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Posts Tagged ‘teens’

Makenzie and Susan Taylor

My niece Mackenzie Kerry wrote and gave the following speech.  She is very insightful for a high school freshman and did a great job on it.  In the picture, she is with Susan Taylor, the former editor of Essence Magazine.  When I was about Mackenzie’s age, I started reading Essence monthly because guys should learn about cool women from cool women. 

Mackenzie Kerry: Charlotte Cares Event

If I were a predictable person I would write a speech about the typical drugs, violence and sex.  But you can tell us teens to quit these things all day long and it will go in one ear and out the other. So I had to dig deeper way down to the roots of these problems. What did I find? Better yet who did I find? Insecurity. Insecurity walks on stilts and wobbles wherever she goes. Her nails have been bitten down to stubs and her eyes are glued to the ground. Insecurity may be small and unconfident but don’t let that fool you. She can cast a very big shadow. She can get under your skin and mess your brain.
 
Insecurity is what has the youth of today messed up. Nobody wants to be that one kid who is bullied and destined to spend every lunch at that empty lunch table and their Friday nights at home alone. Everyone wants to fit in. 
 
But you know there can’t be fitting in without peer pressure. Those two are best friends. Peer Pressure only knows one way and that is the way of the world and Peer Pressure will do anything to get you to conform to it. Peer Pressure has the mesmerizing eyes of a snake and a voice a smooth as silk. He will slither like a serpent and whisper right into your ear.
 
Peer Pressure is the one who will convince you to join gangs; the gangs that will provide you with protection, a family, a superior title and plenty of money. The same gangs that will get you injured, put your family in harm’s way, land you in prison. The same gangs that could end your life.
 
Peer Pressure will persuade you to try drugs, because it’s the cool thing to do. They let you escape reality for a period of time. The same drugs that can cause hangovers, depression, seizures, diseases and even death.
 
Speaking of depression, did you know peer pressure can do that too? Peer Pressure a jack of all trades can create violence, gossip and bullying. These are all things that cause you to feel stressed and isolated. Stress and isolation can lead to depression and depression can lead to problems at home and school, drug abuse and yes even suicide.
 
Do you see the theme here? All of these things Peer Pressure does can lead to death. If all of the youth die out then there is no future because we kids are the world of tomorrow.
So how can we build self-confidence and blow insecurity and peer pressure out of the water?
 
Parents you all play a huge role in our future. Although we may not show it all the time we need you. There are many things you do to help us build self-confidence. Recognize our achievements. When we finally reach that goal or get an A on that test any accomplishment, big or small, show us that you care and that you are proud.
 
Secondly, believe in us. It is a lot easier for us to believe in ourselves if we know our parents believe in us. Let us know that you expect us to do everything to the best of our ability and make us believe that failure in not an option.
 
Thirdly be a good role model. Not just for your own child but for any child you come in contact with. There is a shortage of good role models in our communities. Us youth are always going to be looking for role models and if we can’t look to you then we turn to look up upon celebrities. And imagine where the world would be if all of the youth copied celebrities. 
Yes it would be a mess. 
 
Now youth we of course have to do our part. When we are trying to reach a goal, we should strive for an accomplishment rather than perfection. Nobody is perfect except God. When we do make mistakes we should think of them as lessons and opportunities to learn. We should be proud of ourselves for attempting and then let it go because if you hold on to those mistakes they will stay in your head and torment you which will not help build self-confidence at all. 
 
Next, take pride in your opinions. If your friends engage in something that you know is wrong, don’t hesitate to say no. Do not lower yourself to their level. We are children of God and he would expect much more of us. 
 
Lastly, stop thinking those negative thoughts. The dance teacher at my church taught me there is a way to compliment yourself without being arrogant. Replace those thoughts of “You are ugly, and dumb and you could never do that” with “You are beautiful, you are smart and you can do that”.
 
