Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying 'Everything is going to be alright, it's not the end of the world, we're doing the best we can.' -Severn Suzuki, 12
In 1992 at age 12, Severn Suzuki admonished the UN council and challenged members to take environmental action instead of offering empty words to their children. Her passionate determination to make change left ambassadors speechless and a later YouTube generation enthralled. (This video of her speech has been viewed nearly 2 million times.) That was 16 years ago. And whether the issue is our environment, our ethics, or how we educate our children, it seems that our actions are still falling far short of our words.
I've spent the better part of a weekend reading through my RSS feeds, awash as I was in a backlog of too-much-information-but-I-refuse-to-offer-up-the-white-flag posts. From news feeds to edubloggers, enterprising souls and market gurus to NGOS and inspiring videos, I labored along looking for the difference-makers, the traction, the sign of something I could grab hold of-whatever the subject-and show my kids that indeed "everything is going to be alright." I see some great work being done, some inspired thinking, enthusiastic and creative efforts...and a long way to go. But I do sense that people care, and I am reaffirmed in my belief that one person can truly make a difference in the world.
Two thoughts resonate with me as I reflect tonight on what I've read, what I've seen, and where we need to go. First, at no time in history have we had the tools at our fingertips for individuals to communicate, connect, collaborate and create the changes we need at the scale we need them-the scale Severn sought. The ability to construct an effective message and corresponding solutions to global issues is unparalleled. Second, it is my job-our job as educators and parents-to engage our children in the world and help them find their issues, exercise their voices, and mobilize their actions. They can make a difference. The only way for me-for us-to do that is to have our walk match our talk. Model it! I've got to do the work, exercise the voice, and aim for integrity.
As a child growing up, my dad was my Great Challenger and my Great Comforter. His expectations were always high, but his words were carefully chosen, his embrace tender, his attention genuine, and his actions said far more than any great word he uttered. Trust and hope for the future were something I never had to question...and anger was something I never had to understand. Climbing onto his lap, or nestled beside him while he was reading, I knew deeply that "everything was going to be alright".
I think I might have a little of Suzuki's passionate determination (the action). And, it seems I am called to vision creative, authentic learning environments that are relevant in the 21st century (the issue). However, most importantly, I hope that I have enough grace and integrity to do the very best I can (the real gift).