By Matthew Rothschild on May 10, 2006

Molly Shoul has appeared in several talent shows at Park Springs Elementary School over the years.

And she was planning on participating again on May 11.

The ten-year-old decided to sing Pink’s new song, “Dear Mr. President,” which the pop star says is one of the most important songs she’s ever written. (The lyrics to the song are at bottom. To hear Pink perform, click here.)

Molly says she got the Pink CD for Easter, and she was attracted to this particular tune.

“It’s a really good song,” she says. “I wanted to sing something meaningful” for the annual talent show.

So she auditioned with it, and she says the music teacher told her it was very good, but that he would have to ask the principal.

And the principal, Camille Pontillo, put the kibosh on it, as Jamie Malernee of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel first reported in an excellent story on May 5.

The biting song includes lines such as: “How do you sleep at night?” and “You don’t know nothing about hard work,” and “You pave the road to hell” and “What kind of father might hate her own daughter if she were gay?” and “You’ve come a long way from whiskey and cocaine.”

Molly says the principal said the song was too political and would be inappropriate because it had the word “hell” in it, along with “whiskey” and “cocaine” and “gay.”

When that decision came down, Molly says she felt “a little bit angry and sad and upset, and a bit confused.”

Her mother, Nancy, was upset, too.

She wrote an e-mail to the principal on May 2, which she shared with The Progressive.

“I think we are sending a bad message," Nancy wrote. “Molly has become aware of world events and she was EXTREMELY excited to find this song and want to sing it. She is passionate about it—has been practicing it since the day the Talent Show was announced. With limits, I think our kids should be allowed to express themselves in a respectful, meaningful way. To try to ‘shield’ them from the real world is, I believe, a real mistake. Could I please get your feedback on this?”

Principal Pontillo responded in the following way: “I understand your position, however, the song she chose is a political song and does use the word “hell” in it. I am sure there are other songs that she can choose from that will allow her to express herself. We must remember that there are going to be students from pre-K to 5th—not just an older audience, such as middle school, or just 5th grade. I hope you understand.”

On May 11, Molly will not be participating in the talent show.

“I’d feel weird,” she says, adding that it would be like giving up to sing another song.

Her mom, who happens to be a high school teacher in the same school district, is not happy about the outcome.

“This was undoubtedly censorship,” she says.

The Progressive left a message for Principal Pontillo: she did not call back.

Nadine Drew, a spokesperson for the Broward County Public Schools, says, “It was the principal’s decision that it was inappropriate for the elementary age group.”

As to the charge of censorship, Drew says: “I don’t have a reaction to the parent.”

Lyrics to Pink’s “Dear Mr. President”

Dear Mr. President

Come take a walk with me

Let's pretend we're just two people and

You're not better than me

I'd like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street

Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep

What do you feel when you look in the mirror

Are you proud

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry

How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye

How do you walk with your head held high

Can you even look me in the eye

And tell me why

Dear Mr. President

Were you a lonely boy

Are you a lonely boy

How can you say

No child is left behind

We're not dumb and we're not blind

They're all sitting in your cells

While you pave the road to hell

What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away

And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay

I can only imagine what the first lady has to say

You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry

How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye

How do you walk with your head held high

Can you even look me in the eye

Let me tell you about hard work

Minimum wage with a baby on the way

Let me tell you about hard work

Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away

Let me tell you about hard work

Building a bed out of a cardboard box

Let me tell you about hard work

Hard work

Hard work

You don't know nothing about hard work

Hard work

Hard work

Oh

How do you sleep at night

How do you walk with your head held high

Dear Mr. President

You'd never take a walk with me

Would you

To hear Pink perform this song, click here.

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A plea to United States citizens to work for peace

An Indian journalist globally renowned as an advocate for the poor, Palagummi Sainath detailed the detrimental...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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