Of course I had the opportunity to to speak to the amazing kids who work on these topics throughout the year and made it to the final competition. NHD is not really a 'day,' as the MCPS and private school students and teachers, and homeschoolers who participate can tell you; it is a year-long program that requires focus, stamina, and perserverance. At the opening reception, two middle schoolers from William Monroe MS, Greene County, Virginia, Samantha Hammer and Yancey Harrison, presented their dramatic work on the development and opening of Shenandoah National Park, "The Mountain Folk's Story: Debating the Displacement in Shenandoah National Park." They told me they had spoken to someone in the CCC about the Park's beginnings. Their presentation focused on the over 2,000 residents of the communities whose homes and land were condemned in the 1930s, and who were forcibly removed by the US Government in order to create the 'pristine' park we enjoy today. And at the closing reception, Lily Shoretz, who attends Ramaz HS in New York, presented a dramatic interpretation of her topic, "The Immigration Act of 1924: Shutting the Door," about the debates leading up to the Act, which ended mass migration to the US, and the devastating effects it had on the lives of potential immigrants waiting to go through our 'golden door.' The Act was not repealed until 1965.
I also spoke to Julia Burton, from Rome, Georgia, whose website submittal focused on the Vietnam War and the debates at home, especially its effects at Kent State in Ohio; Ryan Nolan, Stephen Savoy, Raphael Lima, and John Iacovino, students at Kennedy MS, in Somerville, Massachusetts, who created a webpage on the Cuban Missile Crisis ("Eyeball to Eyeball: Diplomacy in the Cuban Missile Crisis"); and Camille Balhorn, student at Robbinsdale MS, in Minnesota, whose presentation on "The Boundary Waters Treaty: Sustained Diplomacy" was on view at the NMAH during the closing events. All these kids, and the parents and teachers who attended the NHD competitions are involved and passionate about history, and it was a wonderful thing to see. ESEA (aka 'NCLB') is being debated right now in Congress -- it is important to make sure that teaching history is included in the final bill. Please contact your representatives in DC, and the administration, and tell them: keep history in the law.