Posted by: on February 9, 2017


This photograph is of a hospital built on Tiber Island in Rome, Italy. Tiber Island is tied forever to the origins of Rome, and to the hospital that has been a famous place of healing since the arrival of sacred snakes  said to protect the people from the plague in ancient times. This hospital on Tiber Island holds a very special place in my heart – two of my grandsons were born there within the past five years. When I visit my daughter and her husband and sons– they have lived in Rome for some years now – I always love to racewalk along the Tiber River in the early morning. It is a beautiful and peaceful time of day, and I never fail to stop to look at the hospital in the midst of the river and be grateful for all the good fortune it has brought to my family. One morning, the light on the bell tower was so perfect that I took this photograph.

This bell tower helps me to reflect on the impact of the political turmoil in the United States on children. What are they hearing? What are they seeing? What are they thinking? This is hardly the first time that our nation has been in turmoil. Think about children during the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, the internment of our Japanese American citizens, the Civil Rights Movement – many children have experienced fear, confusion, uncertainty, and yes – suffering. I would like to encourage everyone to just stop and think – what about the children right now? They are watching us, and they are learning from us. What are we modeling, and what are we teaching them?

I think that hope should be a birthright of every child in the United States. Hope for their future, and hope that the adults around them are forever seeking what is right and what is good. Our nation, founded on idealistic principles of liberty and equality, has been built on the hopes of so many immigrants and so many strong people whose vision of a great democracy inspired their courage, persistence, and determination to build a better life for all the people. Nothing was easy for them! As a young African American man who descended from slaves says in the film A Place at the Table, “They never gave up, and they never gave in.”

This commentary is not proposing that I or anyone else opt out of our civic responsibility to stand up for our beliefs or resist anything that we believe will harm the common good. Rather, it is suggesting that we just take time right now to ask about what is happening to our children? They are depending on the adults around them for hope and for reassurance that their future is a beacon of light. It is exciting, I think, for children to be around adults with an animated interest in political and civic affairs – adults who express their commitments and act on them for the public good. However, being in the presence of adults (however accomplished they may be) who are modeling hopeless, denigrating, or hate-filled talk and action is something quite different – is this what we want to teach our children? As the education author Parker Palmer has written – we teach who we are. Who are we right now?

I think we can be beacons of light – people who demonstrate beliefs and commitments in positive and respectful ways. We can be people who encourage children to become good citizens – citizens who can engage in civil discourse – even in periods of disruption and disturbance – that leads to respectful acknowledgement of multiple perspectives and constructs positive steps toward peace. We can stand up, speak out, and resist injustice —  while still modeling the best of ourselves for the children who are our future.


Written  by Beatrice S. Fennimore a teacher educator focused on advocacy and social justice for all children.

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