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SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

FOR THE WEEK OF JAN. 25, 2021

President Biden's Cabinet choices are signs of a new era in Washington

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Share at least two facts from any presidential news coverage.
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Find a comment about the new administration from your city or state.
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Now pick a Washington photo from the inauguration or this week and tell your emotions or thoughts.

Along with a new president and vice president, the federal government will be led by fresh faces in charge of Cabinet-level departments and offices. Those top appointees require Senate approval, a process that began last week. President Biden's nominees include 12 women, including eight women of color. During the last president's term, six women were Cabinet members at the same time and two others served in temporary roles without Senate confirmation. Another change is that the Office of Science and Technology Policy rises to Cabinet status.

One more notable advance: Senators voted 93–2 last Friday to confirm a retired Army general, Lloyd J. Austin III, as defense secretary. He's the first Black Pentagon chief. "It's an extraordinary, historic moment," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. "A significant portion of our armed forces today are African-Americans or Latinos, and now they can see themselves at the very top of the Department of Defense, which makes real the notion of opportunity."

Also on the new team’s list of breakthroughs: America's first female Treasury secretary (Janet Yellen), its first openly gay Cabinet nominee (Pete Buttigieg for transportation secretary), its first Native American secretary (Deb Haaland for the Department of the Interior), the first female director of national intelligence (Avril Haines, confirmed last Thursday) and the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security (Alejandro Mayorkas). If senators approve all picks, more than half of the 25-member Cabinet will be nonwhite and 48 percent will be female. When announcing some choices last month, Biden said: "Building a diverse team will lead to better outcomes and more effective solutions to address the urgent crises facing our nation."

Senator says: "The nation is in crisis, and we need more of President Biden's team in place as quickly as possible." – Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., majority leader

Professor says: "Joe Biden made a commitment during his campaign that he would work to be sure that his administration looks like the constituencies it serves. I think what we're seeing in his Cabinet is that he's gotten pretty close to making good on that promise." – Kelly Dittmar, political scientist at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J.

Congressman says: "For four years, intelligence professionals were battered and belittled by a president afraid of the truth. Avril Haines [director of national intelligence] will ensure that politics is kept out of their work, just as it should be." – Rep. Adam Schiff, D-N.Y., after her confirmation Thursday

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2021
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