The bloody, ash-covered face of Omran Daqneesh will undoubtedly remain one of the most powerful images of 2016. A singular photo of the 5-year-old, who survived a devastating airstrike in Aleppo, Syria along with his family, first made its way around the world in August. In it, he sits stunned and alone, in the back of an ambulance while waiting to be treated. A haunted expression rests on his face.
Soon after being shared, the heartbreaking photo quickly viral, releasing a floodgate of emotion across the world. In just hours, it put a face to the millions of Syrian refugees currently seeking asylum from their war-torn country, and reminded many of us here in the U.S. of just how grave the situation has become.
But that one stirring image of Omran wasn’t just seared into the hearts and minds of adults. Halfway across the globe, a 6-year-old named Alex from Scarsdale, New York, couldn’t seem to shake it, either.
According to a new video released by the White House and shared on Facebook Thursday by President Obama, the kindergartener was so touched by Omran’s story, that he wanted to do something to help him. Something that would ensure Omran remained safe, and secure, just like Alex.
So he asked the president if he could adopt him.
“Dear President Obama,” Alex’s letter begins. “Remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria? Can you please go get him and bring him to our home?”
“Park in the driveway, or on the street,” the letter continues, “and we’ll be waiting for you guys with flags, flowers, and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother. Catherine, my little sister, will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him. At my school, I have a friend from Syria. Omar. I will introduce him to Omar and we can all play together. We will invite him to birthday parties and he will teach us a new language. Since he won’t bring toys and doesn’t have toys, Catherine will share her big blue stripy white bunny. And I will share my bike and I will teach him how to ride it. I will teach him addition and subtraction.”
The president first shared the letter publicly on September 20, while speaking at the UN Leaders Summit on Refugees.
“Those are the words of a 6-year-old boy,” the president said. “He teaches us a lot.”
Indeed he does.
At a time when the country — and the world, for that matter — seems to be split down the middle over the refugee crisis, Alex’s simple, honest, empathetic letter talks a whole lot of sense. His argument cuts right through the political red tape and gets at the heart of the matter, which is this: Shouldn’t every child have the right to grow up happy and healthy, far away from the atrocities of war?
Right at this very moment, over 11 million people have fled Syria, while another 13.5 million remain in the country, in desperate need of assistance. In total, 8 million children have been affected, and they struggle daily to survive with their families, both inside and outside the country. In other words: Images like Omran’s are sadly quite common.
While the refugee crisis is certainly a complex issue that won’t be easily solved, the sentiment behind Alex’s heartfelt letter is one President Obama hopes reaches the ears — and hearts — of people everywhere, as we remember the people, children, and families so deeply affected by it.
“The humanity that a young child can display, who hasn’t learned to be cynical or suspicious or fearful of other people, because of how they look, or where they’re from, or how they pray,” the president said Wednesday. “We can all learn from Alex.”More On