Friday, May 13, 2011
Reflections: Tuscon and Childhood
In his Tuscon Memorial Speech yesterday, President Obama spoke of Christina Taylor Green, the nine year old child tragically killed in the senseless shooting last weekend. “Here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.” The President spoke of her as a child who saw the world, “through eyes undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.”
Yesterday I watched the kids on the playground -each moment of play standing in relief against the context of our times; the smiles, the laughter, the passion of a game – our precious children. I watched a group of seventh and eighth graders play a game of soccer. The mood was light and the smiles plentiful. No one took the game seriously, and when the whistle blew, no one stopped playing - it seemed as though the kids wanted to hold on to such a sweet moment. After all, they are in this world with us.
Are their eyes undimmed? Or, does the wrath seep in? How much can we protect their tender innocence from the bad temper of the day? We see by turns unhappy moments of aggressive or hurtful play that make us fear that the cynicism and vitriol have infected the consciousness of our children. We measure the importance of CARE week, as we see so many kids in our school day-to-day try hard to be allies for one another and bring caring and compassionate to their relationships. What a challenge these children face in our complex world.
Living in Oakland, at times a landscape of poverty, crime and violence, our kids are face-to-face with life’s hazards and challenges. In our own city, public officials rarely memorialize, nor do we stop to mourn the many youth who, trying to navigate life on the streets, do not live to adulthood.
I see lots of nice kids at Park – lots of kindness and empathy every day. As our mission states, we aspire “to prepare students to be informed, courageous and compassionate people…” As the president observed yesterday, the obligations of being citizens in a democratic society are dawning on our children as they become aware of how they will shape their world. We keep our hope even under tragic circumstances, because as the President has reminded us, “we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations.”