The Speech President Obama Should Make About Bullying
This is what the President should tell us about bullying.
Posted December 30, 2011
Author's Transparency Declaration: I declare that I do have a financial interest in a company that offers products and services that may be related to the content of my writings.
Author's Policies Regarding Comments: 1. I rarely respond to comments because I simply don't have the time. If I don't respond to your comment, please don't take it personally. 2. Psychology Today has a strict policy about nasty comments. I believe in free speech and rarely censor comments, no matter how nasty. Every nasty comment by adults––especially by ardent anti-bullying advocates––illustrates how irrational it is to expect kids to stop engaging in bullying.
Our President is facing a barrage of pressure to make our society, and especially our schools, free from bullying. Major anti-bullying organizations have been disseminating a petition to Obama urging him to make the bullying stop. Lady Gaga has met with the White House to urge the President to solve the problem of bullying.
The truth is that our president can, indeed, make a major contribution to solving the problem of bullying. But the only way he can do it is by mustering the courage and honesty to make a speech something like the following.
President Obama (and advisors), I offer you the following speech for free. I hope you will use it.
My Fellow Americans:
In the past year, you have stepped up your demands that I, President Barrack Obama, personally intervene to ensure that our government complies with anti-bullying laws. You would like to enlist the power of the federal government to create a bully-free environment, especially in our schools, for nothing is as sad as children taking their own lives because they cannot tolerate being bullied by their peers. I had previously given in to this pressure, and early in 2011 dedicated a day at the White House to bullying, conducted a highly publicized FaceBook event, and instructed the children of our country to stop being bullies by following the Golden Rule and treating others the way we would like be treated. You may have noticed that my efforts have not made a dent in the problem of bullying.
Never before had I felt as much like the Wizard of Oz, making promises to my people while knowing full well that I couldn't deliver. That's why I couldn't face Lady Gaga when she was invited to the White House to discuss bullying, and had her meet with my staff instead. Therefore, at the risk of losing your votes, I have decided to come out with the truth about bullying. I will be giving you both good news and bad news.
First, the bad news.
I am sorry to have to tell you this, but I cannot guarantee you a bully-free environment. That's because to the best of my knowledge it doesn't exist. The only bully-free zone I know of is Heaven. If I actually had the power to get rid of bullying, don't you think I would have started by getting rid of it in the government? It would make my job a whole lot easier!
Asking the government to protect people from bullying is like asking the mafia to protect people from organized crime. Bullying is the essence of government. Government is the only body that has the legal power to force people at gunpoint to do things against their will. We force you to give us your tax money and then we decide how your money is going to be spent, whether you like it or not. Lobbying groups then bully politicians by threatening to withhold funding or votes if we don't use the tax money we took from you and spend it on their agendas rather than on other groups' agendas. When you lobby for anti-bullying laws, you are trying to force the people with the greatest power in the country to force other people to stop using force against you. An anti-bullying law is what's called an "oxymoron."
Within government there is a constant struggle of people trying to gain power over others. Political parties bully each other, and there is plenty of bullying within parties. Governments also bully each other. You may be aware that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, constantly complains that the United States is bullying his country. The U.S., on the other hand, feels bullied by Iran.
As far as individuals go, no one in the country, or perhaps even in the entire world, gets bullied more than I do. That's because the more powerful and famous you are, the more people are going to want to pick on you. I took office hoping to accomplish my election promise of change, but I have made almost no progress because everyone is trying to bully me into doing what they want. The general public bullies me as well. I bet you know lots of people who hate me and say terrible things about me behind my back. While it is obvious to me that they are bullying me, they sound as though I am bullying them! And the media loves to bully me, too. Just read the newspapers and watch TV.
