Chinese President Xi Jinping will get a taste of life inside the Abe Nation this week when he visits Tacoma’s Lincoln High School.
Preparations for Xi’s Wednesday visit are rolling full speed ahead, and Lincoln teachers are seizing on the unprecedented visit by a head of state to help their students explore Chinese music, government and culture.
ASB members are making posters to welcome the president. Students in Hope Teague-Bowling’s English classes are studying cross-cultural communication, writing poems about cultural differences and analyzing a speech by Xi.
Meanwhile, the campus is getting a good scrub-down and some touch-up painting. Before a pep assembly Friday, Principal Pat Erwin got on the PA system to remind students that “there are people who are working hard to keep our school clean” and he asked them to help Lincoln stay that way in anticipation of Xi’s visit.
Also on Friday, school maintenance workers were pressure washing the sidewalks out front. All the clean-up work seemed to impress students as they left for the weekend.
“I’ve never seen it this frickin’ clean,” said one girl as she headed toward the parking lot.
Lincoln apparently was chosen because Xi requested to see an American high school during his Puget Sound visit, and Lincoln has a formal agreement for exchanges with educators in the city of Fuzhou. On Monday, a principal and two teachers from the Affiliated High School of Fuzhou Institute of Education toured the school.
The exact timing for Xi’s Wednesday visit had yet to be announced by Monday afternoon, but school officials said it’s likely to occur sometime late Wednesday afternoon. Xi arrives in Seattle on Tuesday for two days of roundtables, tours and banquets before heading to Washington, D.C.
Most Lincoln students will be dismissed early Wednesday so security crews have time to inspect the building before the president’s arrival. Erwin said it will be a tightly controlled environment with activities planned down to the minute.
“I have to identify the kids who will be there,” he said.
Students will greet the president and take part in some of the ceremonial events. Lincoln’s staff is also planning some activities so that Xi can get a glimpse of what an American high school class is like.
Sophomore Destinie O’Brien, a member of the school choir, is thrilled that her group is learning a song in Chinese. They hope to sing for Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, who before her marriage was a well-known singer of traditional and patriotic songs in China.
Destinie already has looked up some of the first lady’s performances on YouTube and found them impressive.
Daija Linton, a Lincoln senior, was assigned to write an essay on China.
“For the whole school, it’s going to be an eye-opener,” she said. “We can show our character and our diversity.”
Erwin said of the pre-visit hustle and bustle: “It’s so exciting, it’s hard to grasp.”
But he believes many of the educational moments for students will come after the president’s visit is over and the excitement ratchets down a notch. He wants students to learn about the serious global issues that concern China and the United States.
He hopes one lesson they will extract from Xi’s visit is that “if the two most powerful countries in the world can get along, we would all benefit.”
Students hope that their school gets a positive boost from the presidential visit.
“I feel like it’s cool that out of all of the United States, the president of China is coming to our school,” said Sierra Androy, a Lincoln junior. “We must be doing something right if the president of China is coming here.”
Several students said they hoped that Xi’s visit would help erase some of their school’s negative image from years past.
“I feel like it will be good to show how much we have progressed,” said senior Tyre Dulaney. “From everybody thinking, ‘Oh Lincoln is bad. It’s a gang member school’ to one of the best high schools in the state.”
“It’s an opportunity to show how different this school is from all the other schools in Tacoma,” said senior Mateo Ramirez.
“I feel like it’s going to be a great experience and is going to give us a good reputation,” said junior Tamarek Wrinkle. “It will put a global spotlight on our school.”