In writing the January blog, it would be a bit like avoiding the elephant in the room not to address the melee that took place at the Capitol on Wednesday, January 6th. That date is also my departed mother’s birthday, and I couldn’t help thinking I was somewhat grateful she was spared seeing this shameful event. It also occurred after a difficult year, when so many of us were thinking good thoughts about starting anew, turning a corner, and embracing all the hope January often brings. Instead we watched in horror as our beautiful Capitol was desecrated. The reasons for such an event are hard to fathom, especially for those who are in the business of teaching little children. Most of our daily lessons include modeling for children how to lose gracefully and how to express difficult emotions like anger or disappointment in an appropriate way. We will continue to reinforce those lessons, but there are some other lessons that are vital now. We can make positive change and help prevent this from happening again if we actively embrace the notion of civic responsibility.
There are many definitions of civic responsibility but most include words like patriotism, respect for law, and being both responsible and thoughtful as a productive member of society. The adults that stormed the Capitol building forgot their most basic lessons from elementary school civics class. As citizens, our role is to display empathy, consider a variety of perspectives, become well informed by reading a variety of material including books and articles (notice I did not include FB, Twitter or Snapchat) to understand how our branches of government work, and help create change by getting involved in positive ways. This month will also mark the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, who left a legacy that now includes a day of service to the community. My challenge to myself and others is to celebrate his birthday in a meaningful way by practicing the tenets of good citizenship. Feed the hungry, clean up litter, donate used and new goods, or simply read a book that shares a historic lesson of truth. Parents can also help instill civic responsibility by visiting historic landmarks to share in a sense of awe and reverence with their children. As a sixth grader growing up in South Florida, I vividly remember our school safety patrol trip to Washington, DC. We had studied the buildings and branches of government so the trip was a culmination that left us with a feeling of patriotic wonder and magic. Let’s get back to these basics and provide our children with the future they deserve.