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National Archives opens presidential education exhibit

This photo of President John F. Kennedy in his graduation cap and gown is part of the National Archives' "School House to White House" touring exhibit. The display is at the Morrow-based National Archives at Atlanta through Thanksgiving.

This photo of President John F. Kennedy in his graduation cap and gown is part of the National Archives' "School House to White House" touring exhibit. The display is at the Morrow-based National Archives at Atlanta through Thanksgiving.

— A Dec. 6, 1930, report card shows President John F. Kennedy committed an unofficial cardinal sin for pre-Vatican II Catholics when he was a student at the Canterbury School in New Milford, Conn.

He was rated as “Poor” at Latin.

Kennedy’s teacher told his parents that he was underachieving in a note at the bottom of the report card. He had a 55 on his daily work and a 64 average for the term.

“He can do better than this,” the teacher wrote at the bottom of the report card. “In fact, his average should be well in the 80’s.”

The report card is part of a new touring exhibit, entitled “School House to White House: The Education of the Presidents,” on display through Thanksgiving at the National Archives at Atlanta, at 5780 Jonesboro Road in Morrow. It opens Monday.

The exhibit includes school memorabilia from 12 former U.S. presidents, beginning with Herbert Hoover and ending with Bill Clinton. Joel Walker, education specialist at the archives, explained the exhibit is the traveling product of the presidential library system.

photo

Curt Yeomans

Joel Walker, education specialist for the National Archives at Atlanta, demonstrates how to use an interactive part of a new exhibit, entitled “School House to White House: The Education of the Presidents.”

George W. Bush is not included in the exhibit, Walker said, because his library didn’t open until last week, long after the exhibit began its tour of the presidential libraries and National Archives regional branches.

Walker said the exhibit will be important for area students because it can serve as a history of education as well as a record of the presidents.

“It can connect students with the presidents and show them that these people do have an educational past,” Walker said.

photo

Curt Yeomans

Joel Walker, education specialist for the National Archives of Atlanta, and Emma Davis-Hamilton, president of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, reminisce about their school days in a new archives exhibit, titled “School House to White House: The Education of the Presidents.”

The exhibit gives visitors a well-rounded view of what school life was like for the former presidents. There are several class photographs in the exhibit, including Clinton’s kindergarten class photo.

There are also several copies of report cards. While Kennedy’s overal grade for all classes would be considered a “C” average these days, Jimmy Carter’s report card from the Georgia School of Technology shows he was an “A-B” student.

There are also copies of high school and college diplomas and photographs showing the presidents playing sports in school.

Among the photos are several images of Gerald Ford playing football. There is also a letter from the Green Bay Packers football team to Ford, offering him a chance to try out for the team.

“Of course, the interesting thing about Ford is that he’s the only president to never be elected president,” Walker said.

Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society President Emma Davis-Hamilton stood in awe of the exhibit when she came to visit Walker about an upcoming program. She said they reminded her of the schools she attended.

“I used to sit in a chair like this,” said Davis-Hamilton as she came across a row of old-school desks. She later pointed to a hole in the desk designed to hold pencils, and added, “We used to have the holes in our desks like this, but we stuck our chewing gum in there.”