San Francisco Chronicle: Pelosi grilled by San Francisco middle schoolers on guns, Trump


By: Jill Tucker

With middle school graduation and summer vacation just days away, eighth-graders at San Francisco’s Children’s Day School should have been thinking about swimming pools and sleeping in.

Instead, on Tuesday, their minds were on gun control, mental illness and mass incarceration as they grilled one of the most powerful women in American politics about congressional inaction and the future of the country.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, was happy to answer the students’ questions, saying they were “so deep, so thoughtful, so concerned” that she had to remind herself they are graduating from eighth grade, not high school.

The visit to the Mission neighborhood private school capped the students’ yearlong civics project about gun control, which included producing a newspaper, a website and a 1,000-signature petition delivered to Pelosi’s local office supporting a range of legislation, including requiring background checks for gun purchases across the nation.

“Your activism is really very, very important, and I thank you,” the House minority leader told the students. “The future is yours, you are the future. You have to take an interest in it.”

Both senators from California have endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, but there’s still one glaring holdout from the party’s embrace of its all-but-certain nominee: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The San Francisco Democrat has yet to throw her support behind Clinton against Bernie Sanders, despite rising anxiety among Democrats that the party needs to close ranks and focus on beating Donald Trump. The San Francisco Democrat has yet to throw her support behind Clinton against Bernie Sanders, despite rising anxiety among Democrats that the party needs to close ranks and focus on beating Donald Trump. And with Pelosi’s home-state California primary just around the corner on June 7, the lack of an endorsement from one of the party’s most recognizable figures has become increasingly noticeable.

The class’ teacher, Terry Ashkinos, said the visit offered students an important lesson: “Speaking to power is a real thing.”

The students were also very interested in what Pelosi thought of presumed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, and the former speaker of the House was happy to oblige.

Views on Trump

I’m saying now, but when I become the nominee, when I become president, I’ll maybe change my mind about things,’” she said, adding she has no doubt Hillary Clinton will defeat him.

Outside the classroom, which the school had named after her, Pelosi was more direct about her thoughts on Trump.

“My view on him is he knows he shouldn’t be president,” she said. “It’s like every day he is saying, ‘Save me from myself.’ Like saying there’s no drought in California.”

She paused to shake her head. “He’s smart,” she continued. “He knows better than anyone he shouldn’t be president.”

Gun control

Pelosi said she hopes the next president faces far less obstructionism, with a Congress willing to vote on key issues, including gun control.

That would be a nice change, said eighth-grader Sasha Hunt.

The students researched the pros and cons of stronger gun control and decided to support not only universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles but also a prohibition on handguns, Hunt said.

The kids studied the intense politics surrounding the issue, specifically why “Congress is being so childish and not doing anything about this and turning a blind eye,” the 13-year-old added. “That is frustrating to me.”

The students chose the topic after reading about the mass shootings at an Oregon community college in October and at a public health training conference and holiday party in San Bernardino in December.

“Anybody could shoot up a school,” Hunt said. “It really says no one is safe, and Congress isn’t making anyone safer.”