Leaders Know We’re All Babies


At the vigil last night, the President said: “There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have — for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace — that is true.”

When we are parent-leaders, we know: at bottom they want to be safe and they want love.  “A small child’s embrace.”  That “we can be sure of.”  “The love that we have.” That we can be sure of.

It is what we ALL want. Every one of the big kids I teach – 19 to 35 years old – wants love.  If we lead, it is our fundamental job – to protect their life and love their spirits.

In the array of mentally disturbed killers, were they not all ALONE and LONELY?

There are gun control issues, mental health issues, school issues, and lots of other fixes to debate.

But each of us can respond as everyday leaders to this tragedy.  Our choice is to help every person find a safe place in our families, schools, workplaces, tribes – and beyond – to protect people’s place in the human family.

If Connecticut did anything it reminds us as leaders to protect human life and to love each other.

Yes, we have missions, goals, purposes, and constructs and contexts, but our fundamental job if we choose to lead is to protect and to love.

Will WE bring new love out of senseless death and darkness?


  • Right on, Dan! You hit the nail on the head. I’d be interested in hearing from Psycholigists regarding the identification of the “loners” in schools and establishing outreach programs. Maybe this tragedy will help create the oomph to fund budgets to provide more Psychologists at schools to more formally address the needs of the “loner”.

  • Thanks for a great post, Dan Mulhern (to distinguish from Dan Sifferlin, who asks a question I’ll reply to in a second!). Your essay today reminds me that we are all leaders whatever our formal roles in our family, workplace and community. That is, we don’t have to wait for a formal leader to take action though we also need our formal leaders to take action.

    And for Dan S and others who might find this useful, a note from my sister, a long-serving and smart special educator.

    “We need to have more than compassion. Sincerity and empathy aside, saying how awful and devastating this situation is is not going to get us very far. We’ve done that over and over again. President Obama called for “meaningful action.” Certainly our Congress needs to take some meaningful action…but so do we. Everyon…e of us can do something to watch over our kids, the innocent ones and the ones who need mental health help. Volunteer in a school; in your community; get to know your kids’ friends; donate to mental health services; let somebody know when someone doesn’t seem right. I am pledging to increase my knowledge of local mental health resources for the kids I see every day–to provide them and their families with more than a recommendation for consequences for their actions—concr­ete names and places to contact to address their needs. What meaningful action can YOU take to honor these victims and stop this madness?”

  • In desperate times, people do desperate things. Young adults and those who love them may not realize that the prefrontal cortex (that controls impulsive behavior) is not fully developed until age 26. One wants to believe that this was an isolated and impulsive act–frustrated at something or another, grabbing his mother’s guns because they were available and impulsively acting out his frustration. I’m not saying that we should condone his behavior and I’m not saying that we should fear everyone under age 26. I’m just saying that we need to reach out to anyone (maybe particularly young adults) if we have reason to believe that they’re frustrated, angry, disappointed, discouraged, desperate…

    We tend to avoid people who are sad, feeling bad, isolated, alone and lonely with negative feelings that tend to overwhelm them. This is the exact opposite of behaviors that could actually help! We may need to take lessons in empathic listening (_Parent Effectiveness Training_ gives some excellent examples of how to do this without getting defensive or judgmental.) This can help! It really can!

    We need to stop avoiding others who seem “different”–ESPECIALLY if they make us uncomfortable. The discomfort comes from lack of knowledge. We gain knowledge by reaching out, reaching in to situations that we know little about. What do I know, as an older white woman, about what young, inner-city black men face? I can read about it or I could go and shake hands with some of them (as I often do, as a volunteer in a program that serves young ex-offenders in my city) or treat them to a cuppa coffee at their local bistro as we chat. We need to show compassion and to pro-actively open up a respectful conversation with others instead of always hanging with our own “in” group – people who agree with us on contentious topics like reproductive rights or right to work or the national debt or whatever.

    We need to model behaviors we wish to see in our Members of Congress – have a respectful conversation with people who disagree with us and seek ways to achieve consensus.

    When we reach out, people with problems are no longer alone. Someone is there. And if it’s someone who expresses compassion effectively and allows them to vent “with their words” as so many parents have learned to advise, then they’re less likely to “act out” impulsively, in anti-social ways.

    These are skills that can be learned with practice, folks!

    If we want anti-social behaviors to be snuffed out, we have to demonstrate and model pro-social behavior. At this time of year, when many celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, remember what he taught as an adult: “I was in prison… I was sick… I was hungry, …thirsty,… and you visited me.” …”blessed are you” when you do this!)

    What saddens my heart most is that our Michigan governor and the lame-duck legislators in his party will be making more people more desperate… These people may have good intentions but by failing to hold hearings, they may not have considered the unintended consequences of making more people desperate as rich people get richer. How can we communicate with people who, hands firmly pressed against their ears, say “I can’t hear you!”???

    It’s easy to fix blame on guns lack of mental health services but it’s elected officials who decide to create interactive video games that glorify violence as a way to recruit more members for our armed forces. It’s elected officials who decide that we need to cut mental health services and then send our brightest and best off to war where they become suicidal and / or affected by Post-Traumatic Brain Disorder.

    The madness is in assuming that someone else needs to change. In my opinion, all of us need to take responsibility for how we treat others and for being active, involved, committed, informed citizens who vote reliably and responsibly and inform elected officials what we think!

