Contributed by Annamarya
On Thursday of last week, President Barack Obama released a video which was the latest submission for the “It Gets Better Project” YouTube project in partnership with The Trevor Project and GLSEN. This project was launched bySeattle Weekly editorial director and “Savage Love” columnist, Dan Savage, to provide at-risk LGBTQ youth support and also raise awareness around teenage suicide. The It Gets Better Project, which reached the 100,000 supporter mark and received the September Sidney Hillman Foundation award for its online video archive, was started following the hanging suicide of 15-year-old Billy Lucas, who was reportedly bullied at Indiana’s Greensburg Community High School for being perceived as gay. Video submissions to this project not only come from everyday adults and teenagers but also a slew of celebrities and notable figures such as AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Vinny from MTV’s Jersey Shore, Secretary of the State Hilary Clinton, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, comedian Margaret Cho, designer Michael Kors, and comedian/TV Host Ellen DeGeneres.
In his video, Obama says the following:
“We have to expel this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, that it’s some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all our kids and every young person out there, you need to know that if you’re in trouble, there are caring adults who can help. I don’t know what it’s like to be picked on for being gay, but I do know what it’s like to grow up feeling that sometimes you don’t belong. It’s tough. For a lot of kids, the sense of being alone or apart, I know it can just wear on you. And when you’re teased or bullied, it can seem like somehow you brought it on yourself for being different or for not fitting in with everybody else. But I want to say is this: You are not alone. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything to deserve being bullied, and there is a whole world waiting for you — filled with possibilities. There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are. And so, if you ever feel like, because of bullying, because of what people are saying, that you are getting down on yourself, that you gotta make sure that you reach out to people you trust, whether it’s your parents, teachers, folks that you know care about you just the way you are, you gotta reach out to them. Don’t feel like you’re in this by yourself. The other thing you need to know is things will get better. And, more than the that, the time you’re gonna see your differences are a source of proud and a source of strength. You’ll look back on the struggles you faced with compassion and wisdom and that’s not just gonna serve you but it’ll help you get involved and help make this country a better place…”
A wide-range of school kids are bullied for being “different.” For example, readthe story of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide in January after being bullied for not only allegedly dating two boys but because she was an Irish immigrant. While this message of hope is important, more must be done at the community and school levels to make sure that bullying come to a stop and support be provided not only to those who are being bullying but to those who bully. In order to get to the root of the issue, we need to understand not only what we can do to stop bullying and offer services to those who are bullied but also understand why teenagers—and even adults—are so inclined to torment their peers and how we can work to change their attitudes so they can learn to more accepting and compassionate people. We need to make it better for our kids.