Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

One goal of my new book, See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House, is to encourage kids to get involved. In fact, I devote the last part of the book to stories of kids and activism, and ways my readers can make an impact long before they’re old enough to vote.

To get the ball rolling, I created The KIDS SPEAK OUT! Survey on my web site. Here kids from 2nd to 8th grade can anonymously voice their opinions on everything from whether we should all be legally required to vote (83.5% say no) to whether candidates should spend the same amount of money on their campaigns rather than raising as much as they want (47.4% says yes). What do over 677 kids from 28 states (the number of respondents as of today) label as the top problems facing the country? Global warming is clearly #1, followed by the war in Iraq and then health care.

It’s been great to watch these opinions come in over the last several months—one by one when a kid hears about the survey somehow, a glut of 25 or more when a teacher makes it a class exercise. Reading the individual responses gives you an entirely different perspective than the overall results. In this case, the parts are greater than their sum. Armed with only gender, grade level, hometown and state, I try to picture the kid from South Carolina whose parents have never talked to her about the upcoming presidential election, even though both conventions and campaigns have been in the news 24/7. I can only imagine what it must be like to sit in the 5th grade class in Grand Prairie, Texas, where, when asked what message they would like to give to the new president, one student says, “to give liberty to mexicans and thats why they call the united states the land OF THE FREE.” And the message of the person right next to him is “That we dont want no more immigration going on.”

No surprise, the messages these kids want to send to our new president are real showstoppers. They range from cute and funny to poignant or heartbreaking. And then there are the ones that are very wise. One reporter said to me that these messages were a fine way to learn what the kids’ parents were thinking. That’s true in part, but too cynical. Kids have their own concerns and thoughts. Here are just a few:

•Dear president, Please try hard to stop global warming.I love animals and when an animal becomes extinct it makes me sad. Thank you.
•don’t do what george bush did dont ever pick a fight with other countries and dont just go to a country and try and beat them up because its not fair to be a bully to the less fortunate
•Please don't pull the troops out. If you do, the terrorists will attack again and again.
•Tell us the truth.
•I hop that you can help are erath (ed. our earth) and try to stop the badness because there has been a lot of killing neer my house and that makes me feel fritend.
•Can we get out from school earlier for vacation?
•To be honest with the American citizens and fix all the problems in our nation and other nations. We are a world power and must do everything for the world.
•Congradulations! I hope you work on the war in iraq mostly and the gas prices. My mom and I are struggling with gas prices so if you could tweak that a little that would be AWSOME! Thanks!
•I want you to do a good job if you don’t then I’ll protest. have a good day.
•have a nice life. If you die we will still remember you.
•Stop the War already!
•Don’t listen to those that are convincing you to do things that are bad. Don’t sign things before you skim through it or read it.
•Don't doubt the power of our pollution to the earth because one day it will all add up and it won't be funny
•Put yourself in the average citizen's shoes and then decide which way you vote on an issue.
•Good luck you’re going to need it.

All I can say is—out of the mouths of babes. And we need to make sure these kids grow up to vote!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Fantastic quotes. The more kids are brought into the political discourse this year, the better. I saw some little kids in wonderful t-shirts the other day that read, “I can be President, too!” Kids Speak Out! needs to be a book, clearly.