If you ask seven-year-olds about the values they hope to see in a leader, they’ll tell you first about the importance of being kind. They’ll tell you they hope for a leader who is respectful and fair, one who is accepting of others and one who tells the truth.
They’ll tell you about the courage of Martin Luther King Jr., the leadership of George Washington, and the tenacity of Susan B. Anthony.
They’ll tell you that when you vote, you should choose the leader who represents your own values the best.
So how do you look a seven-year-old in the eye when the country has just elected a leader who is none of these things?
To be a teacher at this moment in our history is a complicated thing. Waking up this morning to know that twenty-two eager, curious seven-year-olds would want to talk about and make sense of an election that has been so divisive and ugly made the drive to work a little longer, the preparation for the day a little more daunting.
My job is not to decide for them if the outcome was good or bad. It is not to support one set of beliefs or disparage another. It is to teach them that every voice has power, and that the world will always move forward.
Today, my class of seven-year-olds celebrated the journey our country has taken to ensure that every voice can be heard. We celebrated the fact that we live in a country where the people have the right and incredible responsibility to vote. We celebrated the people who have used their voices to lead and look out for one another, through some of the hardest times our nation has faced.
At a time when it’s easy to despair, or to participate in the hate that is so pervasive, we can make the choice instead to rise above it. We can teach our children to be respectful and speak well of others, to stand up for what they believe in and never stop. We can celebrate the awesome privilege of being a citizen of this country, and show them how to be the kind of people who will bring communities together; the kind of leaders who will move us forward.
We have to do these things, because our children are watching.
Regardless of how you feel about the outcome of the election, let them see love in your response. Let them see kindness and compassion in how you treat each other. Let them see acceptance in the face of hostility, and the value- the power– of every individual’s voice.
Let them see that love will always trump hate.