Freshmen Caucus on FDR Address


High school freshmen in English and history teacher Greg Kguloian’s classes recently worked on the “Civics - Back to the Future” project, forming caucus groups to delve into the meaning of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural address, in which he famously noted, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Each four-person caucus group worked together to ponder the meaning of FDR’s phrase and generate ideas on what their generation can look forward to in the future and what their fellow Americans can do to provide a better life for all. Each caucus group was given 10 minutes to discuss, debate and prepare a short formal speech that addressed each of the three given points and provided encouragement and hope to the audience of their peers. 

“My aim was to help my students understand what a caucus is,” said Kguloian, noting the timeliness of the project in relation to this year’s electoral process.  “I also wanted my students to understand the process in light of what a candidate and then an elected public official may say during our ‘difficult economic times.’”

His freshmen had recently read “Of Mice and Men” and had read “To Kill a Mockingbird” in middle school the prior year; in Kguloian’s view, the shared motif of personal and economic uncertainty inherent in those novels tied into the students’ collective understanding of what Roosevelt was talking about in his 1933 address.

“I was hoping it would be good, but these kids really paid attention, thought it out and said things in their speeches that were really deep,” Kguloian said.