On the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Rocky once ran, a crowd of smiling faces danced to "Uptown Funk." They stretched and clapped, pumping blood through their veins to prep for a world record attempt.
The only problem: they weren't quite sure what world record they were trying to set.
City kids braved the heat Tuesday morning to join an effort spearheaded by the Office of the City Representative and Mighty Writers, a local volunteer organization that promotes self-expression in Philadelphia.
"We decided we wanted to shine a light on the literacy crisis in the city and showcase the kids,"said Mighty Writers founder Tim Whitaker. "And what better time to do that than during the DNC week?"
Rodney Johnson, director of literacy for the school district, and Mina SayWhat of Power 99 led a creative writing lesson, and then the kids were asked to write for 15 minutes. Seven to 17-year-olds answered the prompt, "If I were president," explaining how they would act as the leader of the free world.
"It's what everyone's talking about," Whitaker said. "It's on the minds of the kids. I hear their families talking about it. And they have a lot to say. I hear them talking about it all the time around Mighty Writers, so this is their chance to really put it on paper."
As participant Jack Micher noted, it's not an easy question to ace. But his 12-year-old friend Evan McGurin had some ideas.
"Instead of giving military aid, I'd like to give just aid 'cause we are enforcing violence," McGurin said. "We are violence. We need to be the aid."
Matthew Davis, who also partook in the record attempt, turned his attention to social policy.
"Main issues that I would focus on if I were president would probably be things like equality between everyone," he said. "I think everyone should be treated like a person, no matter race, gender, skin color."
Micher, McGurin, and Davis were new to Mighty Writers. When asked why they showed up to the PMA, Davis responded, "it seems like an important thing."
According to a press release from Mighty Writers and the Office of the City Representative, the event was an attempt at "breaking a standing world record of 1,178 simultaneous student essays established in Beijing, China on September 6, 2013." However, Guinness World Records adjudicator Michael Empric disagreed with that assessment. He said he was completely unaware of the Beijing number, but that he had been sent to judge a new record: the largest creative writing lesson to ever take place. The category has never been tested before, and Empric's office had set the bar at 250 students. Based on preliminary counts from essays turned in and goody bags taken, it looks like over 2,000 kids attended Mighty Writers' class, so while results won't be released until next week, the 250-mark shouldn't prove a problem.
There are about 40,000 Guinness world records, and only 4,000 make it into the book. But never fear: if Mighty Writers gets the title, they'll still go down in history.
"It'll go online, it'll be searchable, and I know it'll be a major, major achievement for Mighty Writers and Philadelphia," Empric said.