The First Lady’s Open Letter

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At Wednesday night’s memorial service in Tucson, Michelle Obama cut a somber figure even as broad swaths of the crowd appeared to find catharsis through laughter or cheering. Mrs. Obama, the mother of a nine-year-old girl, seemed particularly emotional during the sections of her husband’s speech that focused on Christina Taylor Green, the nine-year-old victim of last Saturday’s shooting. Yesterday the First Lady broke her silence about the tragedy, issuing an open letter to parents that outlined her thoughts on the shooting, including how it offered an opportunity to impart valuable lessons. You can read her full letter here. From the text:

In the days and weeks ahead, as we struggle with these issues ourselves, many of us will find that our children are struggling with them as well.  The questions my daughters have asked are the same ones that many of your children will have – and they don’t lend themselves to easy answers.  But they will provide an opportunity for us as parents to teach some valuable lessons – about the character of our country, about the values we hold dear, and about finding hope at a time when it seems far away.
We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis.  And we can help them do that in their own small way – whether it’s by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts.
We can teach them the value of tolerance – the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us.  We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree.

It is perhaps a measure of our reflex to scan material for objectionable content — or through the prism of politics — that my first reaction to the letter was that it could be construed as an attempt to offer pointers on parenting. And it’s spurred some criticism from predictable corners and unleashed a sea of bile from Internet commenters. And yet, whether or not you quarrel with her conclusions, I don’t see how anyone could argue she’s not coming from a well-intentioned place. As the mother of a girl the same age as Christina Green, she’s clearly considered how to discuss the tragedy with her own children, and I don’t begrudge her leveraging her position to share those thoughts.