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Posted at 11:09 AM ET, 03/10/2011

Obama speaks out against bullying, says, 'I wasn't immune'

By Nia-Malika Henderson

President Obama and the first lady spoke out against bullying Thursday, urging parents, schools and community leaders to look for ways to address a problem that they say has gotten worse in the age of the internet and social networking.

Joined at the White House Conference of Bullying Prevention by top advisers, cabinet officials and about 150 parents, teachers and school administrators, Obama said that bullying, which effects about 13 million children annually by one estimate, is behavior that doesn't have to happen.

"If there's one goal of this conference, it's to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up.  It's not," said Obama, who acknowledged that he was bullied when he was younger. 

"As adults, we all remember what it was like to see kids picked on in the hallways or in the schoolyard.  And I have to say, with big ears and the name that I have, I wasn't immune," he said. "I didn't emerge unscathed.  But because it's something that happens a lot, and it's something that's always been around, sometimes we've turned a blind eye to the problem.  We've said, 'Kids will be kids.'  And so sometimes we overlook the real damage that bullying can do, especially when young people face harassment day after day, week after week.

First lady Michelle Obama said, "This issue really hits home for us" as parents.

"It breaks our hearts to think that any child feels afraid every day in the classroom, on the playground, or even online," she said.

The first lady said that she knows how hard it is to figure out what is going on at school. When she asks her younger daughter, Sasha, what happened at school, she said, her response is always the same: Nothing.

"As parents we know we need to make an effort to know what's going on in our kids lives," she said. "We something is wrong, we need to speak up."

The White House has launched a Web site, stopbullying.gov, as a clearinghouse for information on prevention. And the Department of Education is working with schools to implement guidelines for dealing with the problem. Additionally, the nation's two largest teacher unions will launch prevention campaigns.

The focus on bullying followsrecent new reports that several young people committed suicide after being bullied. Last fall, the president, Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton taped messages as part of the "It Gets Better" campaign, a public awareness effort aimed at gay youth.

The White House conference will include break-out sessions led by senior administration officials. It wraps up at 2 p.m.

By Nia-Malika Henderson  | March 10, 2011; 11:09 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

Bullying? Bullying? The chief bullyer is calling for billions in federal spending to curtail what he is a master at practicing?
Mr. Obama there are far more serious matters that require your attention.

Posted by: sandynh | March 11, 2011 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I accept the need to decry bullying. HOWEVER, a news conference? Don't you think that the President of this country should be concentrating on the deficit of the USA, the wars around the world and the distruction of our way of life?
Correct me if I am wrong, but couldn't the first lady handle these matters? Heaven only knows she has enough people on her staff to help!

Posted by: 212541858 | March 10, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

I accept the need to decry bullying. HOWEVER, a news conference? Don't you think that the President of this country should be concentrating on the deficit of the USA, the wars around the world and the distruction of our way of life?
Correct me if I am wrong, but couldn't the first lady handle these matters? Heaven only knows she has enough people on her staff to help!

Posted by: 212541858 | March 10, 2011 9:45 PM | Report abuse

I accept the need to decry bullying. HOWEVER, a news conference? Don't you think that the President of this country should be concentrating on the deficit of the USA, the wars around the world and the distruction of our way of life?
Correct me if I am wrong, but couldn't the first lady handle these matters? Heaven only knows she has enough people on her staff to help!

Posted by: 212541858 | March 10, 2011 9:45 PM | Report abuse

You could argue that the country and even the world is on the verge of collapse, and our very own version of Nero fiddles away valuable time on... Schoolyard Bullying!!?

God help us get through the next year or two so we can send this guy packing.

Posted by: r_loveland | March 10, 2011 8:07 PM | Report abuse

This is pathetic. The President actually schedules a conference to condemn bullying in schools. Give me a break. America has become the land of pansies. If you get pushed around in school, push back. You can't legislate adolescence or life for that matter. There is always going to be a bully no matter what stage of the game.

