I watched President Obama’s inauguration, on the birth date of Martin Luther King, Jr., with a delicious sense of happiness. Parents, educators and American citizens easily make the connection between the two leaders; I began to think about how Obama’s inaugural speech’s messages will leave the same lasting impact on our children as did MLK, and how his ideas of freedom, change, citizenship, equality and character can be used to educate our children.
Obama’s speech sent a message of freedom and ‘limitless possibilities’ for America’s children. He believes that each generation has an obligation to peacefully work towards freedom, and that by working together, using new responses to what was set before us in the Constitution, we can create change. His statement that we can turn enemies into friends represents the essence of how children can begin to learn to create freedom for all.
To create change, Obama asks Americans for commitment. Our children may not understand the ‘it can happen to you’ message, but they do understand that the world is ours to share. Learning about climate change, new ways of creating energy, developing and using new technologies are all ways that as adults we can adjust to our time, and create a future that is sustainable for our children and our children’s children. Obama’s message that ‘together we are stronger’ is a way our children can learn to work together to solve the challenges of our future.
Citizenship is something we profess to teach in school, but Obama’s speech highlights the necessity of working together as American citizens. As we teach children allegiance to American ideas set forth in the Constitution, we must teach them to work together to understand the power of this obligation, and the hope that can be realized through action. Teaching our children that they don’t always have to agree, but they do have to listen, collaborate and work together.
Children understand the concept of fairness. Obama’s speech addresses the concept of equality as a way to grow our country, and an necessity because we are Americans. He said, ” Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.” Each of us, regardless of gender, religion, belief, disability, sexuality, or race deserves equality because we are Americans.
Finally, Obama’s inaugural address can teach America‘s children about the concept of character. Our children will inherit the errors and successes of this generation, but by learning the concept of hard work and responsibility will have the necessary tools to conquer the challenges of tomorrow. Obama said, ” And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.”
What better message can we send to our children: that by working together, and understanding and acting on the concepts of freedom, change, citizenship, equality and character we can not only improve ourselves, but better our future as a nation.