February 27, 2011

Compassion in Action

When you are the sibling of a someone with any sort of disability, it's known that you tend to grow up with more compassion, patience and understanding. We know this about Danielle. We were so proud, again, when we heard a couple of weeks ago that she won an essay contest entitled "Compassion in Action."

Before I go on...let me first say that it seems like our last few posts have been about how great our family is -- and our dog of course. That's not the message we're trying to portray here. In other words, it's  not meant to be like one of those annoying Christmas newsletters where the writer is bragging and bragging about this and that. When we brag, it's because we deserve it, dammit. While blessed in so, so, so many ways, we've certainly encountered many, many obstacles, not unlike many, many others. Trust me, we're not perfect. On any given day we could easily find ourselves on The Dr. Phil Show. Seriously, just ask the neighbors come spring time when we forget the windows are open and they hear us on a not-so-perfect day.

That being said, we do get to brag about Danielle, again. She deserves it. When we moved to Montreal six weeks into her Freshman year, it wasn't easy.  Imagine one of her first classes on her first day of school being a discussion about gun control. Danielle had to make the comment that not all American gun owners are evil and that most every member of her mom's family owns guns...and her dad too but we decided to leave them in the U.S. Let's just say, it wasn't the best day for Danielle, but kudos for speaking her mind and defending her country in a way that would even make Sarah Palin proud (it's hard for me to write that). Even more challenging was sitting through a year of history class in French.

A few months ago, Danielle submitted an essay contest called Compassion in Action sponsored by LEARN (Leading English Education and Resource Network) in Montreal. In the essay they were to write about a person or group who has made a significant difference to the community or world through compassion and leadership. Danielle chose to write about Eleanor Roosevelt in an essay called Eleanor Roosevelt: The Woman Behind the Declaration. Specifically she addressed Roosevelt's role as the most influential member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.


The award was announced in the middle of her class when members of the organization and the Headmistress of the school came into the classroom. She was most surprised.
For winning the award Danielle received a scholarship to attend Encounters with Canada (EWC) in Ottawa. This program is a week-long gathering of kids from across Canada to gather and learn and experience different topics. After this week she'll become one of over 85,000 Canadians who have already taken part in this remarkable experience. And we bet she's only one of a handful of Americans to ever attend this program.
Danielle left tonight for Ottawa where she's attending the "Politics in Canada" week. She'll have the opportunity to go to Parliament, meet her MP (Member of Parliament), go to meetings, meet other Canadian kids and more. She will spend the first week of her March break (she has the next two weeks off school) in Ottawa at Encounters with Canada. The Headmistress (like a principal) of her school, who herself is a graduate of this program in Ottawa, was so pleased with Danielle's accomplishment that she offered to pay for her transportation. This being the case because Danielle is not a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant, yet. Yes, we pay high taxes. But -- get this -- the government pays for the transportation for all the kids attending this program! And, the Headmistress said she could miss a week of school if the week she chose did not fall during March break. As it is, Danielle decided the Politics in Canada would be the most interesting program even though she had a free pass basically to attend one later in March.

Bon Voyage Danielle! You exemplify Compassion in Action each and every day.

Following is an excerpt from Danielle's school website announcing the award.

Grade 11 student Danielle P. learned this week that she is one of the winners of the Compassion in Action Writing Contest, offered by LEARN (Leading English Education and Resources Network) and Encounters with Canada.

To be eligible, competitors between 14 and 17 years of age had to write an essay about a person (or group) who has made a difference to the community (or world) through their compassion and leadership, or is in the process of transforming a community (local, national or international) for the better. The contest also challenged essay writers to include an element that would inspire others to make a difference in their community.

Danielle wrote about former First Lady, author, speaker, politician, and activist Eleanor Roosevelt, clearly impressing the judges with her essay. She says she chose this topic because, “Eleanor Roosevelt has always been an inspiration to me; I want to go into International Relations and Politics when I’m older.”

Danielle learned about her win when representatives from LEARN and Encounters appeared in her classroom, and made the announcement, taking her completely by surprise. Her prize will be a fully paid week at Encounters with Canada- the country’s largest youth forum – compliments of LEARN.

Danielle will join 135 other students from across the country in Ottawa for the theme week of her choice, taking part in unforgettable workshops, presentations, excursions and cultural activities. An American by birth, she says she’s “really looking forward to having a Canadian perspective on international relations or politics to meeting people from across the country.” EWC has been offering rich and diverse programmess for 29 years. Over 85,000 youth have already lived the EWC Experience.

To find out more about the contest and LEARN, go to www.learnquebec.ca. 
For information about the Encounters with Canada programme, visit www.encounters-rencontres.ca.

ESSAY EXCERPT: Eleanor Roosevelt: The Woman behind the Declaration

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” This first article of the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS seems quite simple doesn’t it? A basic human right is to be born free and what a simple right it is. No one is created better or worse than another and no one deserves to be discriminated against, hurt or misrepresented by anyone else, which is all in keeping with the idea that one should act towards another in a spirit of brotherhood. Sadly, before one such great woman, the right to be born free and have equal rights was merely a privilege granted to those in power. One woman used political power, the media spotlight, leadership and, most of all, compassion to change not just her country, but the world as well. This woman was none other than Eleanor Roosevelt.

Unlike the first ladies of the United States that preceded her, Eleanor Roosevelt felt that she needed to exceed the traditional duties that they had come to be marked by the first ladies that preceded her. While her husband was in office for 12 years, she felt it was her duty to use her leadership to change the world. In fact, she is considered by many historians to be a major contributing factor to Roosevelt’s presidency, as she was the face of his campaign shortly after his diagnosis with Polio.

1 comment:

Trudy Kerman said...

Much to brag about. Why not post good, make that great news on your blog. I think this kid is destined to go far, with little brother bringing up the rear as he mounts the slopes in some far away land and grabs the gold! The world needs, new, young leadership. Go Pisanis, Go!

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