"Truth springs from the mouths of babes." How often have you heard some variation on that theme when it comes to kids blurting out what they think or feel without filtering it through social expectations or attempts to curry favor?
Unlike the adults who populate the DC Beltway trying to use communications and posturing to their political power play advantage, kids tend to just speak bluntly about what is on their minds and in their hearts.
Their hopes, fears, and wants are remarkably similar to those of the adults around them. But filter their perceptions of what’s on mom and dad’s mind with an eye toward getting to the heart of the matter rather than skirting around the more palatable compromise edges.
This is where Dear President Obama: Letters of Hope from Children Across America comes in. The letters are sassy, sweet, and frank about the problems children see themselves, their families and their nation facing.
Linda Ellerbee’s forward to the book hits this square as she tells of a presidential debate held for Nick News, a children’s news program on Nickelodeon children’s network:
When Senators Barack Obama and John McCain sat down with us to answer kids’ questions, most of the questions were about familiar issues and evoked familiar answers. But then one kid said, "Hello, my name is Kedric and I’m 13, and I know what it is like to be picked last for the football team at school. I was wondering, have you ever been picked last and how did you handle it?"
The answers the two men gave to that question revealed more about them, more about who they are and what they are made of, than we saw in any of the "grownup" debates. But it took a kid to ask the question.
For those interested, the LATimes had a brief summary of the answers.
The kids in this book do tackle some tough issues:
My brother has brain tumors and I have two rare disorders. My Mom has been worried all these years that we would not get health insurance because of our terrible sickness. If my brother does not have health insurance he would not get his medicine and he would die…. — Casey, age 14
I am an eighth grader. War has been going on since I can remember; I think it should end. All troops should come home and be with their families…. — Kyle, age 13
…When you’re in the oval office, you’ll be engulfed with responsibilities. Every word you speak will be heard by the country. This will be overwhelming for you, but please don’t forget what you stand for.
Don’t forget the values and issues that made you want to run for president.
Don’t forget the middle class like our last President did…. — Julian, age 12
There are now over half a million people without jobs and homes. What is the answer to this mind-boggling conundrum? Invest in America. Take all the billions being used to finance the war and bail out companies that have filed for bankruptcy and use it to create more roads, educate kids and come up with more ways to turn America green…. — Aswin, age 12.
…I know somebody who is fighting in Iraq. His name is Mick. He is one of my friends’ dads. He is a soldier. I want him to stop fighting the war because he might get hurt. I want him to come home. Could you please stop the war? — Gabriel, age 7
It’s been my opinion for a long time that we ignore childrens’ issues and concerns in this country at our peril. Bruce and David use a quote from Frederick Douglass at the start of the book which has long been a favorite of mine: "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
This book shows just how strong and resilient those children can be, and how wise for their young ages. Would that adults in this country would recognize that we all have a lot to learn from them as well. With that, I welcome Bruce and David and open the floor for your questions and comments.