I'm in New York City for a writers' conference. It's the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Annual Winter Conference. Betcha didn't know societies like that even existed, did you? We don't walk around in Harry Potter-like cloaks and we don't sit around swapping nursery rhymes, either. We talk about what inspires children of all ages to engage, to dream and to believe.
This is my fourth time attending this conference in as many years, and it never ceases to inspire me. Thousands of us gather every year to hear speakers, meet one another and work toward our goals. Not so ironically, we come to this conference to read, to engage, to dream and to believe.
But last year, I left the conference early for a very good reason.
A question I'd submitted via email earlier in the month to The White House had been chosen out of a quarter of a million other questions. Instead of attending the last day of the SCBWI conference, I sat at my dining room table, preparing to interview our Commander In Chief.
The folks from Google set up cameras and established secure Internet connections. Then, as I sat shaking, I peered directly into the President's eyes when I asked him how we could do a better job talking to our nation's kids about the U.S. economic crisis.
He urged us to reassure kids that our economy has faced even tougher times, and that as Americans, we'd make it through.
To be honest, I'd hoped my question would spur him to change the way we speak to our kids everywhere. I'd wanted to see textbooks change to include more explanation about debt and borrowing. I wanted his administration to work on reaching out to children across the country to educate them about managing finances and not spending beyond their means. I wasn't necessarily disappointed with the President's response, but I wondered why he hasn't acted on my question.
But now, as I sit in my hotel room one year later, I truly understand: It's not up to the President to change things. It's up to each one of us. He inspires us to engage and to dream and to believe, and I try to do that every day. I've written a book about how the economic crisis changed one young girl's life, and maybe, if it's published, it will inspire others to talk more about how we can raise a generation of Americans who don't spend their way through their lives.
But it's not up to someone else to effect the change I hope to see. It's up to me.