Why would anyone even think I have the ability to create a bully-free environment? I am a politician, not a magician. I'm not even a psychologist. I can't get my own kids at home to stop bullying each other, and they sometimes bully me, too. And as much as I hate to admit it, even my wife bullies me sometimes, though she'll tell you that I bully her. It turns out that the world's most highly respected bullying experts don't know how to create a bully-free environment either. Even the "gold standard" Olweus Bullying Prevention Program has been shown to be a disappointment. It rarely produces more than a minor reduction in bullying and often leads to an increase. Would you like me to raise your taxes so I can pay for anti-bullying programs that don't work? Furthermore, if the world's most respected bullying experts don't know how to create a bully-free environment, how am I supposed to know how to do it?
Even if I were to personally intervene to help you against your bullies, do you think that would work? If I go over to them and tell them they had better stop bullying you or they will face the full power of the government, do you think they will say, "Okay, I promise never be mean to 'so-and-so' again"? If I have learned anything from experience, they will try to convince me that you are the real bully. They will hate you for enlisting the President against them, and they will be mad at me too, for taking your side. They will want revenge, and I will definitely lose their vote in the next election.
I understand your eagerness to have anti-bullying laws passed, thinking they will make life better for you. That's because just about everyone thinks the bully is the other person. But the same laws that you believe will help you against other people can be used by them against you. Will you be so happy about anti-bullying laws when you find that you are the one having to defend yourself from a bullying lawsuit?
As your leader, I am truly sorry to have to bring you the news that government cannot create a bully-free society. However, I am not the first person to have explained this. 2400 years ago Aristotle, who was one of the greatest logical thinkers of all time, explained it. As far as I know, human nature has not changed since then.
But I also have good news for you. An effective solution to bullying does indeed exist. In fact, it is the only reliable solution, and it is simple. However, you may not like hearing it because it will require you to give up the dream that someone else will make people stop bullying you. Instead, you will have to take personal responsibility for making it happen. As Dorothy and her companions learned from the Wizard of Oz, the intelligence, emotions and courage needed to deal with the hardships of life are already within you.
I may not be a psychologist, but I am a first rate expert at dealing with bullying. It is impossible to be a successful politician without being good at it, and you can't become President without being an absolute master. So I am going to teach you what I have learned from my own life experience. And I will be saying the very things I would say to my own family.
No laws protected me from bullying. Ever since childhood, kids put me down for my Dumbo ears. They put me down for being of mixed race. They put me down for being a foreigner. Even today adults put me down for similar things. They accuse me of not being a native born American and therefore having cheated my way into the presidency. They berate me for being a Muslim and they berate me for being a Christian. They accuse me of hating America. They accuse me of being a Communist and they accuse me of being a Capitalist. They call me a bully and they call me a wimp and they call me a hypocrite. No matter what I do, I get attacked by lots of people.
Fortunately, my hardships led me to discover the solution to bullying, enabling me to attain the position of most powerful man in the world. The solution is called "wisdom." Wisdom involves using our brains to understand the nature of life so we can solve our problems. This same wisdom has been discovered by people throughout the world and throughout history. And I will give you now some of the basic wisdom that is necessary for becoming immune to bullying.
You need to give up the expectation of a life in which people are always nice to you and only good things happen to you. As long as you expect a life like that, you will be miserable. As H. Jackson Brown said, "Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them." Even if you actually managed to live a completely problem-free life, you would grow up emotionally immature, unprepared for handling difficulty. The only way to become resilient is by experiencing hardship and discovering you can overcome it. As many a personal trainer has said, "No pain, no gain." And as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said in somewhat bolder terms, "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."
There are only two reasons anyone would pick on you over and over again. One reason is that they are angry with you. If so, you may feel that they are bullying you, but they feel you are bullying them. That's why they are angry--they don't like they way you are treating them. And they want to get back at you. So ask them why they are mad at you and work it out with them. Apologize if they feel you wronged them. You will not be a loser if you say you are sorry. Both of you will win.
The other reason people will pick on you repeatedly is that you get upset when they pick on you. When you get upset, you give them power over you, and all living creatures enjoy power. That's why winning feels good and losing feels bad. So by getting upset, you are giving them the fun of defeating you and they will want to repeat the experience.
