From Gilman W. Whiting, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University November 2016.

Hello everyone, I hope you are doing well. My birthday is November 7th. It has always been weird that every four years the presidential election puts somewhat of a damper on my celebration. This year, like many of you, I stayed up past 1am wondering what the future would bring to the communities so neglected under a Donald Trump presidency. I was invited to several “watch parties” around the city, but I decided that for this strange, and if nothing else entertaining election, I would watch it at home. Although the county in which I reside in Nashville has always gone Navy Blue (Democratic), the state always goes Red (Republican). So “to vote” has always been somewhat of an exercise in the right to vote. For me, the process of the general elections did not have the allure of President Obama in 2007 or 2011; nonetheless, it was all very interesting.

Although I have both liberal and conservative views, I have always voted as a democrat and mostly because, as it with religion, my parents helped to shape what and who I am. They indoctrinate us to a point where we will defend strangers far removed from our lives. Growing up I believed that the Democrats “cared’ more about poor people and people of color than did the Republicans. They cared about education (including gifted), women’s rights; the no-collar and blue collar working class.

Before the final poll closings and counting began, I taught an upper level college class from 4-7pm. In the last minutes of the class, I asked my students what would the world look like to you if you woke up with Donald Trump as president? The possibility posed by the question created a strain and disbelief that was palpable. The thought of a Trump presidency caused visible anxiety among these bright, gifted students who hailed from one of America’s top 20 universities.

As I flipped between DVR’d shows missed because of my participation in the November 2016 National Association for Gifted Children conference, the updates from the state’s results began to roll out. I began to think about how my students were feeling; what they were thinking. As the results became larger-than-life, a sobering thought passed through my mind. Trump would win. I smiled, turned the TV off without knowing the final selection, and went peacefully to sleep.

As a resilient adult, I know poor, overlooked communities who, often with very little help, seem to make a way out of no way in America. The gifted education community is another one of those often overlooked, but very strong segments of that community. From an educated Black male perspective, America (as a country) has survived the Native American genocide, slavery, numerous wars, the great depression, Nixon and Reaganomics, the World Trade Center disaster, and Katrina, just to name a few tsunami-like changes. America will survive its decision to elect Donald Trump as its 45th president. Many were upset to learn that the infamous KKK had endorsed Trump, when in fact we’ve had presidents who were members of the KKK and we survived.  We’ve had presidents who’ve openly supported slavery, the Jewish Holocaust, and Japanese interment. We survived that too.

Because gifted children are often said to be intense or highly sensitive and often process events in different ways, parents and educators should be aware of the conversations that will no doubt occur. Many gifted and highly intelligent children who attend programs with others like themselves had taken a solid position on who should be president; they may now find themselves questioning the order of things. The process of things. Today a student asked, “How could Hillary win more people’s votes and lose the election?” They have a point. But after a conversation about the college electoral process, they became even more confused. One young girl said, “That’s illogical.”

When I woke my gifted 14-year-old daughter this morning, before she even got out of bed, she grabbed her computer and looked at the results. I gave her a kiss on the cheek. In disbelief, she just fell backwards, insisting that America was pulling some sort of elaborate, belated April Fool’s joke. Unlike her parents, she was a Bernie supporter until the end. WE must remind our children of the process and depending on who they wanted to “win” assure them of the following:

Trump gifted child supporters:

  • Be aware of the electoral process, how it works, why we choose it to conduct our elections.
  • Do not use the outcome to feel that you are superior, or more right and others were wrong or dumb.
  • Learn more about the person who will govern and lead America for the next four years.
  • Get involved in the process in the future.
  • Shake the hand of the other person; discuss what it means and move forward

Clinton gifted child supporters:

  • Be aware of the electoral process, how it works, why we choose it to conduct our elections.
  • You did not lose anything. You were not wrong; your being involved is what matters.
  • If you do not “like” the elected candidate, or the process, prepare yourself to make a difference in the future.
  • Shake the hand of the other person; discuss what it means and move forward.

How strong America is in the future does not end with who we vote for. The wisdom and guidance that we teach our children regarding how to process, discuss, and debate in a sometimes aggressive and confusing landscape will make them better, stronger students, adults and leaders.

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