Posted by: Jsuf | March 10, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

You people are idiots. Really. Did you actually read this article? I don't think so. When I was 10 years old, I was a skinny, short kid with glasses. Another student in my junior high was a very large person and enjoyed pushing me down. When I was pushed down some stairs, I told my parents and a meeting with the vice principal was set up. Back then, the vice principal of the school had power. He sat the both of us students down and he read us both the riot act, even though witnesses had already told him I didn't do anything to provoke the confrontations. The abuse stopped after that talk. While those incidents were scary, I did learn how to handle situations as they came up and instead of being afraid, learned how to deal with angry people. Lots of bullies out there, whatever your age. Take action and don't be a victim!

Posted by: MILWI | March 10, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

It's only bullying if you don't fight back maybe Americans need to stop being such PVZZYS like obama the crybaby when he doesn't get his way or when FOX news talks about him.

Posted by: kneedragon761 | March 10, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

It's only bullying if you don't fight back maybe Americans need to stop being such PVZZYS like obama the crybaby when he doesn't get his way or when FOX news talks about him.

Posted by: kneedragon761 | March 10, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Michelle still bullies Barry, who are you leftists kidding?

Posted by: wewinyoulose1 | March 10, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the President and Mrs. Obama realize that the way peaceful adult marijuana users are treated could be considered bullying. After all, we all know that it is less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. It is no less than pure predjudice to treat a marijuana user any differently than a non-user. To fine them and lock them up, sometimes for many years, is by my definition - Bullying!

Posted by: Don46 | March 10, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Obama,

Are you aware your country is coming apart at the seams? Your party seems to prefer mob rule to governance, without respect for election results and/or the institutions to which your party can elect representative leadership. What's going on in Wisconsin is "what's in it for me" gone absolutely insane. And asinine.

Posted by: sniel | March 10, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

With the problems we are having here in the United States with the unemployment, high energy prices, inflation, etc., this man is speaking with his wife on bullying. Well, this man clearly does not know how to be a leader, and beyond that he is ill-advised. He makes himself look even more inept by doing this instead of dealing with the problems that are boiling over. We need a president who is at the helm at all times, and not some person out there running around with his wife speaking on bullies. I find this absolutely ludicrous when we have severe problems that need to be dealt with regardless of what you believe in...you have to see this is absolutely ludicrous.

Posted by: TJBJ | March 10, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

This is gibberish from a man using the color of his skin as a shield everyday to bully his political adversaries into silence for fear of being labeled a Racist by the Press who are his willing and eager fellow bullies.

Posted by: hek211 | March 10, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Yes children get bullied , so so adults. I have been bullied as a child and now at 39 I am still being bullied. I just can not see how and why people young and old feel they have the right to do this to others.

Posted by: kristein1 | March 10, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

@fregameeate

So your solution is for fathers to fight each other? Bullying will continue to exist so long as the macho code prevents adults from behaving rationally. It has to start at the top.

Posted by: laugh_riot | March 10, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

As expected, those individuals who hate the President waste little time in their continued criticizing anything and everything he does - the reality is that shame and peer pressure prevent many children from seeking out the help that might prevent the lifelong scars which bullying so often creates - I recall being the target myself because of a speech impediment which I was ashamed of, and the pain NEVER goes away - in my family with its 'just deal with it' mentality, I suffered in silence for years - kudos to the POTUS for facing a real problem which can cause genuine torment, and raising awareness - if saving the life of a child who's at the end of their rope because of harassment is the price of "the Nanny State" as so many ignorant nitwits choose to call a needed outreach program, than all the better.

Posted by: paulserrano | March 10, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

As expected, those individuals who hate the President waste little time in their continued criticizing anything and everything he does - the reality is that shame and peer pressure prevent many children from seeking out the help that might prevent the lifelong scars which bullying so often creates - I recall being the target myself because of a speech impediment which I was ashamed of, and the pain NEVER goes away - in my family with its 'just deal with it' mentality, I suffered in silence for years - kudos to the POTUS for facing a real problem which can cause genuine torment, and raising awareness - if saving the life of a child who's at the end of their rope because of harassment is the price of "the Nanny State" as so many ignorant nitwits choose to call a needed outreach program, than all the better.

Posted by: paulserrano | March 10, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

No one, but no one ever bullied my children. Why? The word got out that the father of the bully would suffer the same fate--and more. What ever happended to parents intervening to protect their children? It seems we need a new law for this and a new law for that. The Nanny State is now supreme.

Posted by: fregameeate | March 10, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

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