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Student essay contest trumps hateful rhetoric

Why us?
As denizens of the Cleveland area, we’ve survived The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Burning River, The Mayor’s Burning Hair. Now, most likely, we will have to live down The Donald.

It all looked too good to be true last year when the Republican National Committee chose Cleveland for its quadrennial convention. The date was carefully chosen not to conflict with the NBA playoffs. (Hopefully, the Cavs will make that scheduling necessary.)

The national spotlight on Cleveland! An opportunity to put on a pretty face and showcase the city to the country, featuring new buildings, an overhauled Public Square and, of course, the foodie scene. Beautiful nighttime shots of the city will serve as background for the political talking heads.

Wait for it. …

And here we are! The prospect of the first contested convention in decades looms along with predictions by the Republican front runner that there will be “riots” if he doesn’t get the nomination, even without the exact number of delegates, threatening to turn our moment in the sun into an episode of the “Jerry Springer Show.” (Even Springer, a former mayor of Cincinnati, has said Trump is over the top. “It’s one thing to have a television show like that, but that’s not how you run a country,” he told The Hill, an online political news source, on March 16.)

So, will all of the efforts to show Cleveland in a positive light fall victim to bad karma and “The Combed Over One’s” schoolyard bully routine?

Maybe not, if we listen to school children.

Contrast this spewing with the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage’s Stop the Hate: Youth Speak Out contest. This event asks students in grades 6-12 to write a 500-word essay describing a real-life situation dealing with gender bias, race relations, bullying and other acts of prejudice. They then had to offer a solution using kindness, empathy and understanding − words not exactly being tossed around in the political rhetoric this year.

Aside from announcing the finalists, a statement gave snippets of past essays. “Getting angry and shaming people is not the way to change the way they think,” said one. “Becoming informed and developing your own opinion is the only way to move beyond stereotypes,” advised another.

Wise words for sure.

Maybe some of the points being made − in what many people feel is an embarrassing political exhibition led by candidates on both sides who score low in the areas of trust and likability − are valid. (There’s a head-scratcher for you.) They are certainly what people want to hear based on the outcomes of the primary elections. But being wrapped up in so much name calling and vulgarity, the point kind of gets lost.

So much time, talent and energy has gone into anti-bullying programs in schools. Cyberbullying has posed a challenge to the traditional schoolyard meanies, but when the kids see adults behaving badly, one of whom supposedly will be holding the highest office in the land, what does that say? Actors who have portrayed a U.S. president on TV and in the movies look more credible.

As adults, how many times have we told our children to listen to us? Perhaps now it’s time for the so-called grown-ups to listen to the kids.

NOTE: Four students representing Rocky River schools are among the finalists for cash prizes in their grade level division of the Stop the Hate contest. They are Jacob Gibson, grade 8, Rocky River Middle School; and Ellie Gutierrez, Madelyn Jett and Kendra Kalish grade 10, Magnificat High School. They will be honored during an awards ceremony at 6 p.m. April 21 at the Cleveland Museum of Art Gartner Auditorium. The Rocky River High School cheerleaders will be a highlight of the evening, which is free and open to the public. Call 216-593-0575 for more information.

 

 

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