I’m committed. Are you?

Interesting and sensitive questions from some well-informed students at Westfield High School. Parents should be proud. – promoted by Rosi

Two weeks ago, I posted on Blue Jersey about the need to protect our young people from the bullying and harassment that leads many teens to depression or suicide.  This week, I had an interesting exchange with teenagers at Westfield High School about what we can do to make things better, both on a government level and on a personal level.

This past Thursday, I visited Westfield High School to speak to a group of nearly 300 students about the political process and the issues facing our county.  

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The Westfield students and faculty had originally invited me to appear with my opponent, Congressman Lance, in an evening debate for the citizens of Westfield and a morning forum to address the students.  As many of you will be surprised to learn, my opponent declined the invitation to debate.  I was determined to keep my commitment to the students, regardless of opponent’s intransigence, so I spoke to social studies students in the auditorium during their second period classes.  I was truly impressed with the students I met that morning.

At 8 am, the auditorium filled with sophomores and juniors and their history teachers.    The students were alert and engaged throughout the forum.  After a brief introduction, a student panel addressed a series of questions to me.  While I found all of their questions insightful and mature, I was particularly impressed with the questions relating to LGBT issues.  First, the student panel asked my position on marriage equality and other gay rights issues.  I answered that I support marriage equality and that I support all policies that end discrimination and extend equality to all Americans.  I continued to speak about the importance of making all students feel welcome, particularly in light of the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi and other LGBT teens in the past months.

I assumed this would be the only LGBT-related question.  However, the student panel followed by asking how the federal government can stop the bullying and harassment that led these teens to take their lives.  I reminded the students that the responsibility lies with each of us.  We must be empowered to speak out against bullying.  That while the federal government has a role to play in supporting programs to ensure schools provide safe spaces, we each have a role in making sure that we are kind to one another and we look out for each other.  We all need to stand up whenever we see bullying or harassment and say, “Not in front of me.  That’s not okay.”  I strongly believe that adults need to reinforce this message.  We must make sure students, teachers, and parents know that bullying is not just “kids being kids,” and that there is nothing cool or funny about making someone else feel bad about themselves.

It is questions and exchanges like these that truly give me hope for our next generation.  The students and young professionals I’ve met throughout this campaign are open-minded, supportive, and compassionate, ready to lead the world.  We must make sure they don’t lose that spirit, that their compassion and kindness isn’t worn down by indifference to intolerance and hatred.  I’m committed to making their schools and their world safe from bullying and harassment.  Are you?

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