A moment of empowerment

A child’s thoughtful encounter with a presidential candidate

My 10-year-old daughter Meredith has been wanting to ask a presidential candidate a question. She zeroed in on Gov. Chris Christie, because somehow she learned that he had advocated for adding an hour to the school day. She wanted to ask him to explain his position because, in her words, she “wasn’t sure she agreed with it.” 

For months, she hounded me, “When can I ask Governor Christie my question?” I figured she’d move on to other things, but she didn’t.

I told her I agreed with the governor – kids should spend more time in school. “Oh mom,” she’d roll her eyes (mind you she’s only 10), “kids don’t need more time in school. We already do enough.”

On a recent Friday I brought her to Governor Christie’s town hall in Nashua. Meredith sat next to me holding her index card with the question written on it that we had gone over many times, hoping that she would get called on. 

They said 400 people turned out to hear the governor speak. It seemed like every time there was an opportunity to ask a question, so many hands would shoot into the air. About 45 minutes into the event, she leaned over and whispered,” Mom can I change my question?” 

“Sure Honeybee, to what?”

“I want to ask about bullying.” 

Without getting into too much detail, last spring Meredith became the target of another child’s aggressions. I worked with the school to make sure protocols were put in place, wrote emails, attended school board meetings, made multiple visits to the principal’s office. But each time a line was crossed, and new protocols were put in place, I was told that nothing more could be done until the other child crossed the new line.

It was an unsettling way of building a case – going to class with the guillotine of another person’s unpredictable behavior hanging over you. How can a child be expected to learn when they’re worried about being humiliated by a bully? 

Meredith’s pivot from the question about a longer school day to how a presidential candidate would protect kids from bullying was poignant. I had hoped the events of last year had dissipated into fuzzy memories. It’s clear now they are cemented in her psyche.

Just as she started to write down her new question, Governor Christie called on her. 

With clear voice, she introduced herself and asked the governor what he would do about bullying, because she and some of her friends had been bullied.

Governor Christie looked her right in the eye and gave a meaningful answer. He didn’t promise he could stop it, but he spoke about the importance of communication, talking to mom and dad and teachers. He answered like a dad and a human being, not a politician. 

I am so proud of my daughter, who had the courage to ask a personal question in a venue full of grownups and cameras, to put herself out there and ask something meaningful to her and other kids. I am also grateful that when one of the most precious people in my world put their heart out there, she was treated by a candidate with kindness, wisdom and respect, as well as a thoughtful communication.

This wasn’t about politics, it was personal, and no doubt this experience will be a positive memory of empowerment that will stay cemented with her for a lifetime. 

Tiffany Eddy, former news anchor on WMUR-TV, is principal of FocusFirst Communications.

Categories: Opinion