October 5th, 2010
11:13 AM ET

Letters to the President: #624 'The bully pulpit'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama, like any president, has a lot of people listening when he speaks. And I hope he’ll speak up a little more on this subject of bullying.

Dear Mr. President,

You may have noticed that we are doing a lot of stories on bullying lately. Almost everyone I knew in school was bullied to some degree, but certainly there were a few who were hassled endlessly. They were teased about their looks, their clothing, their ways, and even their families. Even then I knew it was wrong. So in these days of considerably more information about the effects of such things, I can’t help but wonder why it persists. But I have an idea.

In the past few weeks, I have been made aware of people accusing each other of being liars, perverts, idiots, and thieves. I’ve seen humiliating videos posted on the web for all the world. I have read about the most bitter and caustic insults being tossed around with no regard for the injury they may cause, or whether or not they are true. I have seen people demonstrate utter disregard for the basic principles of civil behavior and decent manners.

And that’s all been in the political ads I’ve watched. I’m not joking. While young people can dream up horrors enough of their own, too often the adults in our world reinforce the idea that how you treat someone doesn’t matter as long as you come out on top in the end. Sure, we all shake our heads and “tsk” when bullying leads to a terrible headline about a young life lost, but I think we don’t often enough demonstrate to young people that there are basic rules in how people should treat each other.

It has been by my observation that often young bullies have bullies for parents. They glower at neighbors who complain about their child’s behavior, they threaten school teachers with lawsuits, and they yell at coaches to give their kids prime spots on the team. And they do it all in the name of a “that’s what it takes to win,” survival-of-the-fittest outlook, then they point to political power brokers, captains of industry, and superstars of culture as proof - people who misbehave, misuse people, and display a “take no prisoners” bullying attitude toward anyone whose opposes them.

I know this is not really your concern, and I suppose there is nothing you can do about it even as president. But Theodore Roosevelt called the presidency a “bully pulpit,” meaning it was a good place from which to lead the national discussion and to make crucial points. The point to make now? Bullying is not just about how kids treat each other. It’s about how we all act. And the more we show respect, compete fairly and honestly, and condemn cheap shots, the better chance we have of showing our children that bullying has no place in their present or future.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Chi

    "It’s about how we all act" –> 100% agree with you.

    October 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  2. Jayne Keatts

    My "Bully" was my church. I hated going and feeling shamed for my feelings. Called a Sinner and going to hell because I was attracted to my sex. I wanted to touch and be touched by other girls and women. There was no real name for what I felt until the church labeled me "Homosexual'
    and condemned me every time I went. Admitting to myself I was gay took years and years and lots of therapy. My truth was to hide and play like I was straight. The option was to kill myself, for years, the challenge was to stay alive.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:49 am |