By Waqas Bhutta ’15
As I sit in my history class, I take in the policies of the “Great Society”. The Great Society was a set of programs produced by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Fifty years ago, Lyndon Johnson gave a commencement speech, in which he offered his vision of a “Great Society”, where poverty is nonexistent. Today it is evident that poverty still exists and has not been washed away.
‘’We have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society,’’ said Lyndon Johnson in a speech at the University of Michigan, according to the New York Times.
In 1964, President Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty” in his State of the Union Address, which to this day is a war that is not won. Many of Johnson’s government programs have helped fewer people because of program changes and budget cuts. The Vietnam War deterred funding for the Great Society programs, and ultimately made them not as effective as there were intended to be.
The U.S. government should begin to increase funding for Johnsons’ programs and bring back some of Johnson’s successful policies, which will undoubtedly decrease the unemployment rate and the poverty rate.
President Johnson’s Great Society included an immense system of government programs. Some of the programs created were Medicare, Medicaid, Volunteers in Service to America, a food stamp program, the Job Corps, and Head Start, which lifted thousands above a low standard of living.
Food stamps, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, for instance, kept four million Americans out of poverty in 2011, according to the New York Times. Likewise, through the creation of Medicare, health insurance for the elderly, and the Social Security program, the rate among older Americans fell to 9 percent in 2012 compared to 35 percent in 1959.
When Johnson gave the commencement speech, the national poverty rate was 19 percent. Fifty years later, the national poverty rate is still around 15 percent. According to the New York Times, 1.7 million households were living on cash income of less than $2 a person a day in 2011.
Republicans argue that the Great Society programs just threw money away without producing results, costing the government billions of dollars. The government did use a lot of money, however, it did not go to waste. These programs prevented the poverty rate from increasing. According to a Columbia University study, if the government did not provide benefits, the poverty rate would have soared to 31 percent in 2012.
According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, an average of 27 million people were lifted annually out of poverty by social programs between 1968 and 2012.
There are many reasons why the poverty rate is still high. One of the major reasons is the falling value of the minimum wage. The bottom third of the American work force has seen little or no rise in inflation-adjusted wages since the early 1970s, according to the New York Times.
According to research done by the University of Massachusetts, if a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 is approved by Congress, it would lift about five million people out of poverty, reducing the poverty rate by 1.7 percent.
“It is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity, all our must citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates,” said Johnson at Harvard University in 1965, according to the Huffington Post.
With more than 46 million people living below the poverty line, it seems that poverty will always remain in society. However, the government can provide support to lower the rates and help millions of people in need.
By Waqas Bhutta ’15
By Joanne Lee ’15 and Amy Feng ’15
Change has come as new faces take on positions in student government on May 22 when the results of the election were announced.
Candidates running for different positions in student government gave their speeches on May 20 in the auditorium.
Jonah Fox ’15, the new mayor, paced back and forth on the stage while exclaiming that students have been mistreated and misheard. He said we would build a better school together and “god damn it. It is a beautiful day to be a hornet.”
“I think that he’s the right person for the job,” said Kelly Kwong ’17. “He’s very realistic and straightforward.”
His opponents were Olga Berkschanskly ’15 who promised to make things better and not worse, Evans Jean ’15 and Jody Wong ’15.
“I felt that the elections were a free for all because the whole school was voting,” said Wong.
Students voted on May 21 in the cafeteria during their free periods or in their social studies class. They stood in line and cast their vote by tapping on the box next to the person who they want to be represented by on an electronic voting booth.
“Elections don’t really let those who deserve the position the right to win or to hold office because people don’t vote for them,” said Patrice Sanderson ’15.
Another position similar to the role of the mayor is the comptroller. The comptroller, elected by all students except the seniors, handles the budget and distribution of money to clubs and teams.
In a battle between Hussain Bokhari ’15 and Jacalyn Swintelsky ’15, Midwood chose Bokhari.
“A comptroller is a marble cake of various qualities,” said Bokhari. “A comptroller must be honest but subtle, smart but insightful, autonomous but cooperative.”
Chennelle Channer ’15 won as the new senior president by default because there were no other candidates.
“I got the job and I’m honored,” said Channer. “I’m hoping I can actually do something for this school.”
The second in command to Channer is Shahreen Pasha, former junior president. The crowd screamed and applauded for her more than any other candidate. She was unable to run for senior president due to her lack of participation as junior president.
“We only have each other. Just you and me,” said Stephanie Ng ’15 who had also ran for junior vice president last year but was unable to win either senior or junior vice president.
She left the stage asking the audience to give a round of applause to her opponents, Pasha and Brittany Williams ’15.
Proceeding on to the junior positions, the battle for junior president was between Gabrielle Wilks ’16 and Inna Zapadynska ’16.
Wilks was the former sophomore president and will continue with her involvement in the student government as the next junior president.
Next in line is Midwood’s new junior vice president, Nozma Omonullaeva ’16. Even though she was declared as the winner before she gave a speech, due to lack of opposition, she was nervous. The crowd supported Omonullaeva and cheered for her to stay calm.