    …or so I believe.

  • Dan- Beautifully said. At the heart of everything we do is the question: What is here asking to be loved?

  • I was wondering, if there were a God, why would He let babies die? If there were a God, why would He let bad stuff happen to good people/kids, people that didn’t do anything wrong? Maybe if God were allowed to be inside of schools these tragedies wouldn’t happen? Then states wants to say that you’re crazy when you try to protect your child from future abuse that could lead to murder. Also if you call your 6 or 7 year old baby or little boy, you’re crazy. The government don’t care who is actually crazy (has mental issues) in other words, while they waste their time on trying to prove (lying on) sane people wanting people to be convinced a sane person is crazy you got an actual crazy person planning to shoot people. Then you have psychiatrist that will say what the state wants them to say while a mentally disturb person is planning an attack. Psychiatrists also goes by how good one insurance is. If a person has insurance to cover the cost then the person is crazy. They need to keep coming back or be committed. If the person don’t have insurance they are sane. If so call experts are not honest about someone’s mental state then, how can future attacks be prevented? So even if someone tries to have a love one checked over for their mental state it won’t do any good because it depends on how good one’s insurance is.

    I’m sleeping under the stars in the woods in the freezing cold to get away from family because they have always been dangerous. Yesterday the one relative went postal talking about this shooting when I was staying there so I decides I feel safer in the dark woods. I have been through everything from a to z and still never lost my mind I think these shooters are just trying to get attention more than a mental problem. Once someone does something like this then all of a sudden everybody that ever knew this person is saying they always knew, he or she always seemed so trouble, etc, etc, etc.

    They need to keep guns out of schools by having a better alarm system, cameras facing outside doors, something telling the office trouble. I know they lock the outside doors but that don’t work when they can shoot out the glass. Then the office can contact the classrooms by P.A. system in a secret code telling the teachers to lock their classroom doors and hide the students. Like a firedrill but stay inside locked classroom doors and hide and turn off lights. At the same time someone in the office is calling the police.

    I wish I could have hugged my child like everyone else after the shooting but this state is alittle messed up that all I could do is cry for my son that I don’t even see. Obama made me cry when he mentioned about hugging your kids. I know what those parents are going through and my child is alive. This is driving me crazy not being able to hug and kiss my child like I did everyday since he was born for alittle over 6 years.

    Snyder said that he is waiting to sign the bill now because of the shooting. Last thing people needs is a Hatfield and McCoy shootout by people legally able to bring guns into schools. It needs to be vetoed.

  • Each person taking a part in protecting their and other persons’ place in the human family, is an ideal needing to be taught throughout the world. We see reports of children and adults killed in one massacre in Connecticut, and also larger numbers of dead from violence in Arab and Muslim lands, in Asia, in Europe, and many places. The best way to protect your own rights, is to help protect the rights of other persons.
    I few times in my life, I have been the subject of attack, where no one stepped forward to say it was wrong. I know this is common. Cain’s question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” comes to mind. We are in the Christmas season. Near the beginning of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge says that he has no time for the poor, because all his time is taken by his own work and needs.
    As I watch and participate in the political world, I see the discussion centering on how much we are to take care of ourselves versus the support we can gain from government institutions. Government is a statement and mechanism of the human family. Without institutions enforcing standards of conduct, the most lacking in scruples will take control of any situation or geographical region. We must look to ourselves to solve the world’s problems. Government is a rational activity to find and implement improvements to our way of life.
    The authority of the individual can be lost when there are no institutions to secure that authority, whereby creativity and humanity reside. If we choose to lead, a primary goal is to protect and to love. It is a tragedy when control is taken as leadership, and force, intimidation, violence is seen as leadership. Our humanity is as strong as its members. When we are convinced that we do not matter, that our vote does not count, that there is nothing we, as individuals can do, that we lose our confidence in ourselves, that is when we lose our humanity.
    Quite separate, I hope, from the causes which lead a man to kill in Connecticut, there are experts in the field of intimidation, being paid exceptional amounts of money. They, using the best knowledge of human psychology, set us against each other, using the basest of human weaknesses: greed, intolerance, hatred, and all the rest. Leaders must set themselves against these acts of propaganda, exposing them.
    What deficiency set one man to kill children and adults in Connecticut? The leaders who study psychology, we can hope, will find the answer to why, and how to prevent this from happening again. I wonder, who were the persons, who may have reached out to this man, in any regard? I have read that having adults interested in their lives, makes a huge difference in how young people see themselves, and proceed in their lives.

  • I tried to protect my child (kindergartener) after being bullied/hit (by a teen) and the state of MI said I am unstabled for worrying about my child that my house might not be fit for him to live in because I worry about him. To me it is frustrating when I hear people talk about protecting their families since others are able to, but when a white, single mom (with no other family) asks about safer transportatin to school, they have mental issues, they’re in the same category as someone shooting up a school. Only certain people in this society are allowed to love and protect their family. I would go to the end of the earth for my child regardless of what I am called, nobody can take away the love a parent has for his or her child. I would always love and protect my child regardless of stupidity of absent minded people saying ridiculous things, like telling me I’m mental for protecting my child, though people everywhere does. Drug someone, then arrest them and take away their child that is when they see a mental person.

    RIP to the victims in Conn.

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