A Request for Change: What I’d ask the President to do

Dear Mr. President,

My name is [K.C.] and I am the mother of two young boys, [Ursa Major], age 1 and [Ursa Minor], age 8 months. My beautiful sons are bi-racial, the heirs of a bright future as I strive to make the best of my husband and my dueling pasts and present. I have been meaning to write to you for the last four years, thanking you for being such a profound inspiration for my life and the life of the students who I taught while you were making your run for the presidency. Indeed, through these four years as I have watched you grow as a great leader, I wanted to write you as a teacher to congratulate you on the many accomplishments of your administration. Then I became a mother in 2011, and meant to write again, looking forward to telling you all about impact that you will make on my young son. Getting pregnant with my youngest seven months later put the kabash on that, and I wanted to wait to see how this election would go. Upon your re-election, I committed to writing this letter, congratulating you on what I think is an even more significant and historic second election: It solidifies that your time in the White House hasn’t been a fluke, or some post-racial experiment: people like and trust you to be at the helm of this nation. I couldn’t be more proud.

There were so many things that I was going to include in this letter–hopes of topics that you would tackle in your second term. Then, 20 children and 6 adults lost their lives in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th. I lost my focus. I was filling out preschool applications for [Ursa Major] when the horrible details came into full view. As the raw emotions began to sink in, I had to put my boys down for an early nap and let go of my tears: the thought of those beautiful babies, their brave teachers, and the sanctity of an elementary classroom being so destroyed brought me to two hours of sobbing. As my Facebook newsfeed filled up with the thoughts of my liberal friends demanding immediate gun control, I, too, got swept into a rage: We need to obliterate the 2nd Amendment, I thought. We need to ban all guns everywhere, I concluded. I was going to demand that my card-carrying NRA member husband repent his ways and renounce his affiliation. I was going to demand that my army veteran Father get rid of all of the guns in his house. I had, essentially, lost my mind.

And then I kept thinking about it. And reading. And wondering. And I watched your tears at your first statement in the Press Room. So I began asking questions, and asking my friends to do the same. I began to reflect on exactly what factors brought us to that day, and my anger didn’t go way. I came to the conclusion that we haven’t been living our motto, E Pluribus Unum. After watching your speech at the Sunday vigil, I can tell you that I’m in full agreement of your sentiments. Something must be done, and we must to better as a people. Our republic is only as good as how we choose to take care of our most innocent and vulnerable.

I’m not writing this letter to try to influence you to take up some specific legislation or petition. Instead, I’m writing to tell you that I hope you’ll stay strong in the face of all of the weapons (pun intended) that they are going to use against the change that you must bring. Even though the NRA has remained silent, publicly, on this event, I know that their lobbyists are already working. The talking points have already been written. Their supporters are purchasing in force, and donating in the same way.

It is not my intention to belittle or offend. I know that you still have a lot at stake in your next four years. I know that your legacy has major ramifications for the people of color behind you who have the same aspirations. Your legacy has ramifications for my two precious sons. I want you to accomplish everything that you want to in the next four years, and do it in a way that no one can deny your greatness fifty years from now. That being said, I think that putting a major halt on the amount and power of the firearms purchased by civilians in this country would be one of the greatest accomplishments of your presidency. Coupling new gun policy with better policy regarding the mental health system will make such a lasting impact on so many generations.

I hope, too, that you will bring our mental health system into better light. I’m an educated woman, but I feel like I don’t know anything about how our mental health system works (or fails). I don’t know how our mental health system can identify people who need special attention efficiently, effectively and humanely. I don’t know, especially, how we can use tools to identify young people who have special concerns in a way that can give them positive trajectory in their lives. I hope that you will pull together the greatest minds from all of the spheres that influence this, ask them tough questions, and ask them to produce tangible and implementable plans for change. Things that you can make Executive Orders for now and create permanent legislation for later.

I want to commend you on all of your efforts to bolster teachers and the teaching profession during your administration. I hope that you will do for social workers this term what you did for teachers during your last term. We don’t have enough social workers. We don’t have enough programs to create good social workers. Social workers are probably the most misunderstood of government employees and they are not paid nearly enough money to justify the good and important work that they do. I wonder what would have happened if there had been a social worker assigned to advocate for and work with the Lanza family. What interventions that are already in place can we bolster now to prevent these tragedies from happening? Tell the public that Social Work is so much more than child-protective services. Tell the public that we need more advocates for families in need.

There are so many things that I hope for from your second term, Mr. President. I so wanted to write to you about uplifting women of color and bringing them to the political table (so that we may be courted as White suburban women are courted during political season). I wanted to write to you about the cradle to prison pipeline, the plight of the impoverished. Nothing is more important than this right now. Gun violence in this country discriminates against neither race nor class nor gender in this country. It is the greatest threat to our children, and indeed, to our republic.

Maybe, one day, I’ll write the letter that I’ve been meaning to write. The one thanking you for everything that you’ve done for so many of us. You are a great man and president. It’s an honor to be an American citizen (always, but especially now).

God bless you and your beautiful family. Thank you for (always) fighting the good fight.

[K.C. Wise]

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