While always exciting, visits from President Barack Obama are becoming a bit more routine in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.
Obama spoke Wednesday during a private event at Taylor Stratton Elementary School — his third visit to a Nashville public school in 18 months.
In January 2014, the president spoke with students at McGavock High School. Last December, he visited Casa Azafran, one of the district’s inaugural pre-kindergarten model centers, after giving a speech at the nonprofit organization attached to the school.
While Obama’s most recent visit aimed to spotlight his health care reforms — not education — he chose a school in Nashville’s working-class Madison neighborhood as his backdrop.
District officials were happy to accommodate him.
“Hosting the president once is a great honor. Three times in 18 months — and the first lady at a graduation before that — is tremendous,” district spokesman Joe Bass said in an email. “We are very proud to have the national spotlight shine on Nashville public schools. The sense of pride it brings to students, teachers and the community is palpable, and sticks around long after the motorcade has left.”
Before the president arrived at Stratton on Wednesday afternoon, the district made sure the school was freshly landscaped and painted — but they do that during summer months, anyway.
“We just compressed it into a few days instead of stretching it throughout the summer,” Bass said.
Despite the fresh coat of paint, the president wrote his name and a note “to dream big” on the wall at Stratton Elementary, although he got the name of the school wrong and addressed the message to students at “Taylor Elementary,” not Stratton. School is recessed for the year, so students and faculty were not in attendance.
Specifically, Wednesday’s speech focused on the Affordable Care Act in the wake of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of “Obamacare,” but the president’s other visits have had an educational bent. Last December, he discussed immigration policy, and in January he lauded career academies in Nashville high schools that allow students to immerse themselves in a chosen career pathway before graduation.
Stratton’s last presidential visit was in 1934 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, although the school was at a different location in Madison at the time. According to Madison Station, a history of the community by Guy Alan Bockman, the school principal at that time, “overcome by the enormity of the event and a bit nervous, patted President Roosevelt on the shoulder and said, ‘Now you be a good boy!'”