Opinion | A presidential elector and educator finds hope among his students

By now, most Americans have had time to digest and grapple with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.  We’ve heard many stories and reactions that have shed light into the one of the darkest days in our nation’s history.  The day held special meaning — and challenges – for me as an educator and as a Michigan elector whose signature was on one of the ballots being certified by Congress to elect Joe Biden the 46th president of the United States.

Time often gives us clarity but clarity was not afforded to educators, like me, who returned to class the “morning after” the mob attack on Congress.  We had to face our students and begin navigating the dark waters that washed over our country less than 24 hours before.  In my 28 years as a public school educator, the last 10 teaching American history, I have had way too many “morning after” discussions with students.   From the Oklahoma City bombing to 9/11, my role as an educator has been to help students understand the inconceivable.

Blake Mazurek

Blake Mazurek is U.S. history teacher at Grandville Middle School and served as a 2020 Democratic elector for Michigan’s 3rd congressional district.

Every person in the school setting, from amazing support staff, social workers and counselors, to administrators and teachers, shares a common duty to provide support and assurance during troubled times.  This challenge can be daunting, particularly when we are shouldering the same uncertainties and fears as our students.

On the morning after, students are expecting us to address their questions for which, in many cases, we have no answers.

Students want to talk.  I teach eighth-grade middle school students and my “lesson” plan of the day was to have a conversation, which began with an invitation to ask questions and share their feelings.  It is critical that every student feels they can safely express themselves as we process this or any event.

Entering this arena can be fraught with peril, especially in this politically charged atmosphere.  As one of Michigan’s 16 electors for Joe Biden, I’ve had the unique opportunity to use my journey as a teachable moment for students. But on the morning of Jan. 7, I had to keep my own political feelings out of the conversation in addressing a very political event.

I was amazed at the depth of understanding many students brought to the conversation. At their age they are much more in-tune with social and political issues than my generation was at the same age. Yet with this exposure comes confusion —  a consistent question was, “How could this happen?”

While tough questions like that aren’t easily answered, the school day still ended with hope.

My 7th-hour class was actively engaged in discussion and debate as the “bell” rang.  We were meeting remotely and as the hour ended, I felt kids were not ready to let go.  I offered to remain and carry on the conversation with those who chose. Nine stayed… for 45 minutes.  These students shared their observations of how the rioters were dealt with on Jan. 6 compared to last summer’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations that led to discussions of race in America.  They wanted to process, share and seek answers to the unanswerable.

But what stood out for me was their incredible passion.  These 13-year-olds listened, challenged and worked through some tough issues.  My heart grew because I saw what was possible. As we closed our discussion, I shared my gratitude for them, I learned from them.  They restored my hope.

These “morning after” discussion will not abate.  Living in a world such as we do, it is inevitable some further tragedies will occur.  Even so, we can be assured that educators will be there to help our kids process and engage in their world.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Monica WilliamsClick here for details and submission guidelines.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Nancy Flanagan
Mon, 01/11/2021 - 8:17pm

Beautiful. Thank you.

Leon Hulett
Wed, 01/13/2021 - 3:21pm

You were there I was not.

I have taught classes from 2nd to the day before Gradation. I know what it means when a child asks a question, from the frame of mind of, “How could this happen?” They are being told things from one side only, and they know what they are hearing and seeing does not make sense.

But you were there to express and finalize a political view that many Michiganders do not hold, and that story has not been heard. Maybe this view is not popular on Bridge, but out in the real world there is this view. I feel there are more or less equal numbers of voters that have not been heard, in many ways. At all levels from the Supreme Court on down to Antrim County regarding legal votes for Trump and for Biden. On Election Night Antrim County presented to the press, to the world, 6400 votes for Biden in this county that he did not get. It pretended this was true, it was not. The tallies were changed later, much later. Forensic evidence shows they had not been changed 3 days later. This was not human error. This is an issue that should be listened to all the way to Washington. It has not been, it has uniformly and diabolically been suppressed. Is this an issue of "human error" or is this an issue of "machine error?" Both sides have not been heard in this matter, and one side has systematically not allowed to be heard. I chose this case because this matter did go to one lower court in an odd manner, Trump was not the issue. The Judge did listen to this case, did order seizure of the machines, did order a forensic recording of all the data and tabulation logs, and forensic analysis of what it meant. The court has the report, so do the writers of that report on their website. True or false, this is evidence in a Court of Law. It should be heard its value to the confidence citizens should have in the voting process should be evaluated with all the data.. All the attempts to suppress such information may also be valid or not. Many of us believe that just because the word "Trump" is on dozens of similar requests to listen at all levels of our government is no reason to deny Due Process on each of these cases. 70 million voters are in this position, shall the nation hear what we have to say or will each such request be met with hatred and with pleas for sympathy for BLM concerns, and maybe one last request was met with bullets fired through door #2. Will 70 million be shouted down by hateful people, and intimidated by hateful people. Maybe so, maybe not.

The people near the capitol on Jan 6th knew this was the last chance to petition our representatives to at least listen to 70 million voices, was moments away. This request for permission could be done peaceably.

