Obama: Bullying Is Not ‘Inevitable Part of Growing Up’ [VIDEO]

March 11, 2011 2:09 pm

(Image: YouTube)

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama confronted the issue of bullying that has been such a heavy issue recently at a White House conference on Thursday. He brought a bit of light to the situation and smiled while saying his large ears and funny name once made him a target of school-yard harassment.

“I have to say, with big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune. I didn’t emerge unscathed,” he said. His smile quickly went away, as he made it clear that torment and intimidation must not be tolerated.

About 13 million students, about a third of all those attending school, are bullied every year. Experts believe that this leads to children not doing as well in school, with a greater risk of falling behind. Speaking as a parent and as a victim, Obama urged everyone to help end bullying by working to create an atmosphere at school where children feel safe and feel like they belong. He said that even he felt out of place growing up.

“If there’s one goal of this conference,” Obama said, “it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.” The issue has been getting more attention partly because texting, Facebook, Twitter and other technologies are being used to carry it out — it’s called cyberbullying — and because of media coverage of teens who have killed themselves after such taunting.

He spoke to more than 100 parents, students, teachers and others gathered to discuss the problem and share ideas for solutions. The mother of Carl Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old boy who hanged himself at his Massachusetts home in 2009 was also at the conference. Her son took his own death because of being tormented for many years at school. “No family should have to go through what these families have gone through,” Obama said. “No child should feel that alone.”

Michelle Obama said parents need to be more involved in their children’s lives, their schools and their activities since youngsters “don’t always tell us every little detail.” The first lady also urged adults to set an example by treating others with compassion and respect and giving each other the benefit of the doubt. “It sends a message to our kids about how they treat others,” she said.

A White House conference doesn’t immediately solve any problem. But what it does do, particularly by involving the president, is tell the country that an issue is, in fact, a problem that requires a national response.