Michelle Obama wrote an open letter to America’s parents today offering guidance on talking to our children about the Newtown shootings. I’ve included the full text of the letter below.
I find it deeply comforting that the First Lady and the President have been talking about Sandy Hook from their perspectives as parents as much as (even more than?) their roles as political leaders. We all feel the national scope of this tragedy, the enormity of it; the painfully personal impact.
A week has passed, and hopefully, in that time, we’ve been able to breathe through the initial shock. I feel no less heartbroken, but at least I can think more clearly than I could last Friday.
The powerlessness we all feel has at least a partial antidote, and it’s sitting a few steps away from you: your phone. Call your congressperson. Write a letter, if you prefer. Tell your representatives what you’re feeling right now, what you care about most. Every call, every letter gets logged and tracked, and when enough voices call out for change, Congress listens, and hopefully hears.
Your representatives want to hear from you. You don’t need a polished speech or a perfectly-developed argument. Call. It’s not scary and it’s not time-consuming. It is important, it’s one way you can use your power to change things. It’s one way you might have a hand in preventing this horror from shattering a town – and our hearts – again.
Like every American, Barack and I are absolutely heartbroken about the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown, Connecticut. And like so many of you, our first reactions were not as a President and First Lady, but as a Mom and Dad. We were asking ourselves, what if this had been our town, or our school, or our girls?
And we know that all across the country, it’s not just adults who are asking questions right now – our children are looking for answers as well. Like us, they want to know, why did this happen? Could it happen again? And as parents, all of us can take the time to hold our kids close and talk with them about the things that truly matter: our love for them, the importance of extending that love to those affected by this tragedy, and how that love truly defines our great American community.
We can tell our kids that we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe and make sure they feel loved – and so are their teachers, coaches, faith leaders, Scout leaders and everyone else who plays a role in their lives.
We can remind them to be grateful for the educators who work every day to help them achieve their dreams – and for the first responders who risk their lives at a moment’s notice to protect ours.
We can tell them about the extraordinary people of Newtown and how they have responded to unspeakable tragedy: the educators who sprang into action; the children who carefully followed instructions and comforted each other amidst the chaos; the neighbors and faith leaders who have come together to support one another.
And finally, we can tell them that it’s our job now to stand with the people of Newtown – to pray for them and to find ways, large and small, to show them that they are not alone in their grief. It is now up to us to carry the memory of those who were lost in our hearts and to follow their example every day, living our lives as they lived theirs – with courage, determination, hope and love. Those are the values that give us our strength as Americans and that we return to in times of crisis – not just because they help us heal, but because they define who we are, as a people and as a nation.
May the memories of those we lost be a blessing to their families, their community and our country, and may God be with the people of Newtown as they begin the slow and painful work of healing and moving forward.