History class gets presidential surprise
President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard visiting a high school history class in Virginia.
March 7th, 2011
02:58 PM ET

History class gets presidential surprise

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The often separate worlds of U.S. foreign and domestic policy merged for a few minutes in Arlington, Virginia Monday afternoon when President Obama and visiting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard mad an unannounced visit to an 11th grade history class.

Gillard, a former education minister in Australia, made the trip across the Potomac with Obama to Wakefield High School where the two spoke with students in Collette Fraley’s class. They took questions from the students with topics ranging from the recent floods in Australia, the state of basketball there, to establishing what Vegemite tastes like. Gillard also gave the students a “kind of pop quiz” about Australia.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who once played semi-professional basketball in Australia, accompanied the two as well.

In a classroom adorned with photos of all U.S. presidents, past and present, Obama and Gillard asked the students about what they were currently studying in their class. Obama also led the class in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Fraley, a 2011 Virginia Teacher of the Year, who has been teaching for 10 years.

The visit to Wakefield was part of Obama’s month-long push to emphasize the importance of America out-educating the rest of the world in order to compete in the 21st century global economy according to a statement from the White House. The school has implemented rigorous college preparatory classes, Spanish-language immersion and study abroad programs, as well as a program designed to increase the enrollment of African-American and Hispanic males in Advanced Placement courses.

The school was also the site of Obama’s national address to students in September 2009, to which the president recalled he “had less gray hair the last time I came here.”

Last Friday, Obama traveled to Central High School in Miami with former Governor Jeb Bush to tout the school’s efforts to turnaround a failing educational model at the school. He will travel to Boston on Tuesday to speak to students and faculty at TechBoston Academy about the importance of investing in education.

Topics: Arne Duncan • Education • President Obama • The News

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