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About 2 Presidents, an inauguration & youth rights

Ron and I went to see Lincoln on Inauguration Day. I finally got to reflect on it on my bike ride before the long trip to that wintry other coast for EduCon (which is also about forward movement). How fitting it felt to my husband and me to watch Lincoln, a film about “that other tall, skinny lawyer from Illinois,” after an inaugural ceremony that was all about diversity, unity, and the power of citizenship (thank you, Barack Obama and Richard Blanco). [That quote’s from one of Mr. and Mrs. Obama’s Harvard law professors (wish I could remember his name), in a wonderful interview he gave before the previous election about the Obamas as law students.]

My two favorite scenes in Lincoln were…

  • The completely horrified reaction on the House floor as a representative boldly mentioned the enfranchisement of women in a debate about giving “Negroes” the vote as the step that would logically follow ratification of the 13th Amendment. The filmmakers’ interpretation, anyway, suggested that women’s enfranchisement was to the lawmakers an even more unspeakable prospect.
  • The scene with Lincoln and two young men in the White House communications room in the middle of the night, when the President asked them if they remembered Euclid’s “things that are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another” from their study of geometry (or the classics). Their exchange came right before Lincoln’s crucial decision to keep the South’s commissioners from coming to Washington. But most moving about that scene for me was the tangible respect shown not only for the President but by the President for two boys. They were participating in, not just witnessing, a pivotal moment in our history.

So, Madame President, if you’re elected soon – because clearly that’s next on history’s docket – could this citizen put a bid in for your support of the next ratification that needs to happen? If some other wise statesperson doesn’t beat you to it, will you cut through the technicalities and politics and help this country ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? It’s just time. And it’s just a baby step. As Dr. Maria Herczog, member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, said at the Internet Governance Forum in Baku (and here), “children are not mini adults with mini rights.” They’re citizens too. Universal acceptance and active support of children’s rights will increase their protection as well as participation – participation both in the protection of themselves and their peers and communities and in social change in their (not just our) user-driven digital age. It’s not only technology but history that’s putting more responsibility in their hands, and it’s calling upon us adults, who wield so much power in their lives and development, to balance rights of protection with rights of participation.

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