The third person to win by default is the new sophomore president, Jennifer Phil ’17. Phil, former freshman vice president, is also the current founder and president of the KJC club or Korean Japanese Chinese Club. One of her plans is to create a scholarship board for sophomores and freshmen.
“Even small ideas such as putting garbage cans next to the water fountains in the annex is hard because it needs to be approved first,” said Phil. “However, next year I am planning to make changes by starting off small.”
While the competition for sophomore president ended before it started, the clash for sophomore vice president wouldn’t be as easy since there was a four way skirmish for the title between Rimsha Azhar ’17, Zenba Jamil ’17, Nancy Yang ’17, and Sharleen Pasha ’17.
“I’m running to make everyone’s voice heard,” said Rimsha Azhar ’17. “One little voice can make the biggest difference.”
Yang, vice president of KCJ club, referenced the song, Remember the Name, but added her own twist to the end and said “Five percent pleasure, 50 percent pain and 100 percent to bubble in my name.”
At the end of her speech, she asked the audience to play the game, Simon Says, with her.
“Simon says vote for Nancy Yang as your new sophomore vice president,” said Yang.
Sharleen Pasha, like her sister Shahreen Pasha, won the vice sophomore president.
“They were really good,” said Ciarrah Silva’16. “They all had amazing speeches.”
According to Ms. Marcia Kaufman, coordinator of student affairs, fewer than 800 students voted. Many students either did not get a chance to vote due to their schedule or chose not to participate.
Helen Wong ’15 said, “I have a one to eight schedule and extracurricular activities that I must go to after eighth period. My social studies class is first period and the voting booths only open from second to tenth period.”
Although the total votes were less than half of the student body this year, promises of change and taking actions were made. Time will tell what these future leaders are capable of and what they will do for Midwood and the students.
“I think that they will do a fine job,” said Kaufman. “Let’s think positive for the year of 2014 and 2015.”
By Shanna Huang ’15 and Hussain Bokhari ‘15
The Annex’s was packed with hesitant judges and classrooms filled with edgy sophomores; This was the scene at the annual science fair on Thursday, May 29.
“The science fair left me speechless, literally,” Amber tucker ‘16
Every year the sophomores of Science Research, who after taking a course crammed with experiments and presentations, are finally put to the test by showcasing their results at this highly anticipated event. With just under a month to find a project, test variables, and analyze experimentation, preparation for the science fair never fails in leaving students overwrought.
“It was really stressful getting here, but in the end, it was worth it,” said Diane Ling ’16. “We learned valuable experiences in the process.”
However, unlike every fair, there were many more alumni this year, giving predecessors a chance to relive their judging experiences.
“Being in research since sophomore year, Midwood Science has done so much for me,” said Nicholas Lee, who graduated last year. “It was an honor to be able to come back and judge and also to see so many familiar faces in our research family. There were many great projects that I was impressed with and that goes to show the talent of our students that keeps the Midwood Research program going strong!”
Many senior research students had already judged last year, but the anticipation of this much too rare event never ceases to excite past participants.
“I definitely look forward to the science fair every year,” said Kiara Nunez ’14. “It’s nice to see the new wave of students coming into research and presenting the projects. Plus, I always look forward to the food.”
After viewing, listening and asking questions, the judges calculate a grade out of 60, or 70 for teams, based on presentation, research, data verification and more. Judging this year was an especially gratifying experience for juniors, who had the pleasure of being on the other side of things this year.
“Being able to judge instead of being the one presenting this year was really fun,” said Jessica Yip ’15. “I finally got to see what we were being grading on and how the points were distributed. Seeing the sophomores so nervous reminded me of how I was last year.”
The winners of the science fair are determined by their respective grades. Each participant gets a grade from five judges, but the highest grade and lowest grade are dropped in an effort to eliminate any extraneous decisions. The highest average of the three remaining grades takes home the first place, separately for individuals and teams, with each trailing grade winning second place, third place, or even an honorable mention. Despite the high levels of competition in the race for the trophy, the science fair is always a great time to learn interesting facts and meet new people.
“After the judging takes place and nerves have settled, the fair turns into a get-together where students and teachers socialize and just have a good time,” said Nunez ’14. “The science fair gives research students from all three grades the opportunity to come together, which rarely happens.”
In the eyes of the science faculty, this year’s science fair ran quite professionally.
“This year we had more alumni than ever before, nearly 60 versus the normal 30,” said Mr. Glenn Elert. “We also had two professors serve as judges, Dr. Frank Grasso from the Psychology Department of Brooklyn College and Ms. Yara Adam from the Physics Department. The large number of alumni and guests made the judging process exceptionally smooth. It was great fun to see them all again and catch up on their lives after Midwood.”
While some aspects of the event never change from year to year and others were quite better this time, everyone can agree that the science fair is a perfect blend of the intuition and creativity of science and school spirit.
