By Jacqulin G.
The TV is on as you go about your business throughout the house. For the most part, it is nothing but a faint murmur in the background. All of a sudden, the news anchor on the screen reveals a story that fiercely grasps your attention. As you redirect your eyes and ears to the television, you find yourself inspired as the reporter spills details that hold particular importance to you. All you want to do at this point is tell everyone you know about what you’ve just heard and how it moves you. Each of us has experienced this at one point or another, but where can we voice these thoughts or engage in a discussion about them? Where better than in the company of your fellow Roots & Shoots group members!
I had a moment like this recently when I heard a very sensitive story that sparked my interest. In the final moments of 2012, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, signed a bill that would stop U.S adoptions Russian children. The bill, coming after recent U.S. legislation which limits Russian officials from traveling to the States, ends a two-decade-long practice that gave the U.S. global recognition as one of the most popular nations adopting Russian orphans. The ban went into effect January 1, 2013 and immediately cancelled 46 active adoptions in the last month alone.
This greatly controversial event has caused arise in tension between the American and Russian governments, as well as the people living in these two nations. As a modern-day Russian law that impacts the American public directly, the law has created public outcry from many U.S. citizens. Perhaps what makes this issue most relevant to Roots & Shoots is that it is about more than just politics! It’s about the welfare of human beings - one of the three pillars of Roots & Shoots’ holistic model which addresses the welfare of people, animals and the environment.
Issues like this tend to be some of the most delicate topics to undertake in a group setting, mostly because they involve a wide range of opinions from group members, who collectively contribute to the outstanding diversity of the Roots & Shoots program. It is important to raise these topics for discussion in a careful and appropriate way.
1. First and foremost, like any good researcher, get all of your facts right! The best way to have a positive discussion is to make sure that you have all of the information.
2. While you share information, try to stress the facts first, not your opinions. Structure your presentation around the facts and be cautious of straying away from the core of the issue.
3. Encourage discussion in a manner that is comfortable, unthreatening, and open-ended. It is best to withhold your personal position on the topic until others have expressed their thoughts on the facts, in an effort to motivate them to break out of their shells and potentially even mold your own opinions.
Tackling controversial subjects within your Roots & Shoots group might seem intimidating from the get-go, but when done correctly with respect for opposing points of view, they can be productive and engaging!. There is almost no realm that you can’t enter! The next time you catch something on the news or in the paper that draws your attention, take some notes on the issue, and bring it up to your group - if you are interested in the matter and feel passionate about it, then share what you’ve learned. Chances are, others will feel the same as you do.
Englund, Will. and Bahrampour, Tara. “Russia’s Ban on U.S. Adoptions Devastates American Families.” The Washington Post. 27 Dec. 2012. <http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-12-27/world/36016738_1_russian-children-russian-cabinet-russian-families>
Nemstova, Ana. “Putin Signs Law Banning Russian Adoptions of U.S. Orphans.” The Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/28/putin-signs-law-banning-u-s-adoptions-of-russian-orphans.html
Herszenhorn, David M. “Putin Signs Bill That Bars U.S. Adoptions, Upending Adoptions.” The New York TImes. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/28/world/europe/putin-to-sign-ban-on-us-adoptions-of-russian-children.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0