America Pleads: President Obama, Rescue Us!

“President Obama, now is the time to start talking. I appreciate the instinct to hold back, to follow the keep-quiet-about-the-new-guy tradition of former presidents. But these are not traditional times. They are unprecedented, and frankly, unpresidential. You deserve a break, but we are out here in this hand-basket. There has been a press secretary hiding among bushes, an F.B.I. director who learned from television reports that he had been fired and Russians laughing in the Oval Office. Something called ‘the Mooch’ happened for about 10 days, and back in May a man body slammed a reporter and then got elected to Congress.” C. Randall Williams, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Image- Trend Hunter

Excerpt: President Obama, Where Are You? By Caroline Randall Williams,  The New York Times

“Days ago, a tiki torch maker had to issue a serious political statement disavowing white supremacists. Somehow this is happening in The New York Times, not The Onion. All of which gives me the hopeful audacity to beg you once more unto the breach, to help unpack this madness.

You have held the highest office in the land for the maximum time it can be occupied. You are an expert on constitutional law and an embodiment of the ideals expounded by the so-called American dream… You are the president who shed tears in public after Sandy Hook. Now we are a country troubled by the looming possibility of a constitutional crisis, and hate groups are claiming the president as theirs. We need your voice. There is not a saner, more trustworthy opinion that many of us would rather hear. I love that, after you posted on Twitter about the violence in Charlottesville, Va., you set a record for the most-liked tweet.

In April, you spoke to students at the University of Chicago and identified your post-presidential calling to help ‘prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton’  as ‘the single most important thing I can do.’ I entirely agree. But your distance remains a weight on my mind.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve enjoyed your few public engagements so far this year. You spoke meaningfully on climate change in Milan. You eloquently repudiated the continuing attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It was heartening to see the people of Berlin receive you so warmly, and to watch you speak with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mr. Obama, you were, as ever, subtle, insightful and measured.

The Greatest President in Our Life Time

We learned to experience politics through the lens of your eloquent presence in the White House. In this respect, you raised us. So we are unaccustomed to all of this wildness. Just because we’re grown doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear from the man who brought us up.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activity

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann


II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. There was a serious political statement from a tiki torch maker.
  2. President Obama is the embodiment of the ideals.
  3. We must try to navigate these fraught times.
  4. There was a quotation from Nelson Mandela.
  5. Obama advised students to take up the baton of leadership.
  6. He also repudiated the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  7. The apocalypse we’ve been dreading is upon us.
  8. My  phrase had turned into a bewildered mutter.
  9. My shout became a heartbroken whisper.
  10. Many Americans  are calling for an inquiry into the problem.

Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

I recognize and___ your ___approach to ___these times, but this relentless ___has become wearisome. Mr. Obama, now is not the time tothe keep-quiet___ while the new administration___moral equivocator to a much ___nation. It’s time for you to come back.

WORD LIST:   follow, navigating, plays, deliberate, respect, aghast, rules,  fraught, subtlety,

 Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

As a rule/ruler , I do not speak beck/back to the television when I am alone. Or I didn’t used to.  And then/than, around the time of James Comey’s firing, I listened/list to Alan Dershowitz basically/basic announce that the apocalypse we’ve been dreaming/dreading is upon us. I started to feel/fell actual panic/picnic. I found myself yelling/yellow at the screen, and into the universe: ‘Barack! Where are you?’

Ask/Answer  Questions

Directions: Place students in groups and have each group list 3  questions they would like to pursue in relation to  the article. Have groups exchange questions. Each group tries to answer the questions listed. All responses are shared as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class.


Category: Social Issues