Norman, Okla. - As part of a new citywide anti-bullying awareness effort, nationally recognized motivational speaker Wes Moore will be featured at a community-wide event in Norman at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 3, at the Nancy O'Brian Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Norman North High School. Admission will be free.
Wes Moore was invited to address Norman citizens by a group of city and community leaders who have been working to launch an anti-bullying effort in the community. The group has been meeting for a year and includes Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey, Norman schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano and others who wished to tackle bullying as the broad community, workplace and school issue that it is.
"It seems like every time we turn on the news or pick up a newspaper, there is a tragic story about someone who has been bullied and either harms themself or others as a response to the bullying," said Bob Thomas, executive director of The Xenia Institute. "Bullying happens on a daily basis in schools, businesses and neighborhoods in communities around the country. It is a common thread that runs through communities and we decided we wanted to actively take a stand to better understand and address that challenge in Norman."
In 2012, the group established a community forum in hopes of more clearly identifying the community's perceptions of bullying. A community listening session was conducted last fall with more than 100 people participating.
"We gained valuable insight from the listening session," Humphrey said. "It enlightened us to the fact that bullying is much more than a school issue; it is a community issue."
A common theme discovered from the listening session was that bullying involves more than just a victim and perpetrator; it also typically involves silent bystanders whose non-actions enable the bully. Another identified concern was social media allowing bullies powerful anonymity. Ethnic, cultural, and religious differences are frequent targets of bullies, as are individuals with special needs. Unfortunately, because of the very nature of bullying, many victims do not reach out for help, fearing retribution, rejection or for others to provide a meaningful response.
"Building on our meetings and last year's community forum, we believe this event with Wes Moore will have a very positive impact, jump-starting Norman to move forward as a community that is 'Above Bullying' that wishes to address the multi-layered challenges it presents to all of us," said Siano.
Moore is a popular and nationally renowned speaker and is the author of the New York Times bestselling book The Other Wes Moore. Following his studies as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, he served as a paratrooper and Captain in the United States Army, with a tour of duty with the 1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan. He subsequently served as a White House Fellow, working as a special assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"We are absolutely thrilled that Wes is joining us for the evening of December 3," Humphrey said. "He is not only a youth advocate, but an individual who has a clear understanding of the challenges we all face with bullying and its impact throughout our communities."
In addition to hearing from Wes Moore, the Dec. 3 event will provide a panel of community leaders to respond to questions about bullying, and the evening will be geared to both students and adults of all ages. Event sponsors are the City of Norman, Journey Church, Norman Regional Hospital, and Norman Public Schools. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.