President Barack Obama on Bullying

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In early 2011, I attended an invitational White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in Washington, DC. President and Mrs. Obama addressed the group in the East Room and the president spoke of being bullied about his ears and his name when he was in school. He urged us to return to our communities with a determination to reduce the cruelty but his closing remarks really captured me and his thoughts are worth pursuing. He said: “Bullying is not normal and it is not inevitable.”

Is bullying normal?

No more than child abuse is normal. Are many people engaged in bullying behaviors? Yes. Does it occur across countries and cultures? Yes. Has it been a behavior pattern for many centuries? Yes. Despite the fact that it is ubiquitous and has been a multi-generational experience, when we look at a common definition of bullying it is: “An intentional act to cause harm over a period of time where there is an imbalance of power.” This behavior does not describe the normal actions of most people in our society.

In fact, bulliers – as described by their peers – are young people who are consumed with problems in their families, jealous of others, crave attention, want revenge, lack self-esteem, and think it’s cool to be cruel. Most people do not receive pleasure from causing pain but receive pleasure from caring, supporting and healing others.

The second question asks: “Is bullying inevitable?”

Only if we do not break the cycle that currently affects millions of children and adults.

Patterns of behavior can change – with information and personal concerns, enormous cultural changes have occurred around smoking, wearing seat belts, and exercising. This is not to say that everyone has made more positive choices, but negative choices are not inevitable. Thought precedes action. Let ‘s think about the idea that bullying is not normal and not inevitable. What actions should follow? I would be interested in your thoughts.

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