Before: Ask students if they know of anyone in college today. Allow time to respond. Discuss how college students stay in contact with their families (emails, texts, phone calls, and letters).
During: Encourage students to brainstorm possible topics an eighteen-year-old son would write about to his father today. Ask the students to create a T-chart in their notebooks by drawing a line down the middle of the page and labeling the left column NOW and the right column THEN. Underneath the NOW section list possible topics, such as money, tuition, cars, tests, grades, sports, events at home, events in the news, and friends. Explain that eighteen-year-olds may not have changed much in the last 100 years.
Step 1 Distribute the primary document, and read it aloud or ask for volunteers to read the letter. As the letter is read aloud, tell the students to add the topics that Cliff wrote about to the T-chart under the label THEN. Topics should include tuition, late fees, shoes, birthday, and Wilson’s campaign for re-election.
Step 2 Discuss the closing of the letter concerning Cliff’s birthday and how he feels about current events. Students may need to be reminded that in 1917 the voting age was twenty-one. Ask students what the writer meant by “Wilson keeping us out of trouble.” Relate this statement to Wilson’s 1916 campaign slogan “He kept us out of the war.” Discuss why, despite Wilson’s pledge to keep America out of the war, he eventually asked Congress to declare war.
Step 3 On the bottom of the T-chart under the THEN section, the students should write a brief paragraph about Wilson’s campaign slogan and the events which occurred that altered his promise to keep America out of the war.
Step 4 Discuss the most recent elections and the slogans that were used. Encourage students to determine whether or not the candidate has fulfilled campaign promises. What events might occur that could cause the candidate to “go back on” or alter campaign promises as President Wilson did?
Step 5 On the bottom of the T-chart under the NOW section, the students should write a brief paragraph about the current president’s campaign slogans and the events that have/may occur that could cause the president to “go back on” or alter his promises.