BROOKLYN —Early on this week, Radcliffe Saddler found out President Barack Obama was coming to visit his school. On Thursday, he found out he would be introducing the special guest before an event here at Pathways in Technology Early College High School.
“It was pretty surreal,” Saddler told Business Insider after the event.
Saddler was chosen out of a school-wide contest to introduce Obama before he would speak for a little more than 20 minutes here in Crown Heights. He wasn’t sure exactly why he was chosen, but he has some ideas.
He is one of the three best-performing students at P-Tech, where his classes include three college courses, including calculus. He currently has 21 college credits, 42.6 high-school credits, and he has passed all five regents needed for graduation.
The candidates to introduce Obama also had to write a biography. Saddler was born in Kingston, Jamaica, the oldest of three children. When he was 6, he and his family moved to the United States for good. He said that his family came to the U.S. for good, at least in part, because his parents wanted to provide a cheaper and better education for their children.
Saddler was profiled by the New York Times two years ago, at which point he had been rejected from all of the nine schools he had applied to because of a strange New York City application process. He moved on to P-Tech — and he now thinks it’s important that Obama chose his school for a visit.
“I think it’s motivation for the whole country. And for most of the students here, just to see the President is motivation. He’s the most important man in the country,” Saddler said.
Saddler introduced Obama in a little less than two-minute introduction. He was nervous at first. But that wore off, he said, when he realised he was in front of a crowd that had just applauded the fact that he currently has 21 college credits under his belt.
Obama looked energized back on the campaign trail again, and when he went up on stage, he shook Saddler’s hand and gave him a half-hug.
“It was really cool. It was really cool. I don’t know if words can describe it,” Saddler said. “I expected him to shake my hand, but I wasn’t really expecting the hug.”
In the 20-minute speech, Obama cast P-Tech as an example of the types of schools in which the U.S. will have to compete to remain relevant in a rapidly evolving and changing global marketplace.
He had a target list of goals — universal preschool availability for every 4-year-old child, access to high-speed Internet in classrooms, and further investment in technology and teachers in schools.
Hours later, at a fundraiser on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Obama was still praising the enthusiasm of the students at P-Tech.
“That’s what Washington should be about every single day,” Obama said, according to a White House pool report. “When you see what’s happening on the ground, it reminds you why this is the greatest country on Earth.”
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