“The science fair took patience, work and diligence, but paid off at the end,” said Angela Christopher ’16.
By Amy Donovan ’15 and Angelika Kowalska ’15
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is a classic love story, well-known all over the world. The story often becomes repetitive with so many different interpretations and representations in the media, but Ms. Liz Bommarito, director of this year’s school production of Romeo and Juliet, has found a way to break the mold.
“It’s a modern twist on a classic,” said Regina Gavagan’14, who played Juliet.
The cast incorporated singing into the production, with modern songs such as Grenade, Happy, and the Cha Cha Slide. Along with singing, dancing was put into the show with modern forms of dance such as breakdancing.
The play opened up with the chorus describing the plot. The audience found out that the students had memorized an abridged version of the original script which was definitely a challenge. However, when the first song, Grenade sung by Romeo, came on, the audience cheered as he sang along to the tunes. This was the modern twist everyone was waiting for.
The Nurse, was played by Girshel Toporia’14, who managed to capture the audience’s attention with his comical inquiries and the obvious fact that he is a man. While many may be surprised at the fact that a man was playing a woman’s part, in Shakespeare’s time this was not an odd occurrence. In fact, men played both men and women’s characters.
“Playing the nurse has been a dream come true,” said Toporia. “I’ve always wanted to play a female character, and being given the chance to play one who’s so witty and dirty has been an honor.”
The audience was in for another surprise when the dance at the Capulet’s house didn’t quite follow the script. The performers displayed the traditional hand dance of the 1500s but music cut, and the crowd went wild as one of the Montagues danced a short hip-hop piece to the song, Talk Dirty. This was followed by a traditional Bollywood dance and some popular dances such as the Cha Cha Slide, Wobble and even the Electric Slide. The modern dances and songs made the play more entertaining, but also added culture and a twist to the well-known Shakespeare play.
“My favorite scene was definitely the one where all the dances took place,” said Kadeem Adrian’15. “It was a creative idea incorporating modern day music and dance into a classic work of art.”
Heads turned as the balcony scene was performed on Midwood’s balcony located in the back of the auditorium. Purple and pink steps were pushed towards the back which made it easier for Romeo to get to his beloved one on top of the balcony. The audience held its breath as Juliet threw down her white sheet towards Romeo. It almost seemed as if Romeo was going to scale Midwood’s walls to reach Juliet, but she pulled back the sheets and returned back to the nurse.
The first act ended with the fight between the Montagues and Capulets. After the Prince announced that Romeo was exiled from Verona, there was a short intermission where the audience exchanged their feelings about the play and munched on snacks sold outside.
The final act was filled with just as many surprises. Juliet sang during the first scene, and the crowd was stunned by her voice. She received a large round of applause during her second song as well.
Sara Glaser’15 said, “Regina Gavagan’s singing was very Broadway-like and her acting was impressive.”
However, one of the bigger surprises was the guest who played the apothecary. Dr. Pysher handed over the poison to Romeo as he acted out the role of the apothecary. He put on a wig and proudly sang his solo to the song White Rabbit. He had his round of applause as well.
“I think Dr. Pysher did a great job,” said Emily Kaufman’15. “It’s really cool that he can be in the plays since he used to be an actor he still gets up on stage and is able to captivate the audience.”
With months of hard work the cast has made a lot of memories in the process. Reginald Laine’14 remembers when he first found out he was cast as Romeo.
“When I heard I was Romeo I was blown away,” said Laine.
Gavagan said her favorite memory was during the audition process because everyone was working together and giving each other constructive criticism.
There have also been challenges involved in the production. Practice occurred almost every day and with a cast made up of seniors it definitely added on to the stress of senior year.
“For a long time I had to balance this and my classes,” said Laine.
Luz Feliz’14, who played Lady Capulet in the show, said that getting along with everyone was difficult.
“I’ve done past productions and none have given me as much stress and joy as this one did,” said Toporia. “Even though it was a challenging I truly enjoyed myself.”
But the idea of making Romeo and Juliet a musical didn’t happen over night.
“It’s been an idea that has been swimming around in my head for 15 years,” said Ms. Bommarito.
Although Ms. Bommarito had a list of songs that she created over the years, most of the songs performed were picked by the students themselves. The song White Rabbit was picked by Dr. Pysher who also sang the song, and I Hate Myself For Loving You was a song that Ms. Pumelia, the AP of the English Department, picked.
Pulling on a production like this was not easy. Practices were held until 5 until the very last week. But in the end the students and Ms. Bommarito can agree that it was worth it.
“My favorite part was watching the performance,” said Ms. Bommarito. “The students helped each other out and truly worked as a team.”
By Jennifer Ferd ‘15
Feast your eyes on the greatest display of Japanese culture outside of Japan. With Samurai sword fighting, traditional tea ceremonies, Taiko drumming, Japanese pop performances, and Bonsai Tokyo Goth Gals, this weekend-long cherry blossom festival has something to please people of all ages and interests.