President Obama opened up a 30-minute documentary on childhood bullying for Cartoon Network this evening, continuing awareness initiatives he set into motion last year.
The minute-long introduction, which was pre-taped, featured the president speaking directly to the camera for the documentary titled “Speak Up,” a 30-minute special broadcast that aired Sunday on Cartoon Network.
“Bullying is not a rite of passage or harmless part of growing up,” Obama said. “It’s wrong. Its destructive and we can all prevent it.”
Obama said that for him the issue is personal.
“I care about this issue deeply, not just as the president, but as a dad,” he said referring to his two daughters, Sasha and Malia.
The president mentioned last year’s White House summit on bullying prevention in his opening remarks, adding that partnerships have been made “with schools and parents to raise awareness.”
According to the White House an estimated 13 million students are bullied each year.
As he closed his remarks, Obama left viewers with a call to action to do more.
“Everyone has to take action against bullying,” he said. “Everyone has an obligation to make our schools and our communities safer for all our kids.”
The commercial-free documentary, which extends the network’s social initiative Stop Bullying: Speak Up, aired on Cartoon Network across the country today at 5:30 p.m.
It featured a number of kids, mostly between the ages of 8 and 13, as well as a number of famous athletes, including tennis star Venus Williams, soccer goalie Hope Solo, extreme bike trickster Matt Wilhelm, and Joey Logano, the youngest NASCAR champ.
The children spoke about their own bullying experiences and how to stand up to bullies.
Young Aaron Cheese said he used to “fight back tears when called names,” causing his grades to fall.
“It wasn’t a really fun elementary-middle school experience for me,” Cheese said.
Other children recounted similar experiences.
“You’d feel really vulnerable,” Alye Pollack said, recounting the names she was called: “Oh, you’re so fat, goodbye and push me into a locker.”
She said her tormentors prompted her to create a YouTube video titled “WORDS DO HURT” to explain to her tormenters how she feels.
Her actions led to apologies, with one child who saw the video telling her how sorry he was for his actions and eventually sticking up for her against another bully.
BMX star Matt Willhelm told a story of how he too was bullied as a child, which eventually led to his desire to do trick biking.
The documentary featured scenarios for how to handle bullies, as well as allowing the children to explain why they don’t speak up — and why they should.
According to Cartoon Network’s website the documentary “captures the authentic, everyday stories of America’s bullied kids and the youth who have helped them” and “seeks to empower all kids to take part in the growing movement to help bring an end to bullying.”