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Lt. Governor boogies to breed respect
MARYSVILLE This writer is no professional music critic.
Still, he says here, that while he probably shouldnt quit his day job, as it turns out, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen has a pretty decent singing voice.
He also knows his way around the guitar enough to pull off a more than respectable version of Johnny B. Good.
That oldie, along with others such as La Bamba, were among the tunes Owen and his two-piece band used to entertain as he taught a seemingly appreciative audience of about 275 students at Liberty Elementary last week.
Every year, sponsored by the group Strategies for Youth, Owen puts on about 20 of the shows at schools around the state. Thanks to the efforts of Liberty assistant principal Janelle McFalls, Liberty ended up being the first stop on Owens tour for the current school year.
Along with the music, Owens act includes a game show of sorts, with teams competing for prizes such as candy. Of course, all the fun and games come with a message.
For example, note who originally made famous the classics La Bamba and Johnny B. Good.
In the case of the first song, Ritchie Valens was, of course, a
Hispanic who Owen said was turned down by record company after record company because he wanted to sing the song in Spanish. Ultimately, the tune became a huge hit, still well known today, despite Valens refusal to sing it in English.
If Valens experienced difficulties rooted in his ethnicity, so did Chuck Berry, who turned Johnny B. Good into a rock and roll standard. Until such artists as Berry broke through, Owen noted it was nearly impossible for African-Americans to get their songs out to the public.
As you might have guessed by now, tolerance and acceptance were pretty much the themes behind Owens theatrics.
Im glad Im me, he told Libertys youths. We want you to feel the same about yourselves and others.
People are all different, Owen added, but he said its those differences and the ability and freedom to express those differences that make this country a special one.
Up in front of the audience with Owen were four teams of two students. Their tasks included gathering audience answers to questions on topics such as what nationalities are present at Liberty. The answers ranged from Irish to Native Americans to Hispanics to Iraqis.
In between the audience participation rounds, the teams answered questions on famous athletes and celebrities who faced prejudice for whatever reason, usually race. Owen encouraged kids to talk to parents, teachers and other adults about any intolerance they encounter and to join groups such as Boy or Girl Scouts rather than getting involved with drugs or alcohol.
Fifth grader Dominique Williams was one of the team members during the assembly.
I think it was really good, she said of the event.
I think it was fun, agreed another fifth grader and team member Micah Ramos. What did he learn?
We shouldnt be bullies, we shouldnt do drugs or smoke, he said.
Learning doesnt have to be boring, Owen said after the show was over. Music is, he added, a way to help get the message across that is fun for both the audience and him.
I really believe in this day and age when kids have so much entertainment thrown at them, you really have to be creative to hold their attention, he said.