Carper visits Blades Elementary students

By Lynn R. Parks

Sen. Tom Carper had some questions for fifth graders at Blades Elementary School on Monday. And the students were ready.

How many senators does each state have? Two, one child answered. How many states are there? Fifty, another child said. So how many senators are there in the U.S. Senate? One hundred!

A tough one  How many U.S. Representatives are there? Many hands flew into the air and the student Carper selected for a response had the right answer, 435.

And another tough one  What determines how many representatives each state gets? Its based on the states population, a student replied.

Fifth graders at the school study civics and government. Teacher Candy Whitelock said that at the end of their unit, the students in her class asked if they could invite Carper to talk during this years Fifth-Grade Farewell Ceremony, scheduled for Friday, June 6.

Carper was unavailable on that date (state Rep. Danny Short will speak instead). But he said that he could talk with the students earlier this week, on Monday.

Hearing from the senator will give them a real-world experience of how our government works, Whitelock said before Carpers arrival. Voting and making laws are abstract concepts and it will be good for them to meet someone who is instrumental in making decisions that affect them and their families.

Several weeks ago, fifth-grade teachers Whitelock, Sharon Parker and Jaime Lester had their students submit questions that they would like to ask Carper. Before writing their questions, the students examined Carpers website and learned about the committees that he serves on.

From the submitted questions, the teachers selected nine for students to ask during the senators visit.

It was very hard to decide, Whitelock said. All of the questions were thought-provoking. The students are very interested in politics.

They have seen a shift in the economic picture in the area and we have talked about some of the reasons for that.

In fact, one of the questions got right to the heart of the economic situation in western Sussex. How do you plan to attract more business to Delaware? asked Wendell Miller.

Carper listed several things that the state has to have in order to draw companies. Among them: smart employees, good roads, clean air, clean water, low crime and great schools.

Jenna Shoultes asked to what Carper attributes the fact that he has been elected to office 13 times. I picked the right parents, he said. They taught me good values, to do my best in everything and to never give up.

Jason Tharp wondered how Carper, elected as state treasurer in 1977, U.S. Representative in 1982 and governor in 1992, was able to help the state go from the worst credit rating in the nation to one of the best. I didnt do it by myself, the senator replied. The governors under which he served, Pete duPont and Mike Castle, as well as legislative leaders all worked very hard to make it possible.

The last question was asked by Joshua Layton. How did you feel about Delawares schools when somebody attacked the school at Sandy Hook [Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.]? he asked.

Carper paused. Then he told Joshua that he was very sad after the December 2012 shooting that killed 20 students and six school staff members.

My wife and I have two sons, both of whom are grown up, Carper added. And we worry about them every day. My wife and I often talk about the fact that the worst thing that could happen to us would be to lose one of our sons.

Carper told the students that he has a parental feeling about all of Delawares students. I want to make sure that every kid has a chance to learn and to succeed, he said.

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