I Have A Dream

Seven years ago most of us were but six or seven years old. It was a fun and carefree time for most students, until it became time for recess. During this time on the playground there was the three level social pyramid. There were the blond haired, blue eyed little-league jocks along with the self-absorbed “girly girls.” Then there were the “average kids” who played soccer, baseball, or gymnastics. At the bottom of this social hierarchy, are kids with the nicknames, “shorty,” “four eyes,” or maybe even “freckle face.” Worst of all, there were the poor souls deemed “fatty” or “fatso.” There was the physical bullying among the boys, but the girls of course weren’t subtle in their bullying either. I know, because I was the “tomboy.” The girls on the playground at my elementary school did not like the fact that I shopped in the boys’ section at Target, nor did they appreciate that I could run faster than most boys, and most of all they didn’t like the fact that I was “different.” I didn’t mind getting dirty, and my appearance was the least of my worries. These “mean” girls would come right up to me and tell me just what they thought of me; they would also “whisper” about me as well. Back then, I was a tough skinned kid and but their remarks did bother me, and on the inside their comments slowly chipped away at my heart. I am no longer a victim, but there are a number of them at my middle school now.

In middle school, I am afraid to say that bullying is not as easy to deal with as it was in elementary school. In the eighth grade, here at school, we have what is called subtle bullying, or exclusion bullying. I am happy to say that I am not a victim of this awful injustice, but I am ashamed to say that I have been a bystander, but I vowed at the beginning of the school year that I would never be a bystander again. That is why I come before you all today, to encourage you to take the same vow. I know that last semester in the chapel we all stood and accepted Rachel’s Challenge, but to some degree, those are just empty words. You have to make a promise, not to me, not to your teachers, nor to your administrators; you need to make a promise that you will not allow yourself to become either a victim, a bully, or worst of all, a bystander.

I have a dream today. I have a dream that the hurtful volleys of razor sharp words, and the white-hot, needle sharp, glaring stares will be no more. I have a dream that teenagers will be able to glide easily across the quicksand of the hallways. I have a dream that students will not fear falling prey to the spider-webs of injustice. I have a dream, that from this day forward, there will be no more “floaters” among the middle school populace, as our cafeteria has become a social minefield. Students must trace their steps carefully; they must wear the right designer clothes and pay their compliments cautiously, or risk stepping on a mine and receiving one of the infamous yet subtle glares as hot as the sun, silently urging you to pick up your tray and move on. I have a dream that our students will be able to move from table to table simply by choice, not by a need to find a table where students will merely tolerate them, but instead will accept them for who they are inside, not the shoes they wear.

The last time I checked, students were encouraged by their teachers and family to be different and unique. We were encouraged to wear duct tape across our chests, or a tie around our necks on a regular dress day. It was encouraged to stand out, and to express one’s identity, as well as to raise our heads up high instead of walking through the halls with them cast down. I would love to see a teen at this school openly ask a friend or an acquaintance, “What’s Abercrombie? What’s Journey? What’s Hollister? What are Uggs?” Better yet, I would love to see an adolescent say, “they make different types of jeans? Why?” I say this to shed light on the stereotyping that occurs, which can be based on one’s appearance and clothing. That is not an invalid point, but that is not what I am here today.

If you have never been a victim, I can guarantee that you have been a bystander. I can tell you right now that if you have ever watched someone walk up those stairs alone, or let them sit by themselves, that you are a bystander. Both of the occurrences I just described to you were examples of exclusionary bullying. You, the Middle School student body, have the ability to rise up and say “hey Suzy, don’t go upstairs, join us; or hey Jake, why don’t you sit with us, we have plenty of room.” To be a bystander is to be a bully, because you will have stood by and done nothing as a fellow student has been given a menacing stare like knives being thrown into one’s back. I have a dream that each and every one of you will not be the bully, or the victim. I have a dream that this student body will open their eyes and see through the veil of uncertainty that keeps us from stepping across the bridge of brotherhood and engaging one fellow human being in an act of kindness. You have no idea how much it will mean to that one person when you invite them to sit with you, nor do you comprehend the kind of chain reaction you are capable of starting. You are arrogant and blinded by conceit if you believe that this does not happen at our school. You have been living in a microcosmic world if you believe that you are the only one that has emotions and feelings. You are oblivious if you think, “it’s not your problem.” It is your problem and it is your duty as a human being to rise up and do your part, and to put a drop in someone else’s bucket. These bullied students are lonely, they are sad, and you have no idea how much it would mean to them if you simply said “hello.” I thank all of you for coming here today and I will close with a request. I have a dream that all of you today will walk out of this classroom, with a confident smile on your face, and a new ability to see through that veil of uncertainty and give someone the gift of friendship, for it is the greatest gift of all. The most significant reward that I can offer you for this simple act, is the opportunity to make a difference, to start a chain reaction, and to feel your heart grow three sizes, when you see the smile on another kid’s face.





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