I used to be the shy kid in the corner who constantly worried about what people thought of me. But then something in me changed. Insecurity and Peer Pressure were thrown to the curb and something else took residence in my soul. An explorer committed to following her own direction. The one who exceeds everyone expectations and writes out stereotypes. The one that doesn’t need people to tell her she is pretty and isn’t hurt when people call her ugly because she is perfectly content with herself just the way she is. The one who is strong enough to resist being crushed and molded to fit into what the world thinks she should be. The one we walks down the street with her head up because she is proud to be a child a God. And her name is Confidence.

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Mortgaging our kids’ fiscal futures is a concern but a bigger issue should be the drive of the kids in the developing world (Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe) compared to the average American teen if you read Thomas L. Friedman’s The World Is Flat.  While there are excepts, many teens in our community have the entitlement mentality that First Lady Michelle Obama and her mother refuse to allow the Obama girls to develop.  Our children have funky dispositions and I can’t stand them as far as I can throw them.  Can I throw them?

So, I am playing tennis with a former basketball coach at the high school yesterday and the football team is going through drills.  Evidently, the coaches worked with the younger players first, then took the underclassmen pass the tennis courts to the practice field.  For the next hour, I heard about a dozen players who appeared to be around ninth grade used the worst language in front of the gym as loudly as they could—s, a, mf, b, d, p and n-gger.  Not my business, don’t speak to other people’s children, my name is West, I am not in that mess.  Then I started to place the blame for this unacceptable behavior: the kids themselves, parents, lower grade teachers, church, family, DNA, lack of oxygen in the birth canal, was not whipped like we were.  Spare the rob…spare the rob.

While I was no angel at that age, I respected women, children and older people during public conversations.  We would change the language or say salty things quietly.  Since I can’t give up on the youth because they are my classmates’ kids or sometimes grandkids, I employed the glare technique to no avail.  For all the years I was respectful, I intend on enjoy the same reverence.  As coaches’ wives and children walked past them, the ugliness continued without pause.  I had enough after hearing part of the talk that would make a drunken sailor blush and said, “Fellows, would you please watch your language.”  The ringleaders laughed and I decided that I would be at their games in the fall so I can watch decent kids put them on their behinds every time the ball is snapped. 

In recent years, our high school sports teams have looked good on paper but lacked the character and focus to win state championships.  Champions are made between the ears and coaches can’t be blame if they start with youth without strong moral fiber and will.  I really don’t think I was upset at the kids as much as the parents who failed to prepare them for life—they are being raised by music videos.  It pains me to say that those kids had the mentality and social skills of fourth graders and the okay kids were being negatively influenced by the worst ones.  Here’s the fun part.  As the coach walked back to the gym, the loudmouths got nervous when thinking that we were going to rat them out.  Of course, I sung like a jaybird, which might have been a mistake because the little homies could be “connected.”  

I don’t have the answer but someone needs to figure something out soon because today’s kuckleheads or tomorrow’s inmates/fathers—talk about your vicious circle.  But, those coaches are well-intended professionals and you don’t measure an operation by who comes into the program; you notice the quality of the products who finish.  Of those loudmouths, only a few will be with the team in the fall.  Some folks can’t take discipline. 

In education, teachers who can’t reach the youth should admit failure and allow someone else the opportunity to get the job done because the consequences of failure are bigger threats to America’s future than the Taliban. 

While I won’t say it, some friends think the answer starts with encouraging less than bright people to refrain from populating the nation with idiots.  We have all been riding in a car and saw rough-looking teens courting and someone said, “let’s hope they don’t have a child because that gene pool is polluted.”  I can see it in their eyes; a disconnect from a functioning value system and the inability to determine appropriate social behavior.  What’s sad is that many will ended up in shackles like the ones we worked hard to throw off.  I can’t watch that happen. 

To end on a positive note, it feels good when a young adult stops me and say thanks for trying to talk some sense into his head during his teen years.  I say no problem, it is the least I can do since folks talked to me during my teen years and if you get really rich buy me a pontoon boat.

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