These peaceful people came to the second door, knocked and asked, "Can we come in?" Essentially they were told, not until its over. They said they must be heard, before its over. They were told that their concerns and their rights, the right to petition, were NEVER going to be listened to from the Supreme Court on down to Antrim County. The door to America's last appeal was slammed shut in our faces, blocked, and guns were drawn and guns were fired against these people behind door #2, by by FBI, and CP and Secret Services. To me this should be, "The shot heard round the world" half way though this event when it turned "bad", when an unarmed citizen with A Message for Pelosi was shot dead, behind door #2. Even when a man came to door #3, Pelosi's door, he knocked and asked, "Can we come in? This is no riot. The door was not locked and she was not there, and was still NOT listening.

So this was a refusal to honor the right of petition, the right to Due Process, the right to hear the voices of 70 million Americans,19 Attorney General's to the Supreme Court, and all the rest. The right to elect our own representatives to represent us, and not to be denied petition, an audience, with this body of representatives any time before finalization, before the Ultimate Moment. The people outside door number #2, then forced their way past door #2 to be heard before the Legislature acted. They did do this. One had been shot dead for wanting this.

That was the point of escalation. This was not a riot, as you say to us and to your 8-th graders, this was a petition intended by many to be heard. All the Legislature had to do was say, "Who is that knocking our door?" "Six people can come forward and state or read your petition." "We will listen to it." The people could say,"We have spoken." Pelosi could say,
"We have heard you." "Now leave."

Now you can say, but, but, but! "But there were damages that show otherwise." I was directed to an Inventory of damages, that included the events that followed this moment above, but it did not say what the damages were up to the moment these people realized they were NEVER going to be heard unless they passed door #2 and presented their appeal NOW. The Inventory said, Door #2 was damaged,3 or 4 windows, including the one's in Pelosi's office were broken during all events of the day. "No major artworks were reported damaged"
Two lights were broken, there was grafitti, and there was residue to be cleaned up, according to the Inventory. So I say, "Okay, there was this level damage." "But this level of damage is not what motivated your rhetoric." But what I was directed to was not the actual Inventory done. It was from a story from a story, from a NY Times story, that reads like your communications here, intended to have the type of visceral reaction that people recoil in horror from, at manufactured events, intended to influence a certain emotion, hate, that is so often been repeated it is now instantaneous hatred. You story is intended to not say the real story, it is intended to inspire an 8th-grader to say, "How could this happen?" She could not process events there were not true. And if she had been persuaded, to accept the "story" rather than the facts, or at least a second opinion, she still would not know the truth. She has not been conditioned to react to such words, so often repeated, that they meet with only hatred. This is a tool of propaganda. You teach someone to hate a thing, you teach them to withdraw responsibility for that thing. Not they will accept any order to destroy that thing. It may be a man's name, it may be Constitution, it may be anyone associated with either of these. You could accuse someone, some group, of anything, say "insurrection." or "impeachment." If they buy this "hatred" gimmick, they will listen.

But we seem to have far different views of what happened. Perhaps you could enlighten me on how my observations up to the forcing of Door #2, were not true. I have presented them calmly to show a view point that is true, that is easily confrontable, and can be evaluated by an 8th grader.

I hope you are able to present both sides to your 8th-grade history class, so they can evaluate at least these two different views of this matter.

I saw a Request for a Permit was authorized by the Department of Interior. This provided the legal basis for people to be at the various locations including access to the Capitol. You said there was an "attack." There was no such 'attack' on any of these approved locations.

One man says he and his small group became bored with the speech they were hearing, and walked on down to the Capitol before it was over. This is all permitted activity. Can you see any controversy with this so far, in any way?

People talked to a Capitol security guard and he allowed them enter and pass through Door #1.

I see none of the things you mention as showing that people did proceed in this peaceful manner, up to a point in time. I see no "insurrection," "one of the darkest days in our nation’s history," no "mob attack on Congress" no need to "begin navigating the dark waters that washed over our country." These are inflammatory words to move the mind in the wrong direction, in the direction of hatred. One that is difficult to "understand" and that is "inconceivable" even to an 8th grader.

You mention, "observations of how the rioters were dealt with on Jan. 6 compared to last summer’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations that led to discussions of race in America."
I guess you should include my story above, as to what constitutes your "rioters." Police reports say there were guns. One police report talks of a man/woman born near here in Cadillac, MI. The local Cadillac News says, this person had acted as a BLM supported activist through out 2020. She does not self-identify as BLM, her Face Book page says "Forever Antifist." She was arrested with a gun, large clip and unlicensed ammunition at 1000 Vermont Ave, not far from the White House. She was released. Then the FBI release said, "No evidence of Antifa." Well, maybe they did not look very hard, before they said that.
Or maybe they just had to tell one more "story."
Leon Hulett, PE

Leon Hulett
Wed, 01/13/2021 - 5:44pm

Bridge says,

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

How many voices were screened due to "false information?"

Leon Hulett, PE