Dear Mr./Mrs. President,
With the recent events of Hurricane Matthew, our school community has been watching the news about its effects throughout the Western Hemisphere. I have been shocked by how students react to the news specifically in Haiti compared to Florida. While hearing about the recent events in Haiti, many students have responded saying “It’s too bad for them” and making jokes about the situation. However, when the Hurricane hit Florida, it immediately hit closer to students hearts. Some have family affected, and it occurred in a place that most of us know, not through a digital screen.
Recently in the two-hundred member National Honors Society (NHS) at my school, we were asked the question “Why are you in NHS?” The majority of the students there responded saying “It looks good on my college application and I want to get into my top college.”
Both of these situations, and others, have led me to believe that most students are lacking a very important character trait: compassion. With the events in Haiti and Florida, students only cared about what affected them and their loved ones. In NHS, students don’t care about helping others, they just want to look better on paper. Students are told that to be a good person you have to do community service and look out for yourself, which includes putting yourself before others. While it might appear that students have compassion because the amount of volunteering they do, it is often just so they can look better on paper.
Members of my family and I have traveled several times to Mission of Hope in Haiti, starting in 2013. Those experiences have changed my life for the better. I now know what it means to live in extreme poverty: no one in the United States is even close to the kind of life the majority of Haitians have. According to Borgen Project, the Haitian poverty rate is 77%, while the United States Census reported the United States poverty rate to be only 13.5%. Seeing this poverty rate in real life taught me how to have compassion. I always felt bad for the homeless people wandering the streets of Detroit, but it took me traveling to another country and hearing others stories to really have true compassion for them.
Compassion is a character trait that most students lack because they have never had the experiences I have been fortunate enough to have. This is shown especially in schools. Bullying is an ongoing issue, shown by the rise in suicide rates. As President, I believe something should be done about this. Without compassion, the next generation will treat everything like a violent video game: it’s just pretend so it doesn’t matter what happens. If something doesn’t change, who is going to take over all the nonprofits in the United States preventing poverty? Who will have the compassion to dedicate their life to saving others? Compassion isn’t only needed for select individuals who will take over those few roles, it’s needed for everyone. Compassion is an essential part of a career. As a boss and/or coworker, you need to know how to be forgiving of situations you might encounter because not everything is going to be as planned. Compassion is an essential part of parenting. A parent needs to have compassion when their children make mistakes, remembering that they were once were a kid who did the same things.
One way to accomplish spreading the character trait of compassion is to create a graduation requirement for college and/or high school. This class would talk to students about current events, how it relates to past events in the country, and how the average family is affected. This class could also involve hands on experiences, such as going to a local city and talking to the homeless in a soup kitchen. From experience, I know that it is much easier to have compassion when you can relate a face to a story. This could also involve overseas trips to see extreme poverty in action, or corresponding with other students in a less fortunate area or country. Some may think that this isn’t a good idea, because it initially seems like required community service. However, this class would mostly focus on current issues from a historical standpoint, while also comparing it to a real student's life so there would be a tangible connection. There wouldn’t be community service, rather observing why and how people live.
Another potential solution to this is giving students good role models. This can include other students, teachers, parents, and perhaps most important, the President of the United States-you. If students see our President leading our country with compassion, they would be much more likely to follow in the same footsteps. I challenge you as our President to show compassion, and invite others to follow in your footsteps. A common response to this potential solution may be that students don’t watch what others do, and if they do notice they don’t care. However, Connections Academy found that 73% of high school students wanted an adult role model to encourage them, and 79% admitted that having an adult role model is extremely important. These numbers show that, although students don’t like to admit it, they do look up to influential adults.
As summarized, students have a lack of compassion for various reasons. This is a very important character trait to have, and the world will be in trouble if our generation grows up without understanding compassion. As President, I ask that you seriously consider the potential consequences of a generation lacking in compassion, and do your best to raise a new generation with compassion.