When I was growing up, there was an unspoken agreement that you don't tell on bullies. This taboo on "tattling" meant you were expected to silently endure any abuse handed out to you.
This is what makes the second annual White House Conference on Bullying Prevention that took place today, March 10, so extraordinary. By inviting kids, parents, and teachers into the White House to step forward and talk openly about bullying, the President and First Lady Obama are making it clear that this has become an issue of national importance. As well, following the recent rash of teens who've committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied, it's become one of heart-breaking urgency.
They are also telling the kids who've been suffering in silence that they don't have to anymore. After all, if teachers, parents, kids (victims and bystanders alike), and even the President and First Lady, are speaking out , so can they. “We have to dispel this myth that bullying is a normal rite of passage," said the President. "That it's some inevitable part of growing. It's not."
And how wonderful is it that we have a President who admits to being bullied himself. "I do know what it's like to grow up feeling like sometimes you don't belong,” Obama said in his It Gets Better video. As U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius put it during one of the conference's interviews, here was this "skinny kid with big ears and a funny name" who moved around a lot. He was a natural target. But as with so many bully victims who grew up and lived to talk about it. "With time you're going to see that your differences are a source of pride, a source of strength," Obama went on to say in his It Gets Better video.
A particularly inspiring moment in today's summit: When a fifth grader asked, via Twitter, if Secretary Sebelius has noticed bullying at the White House. No, she answered, no bullying in this house."You have a leader who is very attuned to what he went through as a kid and how being different is difficult." What a remarkable role model for any bullied kid who can take heart in the fact that, yes, it might be bad now, but some day, I might be President, too.
(For more information on how to prevent bullying in your school and community, check out the new web site that's come out of the National Bullying Conference: www.bullyinginfo.org,)