students may want to turn off their video cameras.)
- Either close your eyes or focus your gaze on a space in front of you and slightly downward.
- Visualize that you are in a place that you find calming – perhaps a favorite spot in the neighborhood, in a park, near the ocean or a stream, or in the mountains.
- Take several deep breaths in and out as you imagine yourself in that place. In… and out. In… and out. In…and out.
- When you’re ready, open your eyes (and turn the video camera back on).
Have students check in with themselves. Then give each student a chance to share a word or a sentence about what that was like.
Next, ask students: How closely have you been following the election? Not at all? Somewhat? Obsessively?
Before inviting students to share their thoughts and reflections, review with students some of the news of the past several days.
Share or elicit from students information such as the following:
- On Saturday, November 7, media organizations reported that Joe Biden had won the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. He was tipped over the edge by a victory in Pennsylvania.
- The news organization AP, which traditionally calls elections, announced the news, and was joined by every major news outlet in the country, including Fox News, whose commentators have long favored President Trump. The announcement followed nearly four days of tabulating votes and national anticipation of the election outcome.
- Voters overcame their fears of the coronavirus, long lines at the polls, and changed voting rules to deliver the largest voter turnout in American history. Biden and Harris swept the national popular vote, winning a record total of over 74 million votes, more than any presidential candidate in U.S. history.
- History was also made by Kamala Harris, who became the first woman, the first Black woman, the first woman of South Asian descent, and the first daughter of immigrants ever to rise to this level of leadership.
- Biden and Harris tallied up more votes than Trump in several battleground states that Trump had won in 2016, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, worth a combined 57 electoral votes.
- Biden and Harris lost a number of closely contested states, including Florida. In addition, Democrats lost seats in the House of Representatives, though they retain their majority in the House. They also did not gain enough Senate seats to win control of that chamber. The balance of power in the Senate could end up coming down to two runoff elections in Georgia that won't happen until January 2021.
- President Trump did not concede the election. His campaign began a wide-ranging legal assault to challenge Democratic votes and victories in key swing states. However, President Trump has not yet produced evidence of any voting irregularities, and several suits have already been dismissed by judges.
- While some Republican leaders, including former President George Bush, congratulated Biden and Harris on their victory, many others stayed silent.
- On Saturday evening Biden and Harris addressed the country. Biden pledged to work to heal the nation and to immediately address the Covid pandemic. He said: “Americans have called upon us to marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness, to marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time.”
- In her address, Kamala Harris told voters that they had chosen “hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth.” She also said: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
- In response to the election results, celebrations erupted in cities across the United States and around the world. There were also protests across the country by supporters of President Trump charging that the election had not been fair.
- In the coming weeks, states will count and certify the results of the popular vote. All state recounts and court contests over presidential election results must be completed by December 8. Then, the electors will cast their votes for their respective candidates. The House and Senate will certify those votes on January 6, and the inauguration will take place on January 20.
Sharing Thoughts & Feelings
Ask students to share in turn one feeling they have had about the presidential election over the past several days. Do they feel relieved? Anxious? Overjoyed? Concerned? Exhausted?
Acknowledge student feelings, diverse as they might be. Explain that it is normal to feel all of these things after such a contentious election, during such challenging times.
Next, encourage students to share their thoughts and reactions more fully. Consider having students write their thoughts and feelings about the election before they share out.
Share an order of student names in the chat box. Explain that we’ll take turns to speak (and listen) as we share our thoughts and feelings about the election, while the rest of the class practices good (mindful) listening. Each person will have a chance to speak without being interrupted. It is not a time for discussion or dialogue. We want to listen carefully to what everyone is feeling without getting into a debate or heated discussion.
Give each person up to a minute to share their thoughts and feelings – or to pass. Then turn things over to the next person in line.
- What is one thing that has happened over the past several days that has struck you? Why?
- What, if anything, has surprised you?
- What, if anything, has made you feel worried or upset?
- What, if anything, has made you feel hopeful?
Invite students to share:
- What is one wish you have for the future of the United States?