Click To Listen, full text below.
Dear Mr. Gaddafi,
You’ve managed to receive more attention from our government in six months than my students have in six years.
My 12th graders hardly know the names and situation of our 50 states
Or where your country is on a map
but they know your name
know that they shouldn’t like it
but do not know why.
My students heard our government sent a task force after you
Hunted hard to protect people against you
Have you heard that there are people here
that do no feel protected?
Did your faux royalty afford you an education of our country, sir?
If so, could you define segregation?
If so, could you explain why a recent report from one of our most prominent universities
found Latino and black students attend schools more segregated today than during the civil rights movement forty years ago?
In case you have not picked up on it, sir
The faces I spend the majority of my days with
Are all shades of coffee darker than mine
Like the ones in that report
Our country came after you so quick
But there is so little that is so immediate about the way education is handled in our country
Why is taking down dictators so easy to stand behind
While building up our own future leaders is not?
Tell me what the cry of the rebels sound like in Libya
I’ll tell you what ours sound like,
Like hope in disguise
Now the things that are killing the hope the once wore
Get stuck in stories at the fold
While your name won’t rub off A1
While they are young and under resourced,
they are not stupid.
They are cracking into the age of realization
Where they start to notice things their country is saying to them
Are hypothesizing why Kobe, their president, and you
Are rotating turns on the front page
The last time my kids got national attention is when
we treated their graduation rates
like a death toll
And you may know that better than I think
You may have already seen that the faces representing our best
Are often the best representation of our worst flaw:
Proof that we try to take on the world
without taking care of our own home
We are bleeding nurses,
Shackled freedom fighters,
Slave-owning, well-intentioned abolitionists
But I don’t want to give you the wrong impression
I love my country, sir
I politically socialize its youth every day because I believe what we’ve got
Might be the best that we get in a world as broken as ours
When I first started this job
I promised myself I would never use my students’ stories for poems and letters
Their stories are their poems
Is about my story now
About how sick I am of hearing your name on the radio
On my way to work
A subliminal message that there are more important things than the graves we’re digging in our backyard
For the young men and women I give my everything for
Because I cannot shake your name from our news corps
I will not be able to avoid you in my classroom
So what am I to teach them about you?
They have already labeled you “bad,” sir,
Tossed you in a bin with Mussolini and Hussein,
But what else?
I am writing to solicit your help
Because I imagine neither of us care for your news coverage anymore
I just pray
That my students
Don’t have to adopt your tactics
To gain back their country’s