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KATIE ZERR: Words children hear become a part of them

Words matter. Whether spoken, written or posted, words can cause more harm than some physical attacks.
This has been a topic of this editorial space before. At this time in our country, state, community, town and families, it is worth repeating.
Words can uplift and comfort. Words can encourage and reassure. Words can also feed the seeds of deceit, hate, corruption and destructive behavior.
Words from those we look up to – parents, teachers, law enforcement, community and national leaders – can impact us so deeply that they become part of who we are.
Winston Churchill was known as a great maestro of words. He encouraged his nation to stand strong in the face of horrendous hardship in the teeth of war. He also inspired others to keep pushing even though the odds were against them.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts,” he said.
When President John Kennedy told a nation, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” it inspired young Americans to serve abroad. He challenged Americans to dedicate themselves to the cause of peace and development. In 1961, the Peace Corps was established. His words inspired.
Words that encourage and inspire are important for children to hear. Children are sponges that soak up words, attitudes and emotions emitted by those around them.
When we use language that seeds distrust, dislike and disgust for those who are different than we are, we are forming our children.
Children, innocent and loving, learn to be deceitful, hateful and destructive from adults. We must be more aware of who is listening.
Our leaders must take a step back and hear themselves as our children hear them.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.”
One of our nation’s greatest leaders, Abraham Lincoln, said the words that should shake every American to their souls at this time in our nation.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” he said during his fight to keep our country united.
Words can divide us. They can also bring us together – regardless of the color of our skin, our economic situation, our emotional or mental health or our political leanings.
History has taught us there is strength in unity. When we embrace our differences, we reach our goals through combined efforts.
It is important that our children see us embrace the unity of our spirits and condemn the division of hatred.
This is what we are about. This is our families, our towns, our state, our America.
“If not us, who? If not now, when?” – John F. Kennedy