It's essential to understand that when we get upset it feels like others are doing it to us, but we are really doing it to ourselves. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." So don't give away control over your feelings to other people. It is practically impossible to continue picking on you if you're not getting upset. When you are in control of your own feelings, people can't defeat you emotionally. You become a winner and they respect you more and treat you better.
The way we feel depends upon our attitudes. If we believe that people do not have the right to do certain things to us, we will get upset whenever they do those things. If we believe they do have a right to do them, we will not get upset.
I studied the Constitution. I learned that people do not have a right to hurt our bodies or property. They are not allowed to rape, rob, injure, or kill us. They are not allowed to burn our house down or kidnap our children. They are not allowed to make up lies about us to get us fired from our jobs. They are not allowed to threaten violence against us or to incite others to be violent towards us. These kinds of acts are crimes. The government is supposed to protect us from crimes and to apprehend and punish people who do them. But people do have a right to dislike and disrespect us and the groups to which we belong.
Most often when we get upset, it is because of the things people say about us. Even most physical fights begin with words. We get angry because we believe, "They have no right to say that about me!" But with very limited exceptions, people do have the right to say and write bad things about us. It's guaranteed by our Constitution. Our Founding Fathers were very wise people and they had a very good reason for granting us freedom of speech. It is the cornerstone of democracy and a necessary ingredient of a healthy society. Many people believe that freedom of speech gives people the right to say whatever they want as long as it doesn't upset us. But they are naive. The real purpose of Freedom of speech is to give people the right to say things that can upset us. No one is perfect, not even the President, and we see each other's imperfections. If we have to make believe everyone is perfect in order to avoid upsetting them, it will be impossible to help each other correct our mistakes. And imagine what life would be like if we called the police whenever we felt upset by what we said to each other! So when people say bad things about you, even if they are wrong, tell yourself it is their way of trying to help you become a better person. For example, if they call you fatso, it's not because they are trying to hurt you but because they want you to go on a diet and be healthier. If they call you an idiot, it's because they want you to be smarter. If they call you a slut, it's because they don't want you to be promiscuous. Then these things won't upset you.
When I was growing up, there was a popular saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me." Contrary to what the bullying organizations are telling us today, this slogan is not a lie. It is actually the solution to verbal bullying. It teaches us the essential difference between physical and verbal attacks. If people hit me with sticks and stones, they are the ones who are hurting and injuring me. But if they insult me and I feel hurt, I really hurt myself. And if I feel hurt, they will keep on insulting me. Can you imagine how miserable I would be if I got upset whenever someone said something bad about me? So the next time people say bad things about you, think of me, your President. If I can handle all the nasty stuff people say about me, you should be able handle the nasty stuff people say about you.
Finally, keep in mind that the Golden Rule is the solution to bullying. However, when I invoked it early in 2011 as the solution to bullying, I was doing it the wrong way. I was using it to try to convince everyone to stop being bullies. But it didn't do any good. That's because very few of us think we are bullies. We almost always think that we are the good guys and others are the bullies. So no matter how often and passionately I preach that people should stop being bullies, it's not going to change them. In fact, the more I insist that people shouldn't bully anyone, the more you will get upset when they do bully you.
Now, it's easy to be nice to people when they are treating us like friends. The hard part is knowing what to do when people treat us like enemies. And that's what we need the Golden Rule for. It instructs us to treat them like friends because we want them to treat us like friends. Before long, they stop treating us like enemies. That's what that very wise President, Abraham Lincoln, meant when he said, "Have I not destroyed my enemies when I turn them into friends?" And do you think I could possibly have become President by treating people like enemies whenever they were mean to me? There are a lot more of them than there are of me. They would have destroyed me long ago! But because I learned to treat them like friends, I eventually became the most popular and powerful person in the country!
My fellow Americans, thank you for listening to me. I want to wrap up by wishing you all a wonderful 2012. Treat your bullies like buddies and you will have a bully-free life! And don't forget to vote for me in November!
Dear reader, if you like this speech and happen to have access to the President or his advisors, won't you please pass this on to them?