Lady Gaga is a beautiful, unique entertainer, whose heart must be as big as her talent. She recently started Born This Way, a foundation whose goal is to empower kids and encourage a more understanding and accepting environment for them in and out of their classrooms. Or, as the foundation itself states, to create a braver, kinder world “where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated. The Foundation is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need . . . [where] everyone has the right to feel safe, to be empowered and to make a difference in the world. Together, we will move towards acceptance, bravery and love.”

The foundation isn’t exclusively targeting bullying, but eliminating bullying is one of its goals, perhaps inspired by the treatment Lady Gaga received from her high school classmates.

As Lady Gaga tells it, boys threw her in a trashcan and she was called rude names in front of large groups of people. Although a straight-A student, it became difficult for her to focus on her schoolwork and she ended up being embarrassed and ashamed of who she was.

Kathleen McCartney, dean of the Graduate School of Education at Harvard, which is partnering with Lady Gaga and her foundation, announced, “If you don’t feel safe as a child, you can’t learn.”

Of course, she’s right. Bullying leads some young people to suicide, but I suspect a far greater number of those targeted simply fail to live up to their academic potential, because they’re too miserable and frightened to pay attention in class and absorb the material

And the scars don’t go away, Lady Gaga says. “When certain things are said to you over and over again as you’re growing up, it stays with you and you wonder if they’re true.”  (“Born to Not Get Bullied,” Nicholas D. Kristof, N.Y. Times, 2/29/12)

A child should feel safe from fellow classmates in his or her room and when going to and from school. I applaud Lady Gaga’s efforts to make a difference. She’s starting with those who are targets, encouraging them to accept themselves as they are and to realize they are valued and worthwhile human beings, who deserve to be treated with respect and  kindness. But she’s also reaching out to those who bully by sharing the message that it can be cool to offer that respect and kindness to others.

With someone as revered by young people and as famous and powerful as Lady Gaga at the helm, I have high hopes for the success of her Born This Way Foundation. You can help by joining the foundation. At the Born This Way site, you can learn about the three pillars of the foundation and the ways you can help promote the message and support the cause. You can hear the stories of some of those who Lady Gaga aims to help.

Join.

Together, we can make a difference.

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