Thirteen-year-old Benje Choucroun, from Marin Country Day School (CA), attended the May 30 White House press briefing and was called upon to ask Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders a question. The reporter for TIME for Kids magazine asked what President Trump planned to do about school shootings. He was on assignment during the White House Sports and Fitness Day.
Benje’s question was:
“My school, we recently had a lockdown drill. One thing that affects mine and other students’ mental health is to worry about the fact that we or our friends could get shot at school. Can you tell me what the administration has done and will do to prevent these senseless tragedies?”
I watched the press briefing and the kid came off better than that quote might represent. He was clear in his delivery and came across quite articulate.
Sanders, however, surprised me a bit with her reaction. I don’t know that I’ve seen her choke up at the podium but she did when she began to answer Benje’s question. Sarah, the first working mom to be an American president’s press secretary, must have been thinking about her own three young children when she began to speak. Her voice quivered and then she regained her composure. This was her answer:
“I think that as a kid and certainly as a parent, there is nothing that could be more terrifying for a kid to go to school and not feel safe. So I’m sorry that you feel that way. This administration takes it seriously and the School Safety Commission that the president convened is meeting this week. Again an official meeting to discuss the best ways forward and how we can do every single thing within our power to protect kids in our schools and to make them feel safe and make their parents feel good about dropping them off,” Sanders said.
Student at briefing: "Can you tell me what this administration has done and will do to prevent these senseless tragedies?" @PressSec: "I think as a kid, and certainly as a parent, there is nothing that could be more terrifying for a kid to go to school and not feel safe." pic.twitter.com/iO3r54pOW0
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 30, 2018
Benje was pleased with her answer. He said afterward that it was better for the question to come for a school child than an adult spectator. It is interesting in that brief interview that Benje says it is important for journalists to put aside any preconceived notions. No doubt that innocence will wear off by the time he graduates from college.
Naturally, the press lapped up the fact that a child was asking about school shootings and took the opportunity to editorialize that “nothing” has been done.
13-year-old boy questions Press Sec. Sarah Sanders about what the White House is doing about school shootings, evoking an emotional response from the Press Sec. @JonKarl reports. https://t.co/7tBBYnzwJZ pic.twitter.com/cv0KEqGjG2
— Good Morning America (@GMA) May 31, 2018
I guess Jon Karl at ABC missed President Trump unveiling his proposals back in March and some individual state governors have put into law measures to counter school shootings. The budding journalist may have had the recent school shooting at Santa Fe High School outside of Houston on his mind, as he referenced it in an interview with People Magazine.
The teenager said he “was surprised that she got emotional,” but that he wouldn’t have changed it because “it made me feel like I was drawing attention to the issue.”
“I’m glad I did it because school shootings, as we saw in Santa Fe, are something that needs to be stopped,” Choucroun said. “And I’m happy that I raised awareness to the issue.”
Note to Jon Karl: Governor Greg Abbott in Texas is also actively working on finding solutions in preventing school shootings and was set to announce his plans just before the Santa Fe school tragedy happened. He announced a 40 point plan this week.