Bullying. It’s everywhere: on the playground, in our boardrooms and bedrooms, and in the news.
Jodee Blanco is a peer abuse (bullying) survivor who is making a difference. She is on a mission to teach us how to treat each other with dignity and respect. Her It’s NOT Just Joking Around!™ anti-bullying program is fueled by compassion and courage. She is a very popular motivational speaker and the author of the New York Times best seller Please Stop Laughing at Me. . .One Woman’s Inspirational Story, its award-winning sequel, Please Stop Laughing at Us: One Survivor’s Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying, and The Please Stop Laughing At Us Journal: A Safe Place for Us to Talk.
20th High School Reunion
Ms. Blanco’s career was in the stratosphere. Her memoir, Please Stop Laughing at Me. . .One Woman’s Inspirational Story, was at the printer’s. Yet, the bullies in her high school class still filled her with trepidation. She passionately wanted to take a pass on her 20th high school reunion, the night that changed the trajectory of her life:
“That weekend transformed my memoir from a story of survival to a celebration of forgiveness.”
The poetry she wrote to ease the pain of bullying in school infuses her books written as an adult with page-turning sensitivity and rare insight.
Survivor Turned Activist
Ms. Blanco’s memoir was published during a tense time in American history. . .after the massacre at Columbine and on the day Pres. George W. Bush declared war in Iraq:
“What about the wars being fought in the school hallways and locker rooms that only made the news if blood was spilled? What about the kids who face another kind of battlefield every day. . .just navigating the safest way to get from homeroom to study hall without being wounded?”
Based on the extraordinary response from kids in crisis, Ms. Blanco left her career as a celebrity publicist and decided to travel to the nation’s schools sharing her story to save lives. Please Stop Laughing at Us: One Survivor’s Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying is a candid glimpse into the life of an activist:
“I felt that too many people in this country didn’t understand that kids shooting other kids wasn’t about gun control, anger management, or any of the other politically correct catchphrases popping up in newspaper editorials and on afternoon talk shows. It was loneliness. . .desperate sadness of the outcast child. . .kid who no matter how hard he tries. . .just can’t seem to fit in with his peers. . . “different”. . .I was that kid.”
I was that kid too. My parents were educators and perpetual citizens of the year in rural Illinois towns that celebrated bullies. The abuse I experienced behind closed doors launched me totally unprepared into the casting-couch environment of corporate America. The misogamy of Mad Men does not fill me with nostalgia.
I vividly recall where I was when I read these words, and I came home and bawled uncontrollably when I discovered Ms. Blanco would be going to one of those dysfunctional, dying towns to deliver her message:
“I see the American school system from a perspective few others do. I see the pain and frustration in teachers’ eyes as they witness peer abuse, wanting to stop it but unsure of what to do. I come across administrators who are more concerned about a manicure appointment than they are about a student caught brandishing a razor.
“I am infuriated by others who choose a career in education because it offers long vacations. . .How do you know if the superintendent in your district is a caring leader committed to his vocation or a political climber using your school district as his staircase to the top? Why do some children face peril and uncertainty while others sail through? Where can you turn if, no matter what you do, you face indifference?
“. . .In some ways, the school arena and the Hollywood arena are not so different. . .both are ruled by the power of the popular crowd. . .teeming with betrayal of innocence, backstabbing, loneliness, and hurt. The difference is that with love, patience, and wisdom, the situation in our school can improve. I doubt that the realities of the casting couch or the tabloids ever will.”
Ms. Blanco has been enormously successful in her personal and professional lives because she is blessed with an incredible support system. Her books helped me realize that I was not ready and likely never will be ready to do what she does. It was an exceedingly painful yet liberating admission.
I treasure Ms. Blanco’s candid books because now I am extraordinarily content with my own path. I have finally silenced the most dysfunctional voice in my head ~ the one that constantly told me that my best wasn’t good enough.
I decided to celebrate who I am. I focused my attention on what I can control and accomplish. In less than a week, I was rewarded by an explosion of readers from over 100 countries.
If it is time for you to silence the bullies in your own head or those walking the corridors of your local school, I highly recommend Ms. Blanco. Read her books. Invite her to your local school. Celebrate your beautiful self. It will change your life.