House Speaker Michael Busch began his Career Day visit at Tyler Heights Elementary School by venturing to the front of the media center with a state flag.
He explained the meaning behind its colors and patterns, then gave the assembled fourth-graders a speech about how Maryland history is woven into the American fabric; how the founding fathers fought for a democratic government that is the cornerstone of the country's coveted freedoms.
Moments after wrapping up his history lesson, Busch solicited questions from the navy-and-khaki-clad uniformed pupils at the Annapolis school.
Then things really became interesting.
"Are you the son of President George W. Bush?" asked one student as teachers flanking the back of room grimaced slightly.
"Isn't George Bush about 100 years old?"
"Can you make us stop wearing uniforms?"
"Can you get Mrs. Obama to come here?"
Busch, 66, and an Annapolis resident, took it in stride, and in fact illustrated the importance of democracy by engaging students on the pros and cons of wearing uniforms at the public school before putting the matter to a vote.
The delegate was among about three dozen public- and private-sector workers who participated in the school's Career Day on Wednesday.
The annual event at the 500-student school gives parents from various backgrounds a chance to talk about their professions before their children. Before Busch, Annapolis Mayor Joshua Cohen visited the school, as did local firefighters — who allowed students to explore their hulking red firetrucks.
Past Career Day participants have included photographers, a model, college professors, a supermarket truck driver and a personal trainer, according to school staff. Among those who were a hit with students this year were a group of seven Annapolis musicians who joined up for Career Day to form an impromptu group called The Friends.
"Career Day is very important for youngsters to get to see parents in everyday roles and the different life paths they've taken," said Busch, a Democrat who represents District 30 in the House of Delegates. He drew spirited talk from the students on whether lawmakers should make it mandatory for cyclists to wear helmets and whether school start times should be pushed back.
A former history teacher, Busch said he still remembers his Career Days while attending Leith Walk Elementary School in Baltimore, but added, "With my Career Days, we used to have the … mailman come by. Of course, the milkman is a thing of the past."
Busch said students "choose role models early on in life. Growing up, everyone wanted to be a fireman, a policeman, teacher, doctor or lawyer. I do this every year. I've enjoyed it, and I try to leave a little history with the kids."
Busch drew raves from the fourth-graders when he spoke about having met first lady Michelle Obama. Then he invited the students to be guests at the State House next year.
Jasmine Bradshaw, Tyler Heights Elementary behavior interventionist and Career Day coordinator, said more than 30 students have already written thank-you notes to the House speaker.
"We were definitely honored that he would take time out to visit our students, and we were also honored that he would invite us to visit where he worked," said Bradshaw. "He said they could come and sit in his chair and be a part of the legislative process. He's a former teacher, so he seemed quite at home at Tyler Heights."
Students said they learned a lot from Busch's visit.
"I thought it was educational and fun because he taught us how we get our rights to do stuff," said fourth-grader Brandon Martinez.
Edlyn Aguilar, another fourth-grader, added, "I really hope he can come back next year to tell us how he's been, and talk to us about more decisions that [the General Assembly] has made over the past year."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun