Yesterday evening my daughter was frantically typing on her laptop, she must, I thought, have downloaded a new game, or be messaging her friends with vital updates on teenage life. But after 20 minutes the suspense was too much so I was compelled to ask if she was writing a novel.
Her response surprised me and has led me to write this post. My 15 year old daughter was actually writing a speech. She explained that she felt passionate about a particular issue and was compelled to speak out about it as part of her year 10 assembly on Justice.
With her permission I have copied her speech below:
When Martin Luther King made his ground-breaking speech about his dream for a just and equal society it began the slow march of equality in America and around the world, or so the we thought.
Recent events in the US have caused us all to reconsider this concept. When a white police officer is filmed shooting a black man in the back, when a black teenage girl is forcibly restrained by a white police officer at a pool party or when a disabled suspect is suffocated during arrest
We must ask two questions;
One: Is society in America is any more equal or any more just than the day Martin Luther King first delivered the phrase, “I have a dream”?
And two: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will guard the guards themselves?)
Who enforces the law upon the law enforcers? When there are many examples of police brutality and excessive violence towards a certain group in society, how can we stop this? Even children have been killed under these circumstances. Tamir Rice was a 12 year old boy playing with a toy bb gun in a public park. It was reported to the police as ‘probably fake’ yet he was shot when asked to raise his hands by the police. He subsequently died. Michael Brown was an 18 year old boy, shot by a police officer. Although some say he had his hands up in the air showing he was unarmed at the time of his death, the officer Darren Wilson did not face criminal charges.
These examples do not stand alone and provide sufficient evidence that America is not yet the just and equal nation it claims to be.
When Obama was elected as the first black president he stated “We are the change that we seek” but despite serving two terms in the Whitehouse, has there really been any change.
Of course the world has moved on from the age of slavery and the persecution or oppression of one race by another, yet the idea that there is freedom, equality and justice for all is simply unrealistic.
In the perfect world colour, race, gender, sexual orientation or disability would be transparent, there would be no discrimination and all people would be treated equally. But we do not live in a perfect world and so how long will it take for there to be no prejudice in a country so called, “The land of the free and the home of the Brave”?
We need to stop denying our young people their rights I regularly meet lots of the young people in Southport and I know that they’re passionate about such a wide range of issues – from the cost of local buses and their education, to climate change and international affairs.
The time has now come to give 16 and 17-year-olds a say on the issues that affect their lives. We often hear people say they don’t understand politics. But this can’t be said of the younger generation, who are the first to receive a proper education in citizenship and democracy. They understand what’s at stake. We’re teaching them how to be a full and active citizen but not letting them take part. Most of us are quite happy to allow a 16 year old to serve us in a shop or to help protect us in the Army. We allow them to get married, have sex, pay taxes and drive cars. Yet we are stopping them from having a say in how their taxes are spent or what direction our country goes in.
Imagine how frustrated and angry you’d be if you were denied the same rights. In the next two years we are going to decide whether Britain stay or leaves in the EU. This decision matters – it matters to our jobs and prosperity, and its impact will be felt for decades. It would be so wrong to prevent the 6786 young people in Sefton whose future we are talking about from having a say in this decision.
Last year, 16 and 17 year olds were allowed for the first time to vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum. Three-quarters of them did. This proves young people can and will engage when given the opportunity. That’s why I am pleased John Pugh MP voted to amend the bill on the EU referendum to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote.
Liberal Democrats have actively supported changing the law on this issue for over ten years. Now there is growing support throughout Parliament and the Conservative Government must listen to us and stop denying young people a voice.
My sex education was shrouded in myth and legend with the devil playing a starring role. Fear and superstition abounded but there was very little substance. These embarrassing monologues always ended with the same remonstration from my Mother: ‘Don’t bring shame on your family by getting yourself pregnant.’ BUT, how on earth you got yourself pregnant was never explained.
Thankfully times have changed and the past, as they say, is a foreign country. However, even in these enlightened times parents still struggle to have a conversation with their children about how to keep themselves safe from abuse.
Those of us who are parents can understand why. We don’t want to scare the wits out of our children, we struggle to find the right words and childhood is precious and fleeting and we don’t wish to mar it.
This is why I proposed a motion to Sefton Council asking them to encourage schools in Sefton to take up a service offered by the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and aimed at primary school children aged nine to eleven. This free service takes the form of an assembly and interactive workshop. The assembly covers definitions of abuse, places for children to go for help and an introduction to ChildLine. This is followed by interactive classroom-based sessions which reinforce the key messages given in the assembly.
The other initiative I wanted to draw attention to is
‘The Underwear Rule’ .
This is an NSPCC guide to help parents explain to their children, in an age appropriate manner, that no one should touch them on the parts of their body usually covered by their underwear and that they should not touch others in those areas.
It reinforces the message to children that their body belongs to them and they have the right to say NO!
Both Sue and I believe that if exploitation of children is to be prevented victims and potential victims must be given a voice. This is why we advocate giving children information and knowledge in an age appropriate manner. We want to empower children to speak out.”
The motion has been passed to the Children Schools and Families committee for further discussion in March.
Councillor Pat Keith reports on a night at the Cabaret.
Thank goodness I swapped X Factor for the YMCA last night where we were treated
to an amazing cabaret, showcasing Southport’s youth talent. The youngest performer
was four and as she twirled her pom poms to the left while the others sashayed to the
right she took command of the stage and in the words of Louis Walsh ’She nailed it!’
Along with the street dancing and vocals we were treated to an improvised acting sketch which the children directed and wrote and performed brilliantly. The originality of the performances stood out and none more so than the 13-year-old girl who sang a song she had written, the lyrics as haunting as her lovely voice.
Cast of Cabaret giving it their ALL
Lest we forget, some of these children have many upheavals to contend with in their young lives but last night they shone like stars on a dark night. Katy Hibbert, Director Extraordinaire, whose contagious enthusiasm lifted the performances to an even higher level, is to be commended for the work she does and the talent she nurtures within our Southport children.
So thank you amazing, talented youth. On behalf of all of us privileged to be there last night it certainly was fun to be at the YMCA.
As the end of the school term approaches, its the time of the year for annual awards and I was thrilled to be invited by St Patrick’s Primary School to the recent School Council awards.
The event saw representatives from schools across Southport give detailed presentations on the work they had been doing in partnership with each other.
St Patricks Primary School were joined by representatives from the school councils of Marshside Primary School, St John’s Primary School and Bishop David Shepherd to form the Traffic Stoppers. The key aims of the group were to tackle speeding in and around their schools, to make walking to school safer and to encourage parents to park further away form the school gates. As part of this, I was delighted to work with the group to get a new school crossing patrol on Marshside Road.
Other groups present also included the Hillside Helpers ( who have worked to transform Hillside train station, the Green Machine who built a schools garden within Kings Garden and the Can you Dig It team who have worked to enhance the community garden in Ainsdale.
School Council members from local Schools take a bow
Councillor Pat Keith and I were delighted this week to be invited to Stanley High School to celebrate their diamond jubilee. The school which was opened by Lord Derby in 1952 put on a special event inviting both past pupils and local residents to the school for afternoon tea.
The Southport Visiter announces the opening
Past pupils were also encouraged to share their memories of their time at the school in a video diary which will provide a verbal history of the school.
Cllr Pat Keith and former Stanley High School Govenor Cheryl Hindley
All the catering for the event was done in school and I can definitely recommend the cakes! Guests were also entertained by two outstanding singers who are currently students at the school.