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Globetrotters inspire students to vote

September 13, 2016 GMT

Fifth-grader Andrew Obispo plans to cast a ballot in early November in what some people have called one of the nastiest U.S. presidential elections in decades.

The Kearny Elementary School student knows he isn’t old enough to legally vote for a presidential candidate in the Nov. 8 election, but he will participate Nov. 1, along with tens of thousands of other elementary students around the country, in a mock presidential election designed to teach students about the importance of the democratic process.

The mock election in each state will include not just the two main party candidates — Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump — but all eligible presidential candidates. In New Mexico, that also means Libertarian and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Other minor party candidates likely will be on the ballot as well. A complete list is expected Tuesday.

Obispo, who didn’t say which candidate he backs, was inspired Monday by two Harlem Globetrotters — Les “Pee Wee” Harrison and Tyrone “Hollywood” Brown — who showed up at Kearny as part of the Drive For Responsibility campaign, which encourages kids to take responsibility for their actions, model good citizenship and vote.

“It’s the largest mock election in the history of the world,” Harrison said.

Harrison and Brown are driving to 34 of the nation’s capital cities to motivate youngsters as part of the Utah-based Responsibility Foundation’s push to encourage good citizenry.

And — being that they are Harlem Globetrotters — the pair also goofed around with a couple of basketballs, pulled off some athletic wizardry and exchanged verbal gags that probably date back to the heyday of vaudeville.

Harrison got the students to calm down by telling them to sit quietly on the floor with hands in their laps. “Give us a big smile and show us your pretty teeth,” he said.

“What if they don’t have any teeth?” Brown asked, getting a big laugh from the crowd.

“Then show us your gums,” Harrison said. Another big laugh.

The duo brought students, teachers and administrators — including Kearny Principal Boris Costa-Guerra and Santa Fe Public Schools interim Superintendent Veronica García — out on the court for some physical schtick and to spin basketballs on their fingers. At one point, the Globetrotters balanced a spinning ball on a pen that Costa-Guerra held between his teeth.

“We’ve only broken teeth a couple of times on this act,” Harrison quipped.

Brown said he knew at age 9 that he wanted to be a Harlem Globetrotter. His mother told him all he had to do to achieve his dream was graduate from high school and take care of his body by exercising and avoiding drugs, alcohol and tobacco, he recalled.

That story resonated with several students in the crowd, including fourth-grader Meliya Gharrity. She said Brown’s tale “taught us to always believe in yourself to become something.”

Obispo said he knew at the ripe age of 1 that he wanted to be a basketball player. “They’re cool,” he said of the Globetrotters. “They get to do cool tricks that people don’t get to do.”

Costa-Guerra said he worked with the district to arrange the Globetrotters’ visit so students can learn that their votes — and voices — can make a difference.

Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or rnott@sfnewmexican.com.