Friday, January 2, 2009

Is it good for kids?

For some time, my secular work included being the principal speech writer for our provincial Minister of Education. In all, I served three different Ministers of Education in this capacity, but this story is about the first of these, one of the longest serving Ministers of Education in our history.

The relationship between a speech giver and a speech writer is an odd symbiosis. The writer must, in essence, get inside the head of the speech giver and find their voice. The speech needs to sound like the person who will eventually deliver it. It needs to connect to the speaker if there is any hope of it connecting the speaker and the listeners.

One of my triumphs in this regard was the first speech I ever wrote for the Minister. Doubtless it helped that I had known the Minister for several years. We weren't close, but we knew each other passing well and we moved in the same circles. Howe'er it was, I found the Minister's voice. The speech connected to the speaker, and the speaker connected to the audience.

As it was reported to me, "You made the Minister cry."

Not entirely sure this was a good thing, I said something to the effect of, "I beg your pardon?"

And they repeated it. "You made the Minister cry. In a good way. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. People were coming up and hugging her after the speech."

That particular speech was to teachers and others who worked in community schools - especially designated schools with higher proportions of "at-risk" children - schools which received additional resources in order to give these children a chance at success in school and in life.

This Minister's byword, her standard for every policy, was very simple.

"Is it good for kids?"

There was no question that community schools were good for kids who came from dysfunctional homes, kids for whom school was often their only island of stability, kids who might well turn up for school without hats, without mitts, without coats, without boots, without breakfast.

"Is it good for kids?"

I was put in mind of this today when I listened to the Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year message. He speaks of how the way we treat children as one of the most significant measures of a society.

[W]hat would our life be like if we really believed that our wealth, our treasure, was our fellow-human beings?

Religious faith points to a God who takes most seriously and values most extravagantly the people who often look least productive or successful- as if none of us could really be said to be doing well unless these people were secure.

And as we look around in our own country as well as worldwide, this should trigger some hard questions – whether we think of child soldiers in Africa or street children in Latin America, or of children in our midst here who are damaged by poverty, family instability and abuse, street violence and so much else. Children need to be taken seriously, not just as tomorrow’s adults but as fellow-inhabitants of the globe today, growing human beings whom we approach with respect and patience and from whom we ought to learn.

Read the whole transcript here.

Or watch it here.

How is our society doing?

Is it good for kids?

Is it good for poor kids?

Is it good for vulnerable kids?

How well we need to remember that God chose to become human, not as a privileged child in a palace, but as an at-risk kid - the child of a teenaged mother, a refugee, a babe in a manger.

How is our society doing?

Is it good for kids?

1 comment:

Country Parson said...

I wrote a half dozen speeches for political figures in my younger days, and it's a good thing for all of us that that was the end of it. Trying to put 'brilliant' words into the mouth of a boring person was not my talent. Worse, my puckish sense of humor led led to small insertions of a bit of irony here and there that I figured would go over their heads, but not over the heads of certain people in the audience. All of that was long before God spoke to me in a stern voice of his own and led me in another direction.