two-week project on biographies of American presidents concluded on Friday, Feb. 10 with each of the 34 third-graders in the two classes presenting speeches on their chosen president.
Two of those students had the opportunity to deliver their speeches to a former congressman and nephew of their chosen president.
, nephew of John F. Kennedy and son of the late Ted Kennedy, visited the school Friday morning and heard speeches from Brendan and Peter Marczyk, as well as a number of other students who did speeches on Presidents Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Herbert Hoover and former first lady Barbara Bush.
The Marczyk cousins each chose JFK and each gave their speech to the former congressman.
“The Marczyks are a big family in Absecon and I’d been living in Absecon for over a year,” said Kennedy, who now resides in Brigantine. “I got a chance to know them and I was happy to come by and participate.”
Kennedy, who served as a congressman in Rhode Island, moved to New Jersey where he married his wife Amy, a Northfield schoolteacher. His step-daughter is getting ready to go into preschool and the couple is expecting another baby in April.
“It’s nice to know there’s a good school in a neighborhood nearby,” said Kennedy, who has already given a speech to children at the school in which his wife works. “I’ve read to children during Reading Week and today, it was nice to have the students read their reports to me.”
The students in the two classes, taught by Gina Sharpley and Kelly Burke, were already scheduled to give their speeches on Friday before word that the former congressman would be visiting their school.
Sharpley said the children were excited prior to Kennedy's visit, and it showed with the enthusiasm with which they asked questions and answered those posed by Kennedy.
Kennedy left behind three books for the children to enjoy, including one about Splash, his father’s Portuguese Water Dog, who gives his perspective on life in Washington, D.C. He also left a book about St. Francis of Asissi.
He spoke to the students about how laws are passed, using the environment and the potential for a 10-hour school day as an example.
The idea of the 10-hour school day didn’t go over well with the students, who overwhelmingly voted against the idea when Kennedy presented it to them and asked them to vote.
“That’s how hard it is to get laws passed,” Kennedy said. “People are more likely to vote against something than to vote for it.”
“You have to explain how the process works through interests of theirs, and show them why we have federal laws and not just local laws,” Kennedy said afterward. “It’s a good way to get the kids to see the importance, and understand the basic fundamentals.”
He added that a lot of the social progress the country has made has been a result of the efforts of America’s youth.
“Kids are sensitive about things that it takes a long time for their parents to adhere to,” Kennedy said. “People say you learn everything you need to know in kindergarten: how to play together, be fair, say thank you, please and share. These are lessons we need more of a reflection of in our public policy.”