Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Power of One

On Monday morning, November 16, 2015, my daughter Julianna was dismayed by the fact that her high school did not observe a moment of silence for the people who lost their lives in Paris, France during the terrorist attacks there the previous Friday, 11/13.

That afternoon, she visited the school office to ask why not and was met with a perfunctory “There was something wrong with the PA system” though announcements were broadcast to the entire school that morning and “We’re not supposed to talk about ISIS” (a term I despise using in reference to terrorists. *Isis* is an Egyptian Goddess of nature and magic who has been around for thousands of years. But I digress…).

The point is, neither of these explanations had any substance. The conversation concluded with Julianna being told, “You can leave a note for the principal if you want.”

So, she did.

On Tuesday morning, November 17, 2015, West Islip High School observed a moment of silence for the people killed in Paris.

This simple sequence of events tells us quite a lot.

The first thing it tells us is that I have a remarkable daughter. She has a sensitivity, awareness, and compassion regarding certain things that is, to put it lightly, uncharacteristic for a girl of fourteen. I am both proud of and humbled by her integrity and character.

My wife Nancy and I take the job of being parents very, very seriously. We view the responsibility of raising a kind, loving, and decent human being not only as our moral obligation as citizens of this planet but as a truly holy endeavor. As part of that process, since toddler-hood, we have consistently encouraged and empowered Jules to respectfully ask questions and speak her mind. However, it’s ultimately up to her to pick up that torch and run with it.

Clearly, she has.

This leads us to the next thing this story tells us, which is that I may well have to bail my daughter out of jail one day for engaging in an act of civil disobedience.

Moving on…

Another thing it tells us is that the principal of West Islip High School, Dr. Anthony Bridgeman, possesses impressive leadership skills. This matter was the very definition of a teachable moment. He could have politely dismissed Julianna’s concern with a “Thank you for contacting me” platitude. Instead, he gave the matter the consideration it deserved and capitalized on his potential to positively impact the lives of his students.

On an individual level, Dr. Bridgeman provided Julianna with enormous validation. She raised her voice and that voice was heard. She may well carry this experience with her for the rest of her life.

On a broader level, he provided the students of West Islip High School with an opportunity to perceive the world from a global perspective and demonstrate compassion and empathy for others. Paris may be 3600 miles from Long Island but we’re all part of the same team: The Human Race Team. Senseless tragedies there are senseless tragedies here.

Lastly, the story of ‘Julianna & the Moment of Silence’ provides us with a cautionary lesson. In these troubled times, public discourse is often leeched of substance by the ideological parasite known as ‘Political Correctness’ which can be defined as the science of attempting to please everyone and thereby saying nothing. It has become so engrained in our society that we often instinctively employ the spirit of the concept to diffuse potential conflict (or even discussion) rather than address and resolve it. When Julianna voiced her concern, the initial reaction was to deflect it harmlessly off into the trees without any actual engagement or resolution.

But there’s more to life than smoothing the bed sheets.

Let us all work harder to defy this destructive inclination to diffuse rather than resolve. Let us face our ideological challenges head-on with a robust combination of courage, tenacity, emotional intelligence, and compassion. As human beings, we have been blessed with the gift of sentience, the capacity to reason, to see the big picture, to work together, to envision an ideal and construct a plan to achieve it. Ultimately, we all benefit from such efforts.

And that, my friends, is something to be thankful for.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Thanks for writing, Steven! She is a remarkable young woman. I wish our schools would take the really bold step of trying to understand what leads to the type of violence that happened in Paris. I totally understand the fear of your daughter possibly being arrested some day. But there are worse things than participating in an act of civil disobedience and going to jail for justice (referencing Anne Feeney's song).

  2. My previous comment was not meant to diminish the points you made in the story of Julianna and the Moment of Silence in any way. It's a beautiful story and I'm glad you shared it.

    1. Hi Shar,
      My statement regarding Jules being arrested for civil disobedience was more bemusement than fear. I agree with you 100%! There are far worse things she could do than get arrested for constructively fighting the good fight. :-)

      I'm very glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for commenting! :-)