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Dr. Seuss Birthday Challenge to Donald Trump

Kind of looks like POTUS

Published in ChicagoNow, March 1, 2018

In honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday (March 2, 1904), I implore the president to stop talking and tweeting in the style of Dr. Seuss’s books intended for preschoolers and start thinking about what this great author of children’s literature is actually telling you.

When Donald Trump tweeted his support for White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who resigned after accusations of abuse by both his former wives surfaced, I though the remarks sounded very familiar. Here’s what Trump tweeted,

“Peoples [sic] lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

Aside from the grammatical errors and random capitalization characteristic of most of Trump’s tweets and unscripted remarks, this one sounded so familiar. Then it hit me. Remember One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish? It’s a Dr. Seuss classic aimed at preschoolers. I’ve read it countless time to my kids and grandkids as well as to the little ones when I was an early childhood educator.

From One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

“Yes. Some are red. And some are blue. Some are old. And some are new. Some are sad. And some are glad. And some are very, very bad.”

Maybe books by Dr. Seuss, the simpler ones with limited vocabulary, have influenced Trump. In another comment about Porter, Trump said, “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent…” Strongly, sad, bad, mad…

Unlike Trump, Dr. Seuss knew he was writing for children and was a genius at saying a lot in very simple language. When an educational expert challenged him to write a book to help children learn how to read, using a list of 300 words that most first-graders (note: not kindergarteners or preschoolers) knew back in 1957, two words on the list jumped out at him: “cat” and “hat.” Guess what he wrote. The Cat in the Hat is 1,702 words long, but uses only 220 different words. Brilliant

In 1960, Seuss bet a friend he could write a book using only 50 different words. The result was Green Eggs and Ham. Not only did he use exactly 50 different words, but except for “anywhere,” all of those words had one syllable. For years, that has instinctively been my go-to book to read with young children. Now I get why they love it.

But the tweets intended for the American public from our president are a different animal altogether. While some of Trump’s pronouncements sound like Dr. Seuss, their message is diametrically opposed to what Seuss was conveying to his young readers. Consider the message in a few of his 44 books written for young children:

Green Eggs and Ham, despite what Ted Cruz thinks, tells us to try something new as we may find we like it.

The Lorax teaches children about respecting their environment.

Horton Hatches the Egg illustrates the virtues of fairness and being faithful to one’s promises.

Oh the Places You’ll Go reassures graduates from nursery school to college and beyond that they have the brains and ability to succeed, even if there are obstacles to overcome.

Yertle the Turtle warns of the consequences of trying to get above everyone else at the expense of those below you, perhaps a good lesson on income inequality.

As part of celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday, school children are supposed to Read Across America to celebrate the imagination, creativity, and fun that are synonymous with Dr. Seuss. In addition to his poetic use of language and his whimsical characters, there are valuable life lessons to be learned from Dr. Seuss books.

Unlike #45 who wants to make America great again by celebrating the values of his base, Dr. Seuss appreciated creativity and individual differences. Dr. Seuss knew how to engage the minds of his readers without being condescending or boring. Among the many wonderful ideas he shared, here are a few of my favorites:

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”
“Think and wonder, wonder and think.”
“There’s no limit to how much you’ll know, depending how far beyond zebra you go.”
“You were not born to just fit in, you were born to stand out!”

Here’s my challenge to Donald Trump. Rather than sounding like Dr. Seuss by using a simple vocabulary and repeating yourself when you tweet, perhaps you should read a few of his books to your grandkids. They aren’t too long or difficult, but their message might inspire you to think differently.


by Laurie Levy
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