Dear Mr. President,
Sticks and stones can break my bones,
But names will never hurt me
I’m sure you remember, as so many of us do, the little ditty we so often chanted on the school playground whenever someone bullied us, insulted us, called us a name that was demeaning or unkind. I suspect you remember, as well, as do we all, the courage it took to shout this little ditty aloud or to speak it softly to ourselves, knowing as we did that, as a matter of fact, “names” hurt every bit as much as sticks and stones. Sometimes—often, in fact—they hurt a good bit more.
Mr. President, I am puzzled and dismayed by the frequency with which you so casually hurl insults and call people names that are demeaning and unkind. Aren’t these are the very tactics of the playground bullies to whom we shouted the little ditty about sticks and stones? The very tactics of kids or grown-ups who need to shrink others in order to make themselves look more powerful?
Mr. President, you are in a position that is probably the most powerful position in our world, yet over and over again you act like the insecure bully of the playground and taunt those who disagree with you by calling them ugly names. Mr. President, I am writing to remind you that those names do hurt. Really hurt. They wound and leave scars that can take a very long time to heal. They have wounded scores of people whom you have belittled, mocked, and humiliated. They have wounded our entire country as well, as they have diminished our respect for each other and helped to deepen the polarization in our land.
Mr. President, I did not vote for you. I disagree with many, probably most, of your policies. But because you are the President of the United States, I would like to be able to respect you because of the office you hold. But I find it difficult, very difficult, to have respect for a bully. To have respect for any bully, but especially for a bully who holds such a high office.
I know many of your supporters smile away your bullying remarks with the wry comment, “Oh well, that’s just the way he is.” I find this very troubling. Would these same people say about the bullies in our streets, our schools, our neighborhoods, “Oh well, that’s just the way they are?” I don’t think so. We know all too well the harm that bullies perpetrate, the lives they damage and sometimes destroy. And like your own wife, our First Lady, we’d like to see bullying diminished, not promoted, in our country. We’d like to see people truly respectful of others. We’d like to see people truly caring about others, even those whom they dislike or those with whom they have serious disagreements. We’d like to see people putting away their sticks and stones and all the hurtful names they use to demean others—in the political arena, on the playground, in our homes, and in the workplaces of our daily lives.
So please, Mr. President, I pray that you will learn to exercise a respect for others. The same respect that you want others to have for you. I pray you will do your best to live into the full dignity of the high office you hold and, in so doing, be able to teach by example the way we ought to treat all those with whom we share this beautiful country, even those we dislike, even those with whom we disagree.