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Mamaroneck AP Gov't Students Analyze State of the Union

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Aaron Bendich found some of President Barack Obama's comments in his Jan. 23 State of the Union (SOTU) address "ineffective," but liked his overall presentation style.

Bendich, 17, was the first to chime in on the discussion held in Joe Liberti's AP American Government and Politics class Thursday. Liberti assigned his class to watch the SOTU and read the transcript before class. In class, he asked them to not only analyze Obama's speech, but to compare it to the Republican response by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

"I think that Obama made a lot of specific examples, and some of them seemed like unique interpretations of things," Bendich said. "Whereas, Daniels used lots of very vague, very general statements that would probably appeal to people who watch these speeches but hate current events."

The Mamaroneck resident said he preferred Obama's detailed approach, but that Daniels "did a really great job."

Liberti, who teaches three sections of AP American Government and Politics and three sections of Global History, was impressed by Bendich's fair-handed analysis. He can, in part, attribute it to the recent field trip his class took to New Hampshire to campaign for Republican Presidential candidates in the Jan. 10 primary. The trip exposed his students, a majority being Democrats, to the other side.

"This is the first time they were thrown into a situation where they were very much in the minority, and it was very uncomfortable for them, in a good way," Liberti said.

Both Bendich and his classmate Zain Naqvi, 18, said working with people who fervently believed in Republican principles forced them to take a closer look themselves.

"I definitely take them more seriously now," Bendich said of Republicans, like Daniels.

Other students, like Michael Cummeford played the foil, Liberti said, in Thursday's discussion as one of just a few Republicans in the class. Comerford is a Ron Paul supporter and was able to work on the Paul campaign during the New Hampshire trip.

Like Paul, the young Republican was more interested in debating policies than politics, and questioned some of the accomplishments Obama touted in his speech.

On the other hand, Jacob Balin was more than happy to play political strategist, observing that Obama did his best to focus blame on a do-nothing Congress.

"I think Obama has the upper hand in this case because he isn't the one who can pass the legislation, that's been the Republicans for the last two years," Balin said. "It's easy for Obama to say, 'you guys are being obstinate.'"

Liberti agreed that this was a theme of Obama's speech that could work for him in the general election. "For some people that might resonate with them and help him pull in those moderate voters," Liberti said.

Although, according to Liberti, students seemed to gravitate back toward their natural inclinations as Democrats in Thursday's discussion, he noted how responsive they were to the Republican perspective.

Check back with The Daily Mamaroneck when Liberti's class holds a public showing in March of the mini-documentary video teacher Emily Dombroff and students shot during their New Hampshire trip.

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