Trump Takes Founders’ Advice, at Least on Video

Students Imagine Time-Traveling President-Elect

They’re at it again: Lowell Middle School history re-creators, from left, Tyler Spinella, William de Voest, Derek Mohr, Kyle Teachworth and Josh Meier

Move over, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and first-season star of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.” There’s a new act in town.

A group of boys in middle school teacher John Stempien’s U.S. History class created a video for extra credit that imagines the nation’s forefathers being asked for advice by president-elect Donald J. Trump.

John Stempien
John Stempien

“All three of us have been interested in politics for quite a while,” said Josh Meier, nodding toward castmates Derek Mohr and William de Voest. “This election was just so groundbreaking. We talked about it a lot.”

The 13-minute video, “The Founders’ Advice” — filmed in one evening in Josh’s basement — opens with the ringing of Josh-as-Trump’s cell phone. It’s a summons to the White House from President Barack Obama.

Once there, Trump’s attention wanders and so too does he. Trump finds himself sucked into a time-bending vortex and spit out in Philadelphia, circa 1784, in the middle of a meeting among four of the U.S. founding fathers, including future presidents George Washington, as interpreted by Derek; Thomas Jefferson, played by Kyle Teachworth; and John Adams, brought to life by Tyler Spinella. Alexander Hamilton is portrayed by William.

Wearing wigs reminiscent of cotton Halloween cobwebs pulled from storage in someone’s attic, the historical figures share their wisdom with Trump, who ends up sharing a number of historical spoilers of his own.

Students make their own 'Hamilton' in 'The Founders’ Advice'
Students make their own ‘Hamilton’ in ‘The Founders’ Advice’

While the video certainly has its funny parts, it also schools viewers on the opinions and ideologies — as well as the differences — among the early political thinkers. It also takes a somber turn with news footage from the present day, but wraps up with a speech from Josh-as-Trump, who promises to bridge political divides.

“This (video) tells me that they are really engaged with what they’re learning,” Stempien said. “I get that a lot from students: ‘Can we do a video for extra credit?’ and they often don’t realize how much work they are.

“When I saw this one, my jaw hit the floor,” he added. “Not only did they do the analysis, the synthesis and finish; the production value was pretty good and they integrated the content from class. That’s about as much as a teacher can ask for.”

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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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