Empowering Young People to Build a Kinder, Braver World
By Valerie Jarrett
Excerpted from The White House Blog
August 08, 2012
Yesterday, Cynthia Germanotta and I had the opportunity to discuss how to empower young people and end bullying at the Third Annual Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C. Cynthia and her daughter, Lady Gaga, recently founded the Born This Way Foundation to empower young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world. As moms, both Cynthia and I realize the impact that bullying — and kindness —can have on young people. We both agreed that we must all stay focused on ending bullying because no young person, or their loved ones, should have to endure the pain, agony, and loss to our families, schools, and communities that can come with bullying.
We also agreed that we need to reinforce positive behavior and motivate everyone, particularly young people, to get engaged.
President Obama believes that together, we can end bullying. The President and his Administration are committed to developing a comprehensive policy, and all of us have a vital role to play: students, parents, and school administrators, as well as political, business, community, and faith leaders.
President Obama and the First Lady put a national spotlight on this important issue by hosting the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention last year. The conference brought together students, teachers, advocates, the private sector, foundations, and policymakers to share best practices to make our schools safer. There, the President said, “Bullying isn’t a problem that makes headlines every day. But every day it touches the lives of young people all across this country… If there’s one goal of this conference, it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.”
In March, Attorney General Eric Holder and I both spoke at the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities in Arlington, Texas, where we highlighted the many steps the Obama Administration has taken to end bullying. That Conference came just days after the Departments of Education and Justice reached a landmark settlement in the Anoka-Hennepin School District following an extensive investigation into bullying and harassment against students who are or are perceived to be LGBT.
The following month, the White House announced President Obama’s endorsement of both the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. The Student Non-Discrimination Act, sponsored by Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, and Representative Jared Polis of Colorado, would prohibit discrimination in public schools against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. And the Safe Schools Improvement Act, sponsored by Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Representative Linda Sanchez of California, would require school districts to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion.