[Ed. – As opposed to ‘on everything else’]
As the crescendo of his first Address to a Joint Session of Congress in January 2009, newly elected President Barack Obama decided to share a story of a school. That school was called J.V. Martin Middle School, in Dillon, South Carolina. The President described it as “a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom.” He had visited J.V. Martin after receiving a letter from a student who, despite being “told that her school is helpless,” wrote of her school’s ambition and implored, “we are not quitters.” Obama, in his address, repeated the mantra for full effect.
Following the President’s nod to J.V. Martin, support tumbled in to the school, one of many dilapidated schools in the so-called “corridor of shame,” the impoverished communities on South Carolina’s I-95 corridor. A new school was built, thanks to a $4 million grant and a $37 million loan from the Department of Agriculture. A furniture company in Chicago donated more than $250,000 worth of new desks and chairs. The school was renamed as Dillion Middle School in 2011, and the buzz died down. The President’s mention of the school in his biggest annual speech catalyzed rapid educational improvement, at least to one struggling school. Plaudits were handed out, credit claimed, people moved on.