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Mayor Butler Meets with Students and Shares Important Lesson about Perseverance and Teamwork

“I think I can, I think I can….” Those four important words make many people think of the classic children’s book, “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper. Although nearly a century old now, this inspirational message seems more relevant than ever. That is part of the reason that Village of Tarrytown Mayor Butler chose to read this particular book to second grade students at Morse elementary school. 

Mayor Butler, whose own children were educated in the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns, paid a virtual visit to Mrs. Sutherland’s classroom to share the story of the little blue engine, “a book from (his) childhood about perseverance and not giving up,” and to take questions about what it means to be a mayor. Students listened attentively to the story while Mayor Butler and Ms. Sutherland paused periodically to discuss the important messages being conveyed.

Ms. Sutherland said to the students, “I cannot. We don’t like those words, do we? What do we need to add to those words?” In unison, the class responded, “Yet!” “That’s right,” said Mrs. Sutherland. “I cannot ‘yet;’ we have to add that word.”

When finishing the story, Mayor Butler reinforced the message by reminding students, “You have to keep on doing what is right. You have to believe in yourself.” He then moved on to take questions from the class. For example, a student named Naomi wanted to know how a mayor helps to get things made, including a park. Mayor Butler explained to her that a project like creating a park takes a lot of work and a team of people to work together. Students also asked questions like ‘how did you become the mayor?’ and ‘what was the most recent law that you made?’ Mayor Butler seized the opportunity to discuss the election process, as well as to speak a bit about police reform, which he cited as a “one of the most important issues today.”

Following the class, Mayor Butler looked back on the discussion. “The students were energetic, engaged and they asked great questions,” he said.

And if there was one main take-away for the group? “I want them to understand that teamwork is important to getting anything accomplished,” said Mayor Butler. “So often, people are afraid to ask for help. I especially see this with people of color. No one knows everything so reach out and ask for help. Don’t quit.”

Ms. Sutherland expressed her sincere thanks to the Mayor and was grateful for the important lessons that he reinforced with her students. “It is wonderful to have someone with the Mayor’s experience, compassion and connection to our community sharing his wisdom with our students,” she said. “These days especially, it's important for children to feel connected to their community and understand the value of working as a team.”

Students also expressed their thanks to the Mayor through thank you notes, some of which can be seen here.

drawing of student and thank you