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Angelina Jolie Asks Kids to Embrace Differences

Angelina Jolie’s acceptance speech at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards sent out the message that “different is good.” After winning the Favorite Villain award for her titular role in Maleficent, and joyful hugs by daughters Zahara and Shiloh, Jolie shared her compelling message. She spoke about being told she was different when she was a young girl and how she didn’t fit in, then added these encouraging words, “When someone tells you that you are different, smile and hold your head up and be proud.” I applaud Jolie for offering such sage advice on something that most of us face at some point in our lives.

Wasn’t there a time when you harbored that inner feeling of being different? Wasn’t there a time when you tried to hide your difference, to camouflage it somehow? I relate to that all too well.

I was that quiet, intense, artsy kid. I’ve always said I’m more comfortable hiding behind a character on stage than I am being me in social settings. When I voiced that feeling to my family, they gawked at me in disbelief. After all, they know me as rather open around them and they see me as the actress, the singer out there in front of an audience since I was a little kid. I guess I hid my difference so well that not even my family recognizes it.

I connect to this theme so strongly that when my beloved dachshund Madison came into my life, I realized immediately how much we belonged together. Madison was different. She didn’t look like the typical dachshund—instead of smooth fur running down her neck, Madison had a scruff of fur that stood up from the crown of her head and extended down the back of her neck. It looked like she had a Mohawk, and I used to tell her she was in fashion since so many choose to sport that style.

Of course, she didn’t know she was different and it didn’t matter to her. Madison’s difference is the message in my children’s chapter book, Madison Weatherbee-The Different Dachshund. And while Jolie shared her acceptance speech last Saturday, I shared Madison’s message last Friday as I read sections of her book to children at the New Rochelle School District. I had the opportunity to do assemblies for the children and I was thrilled to deliver Madison’s message that is further emphasized in a sing-along at the end of the reading. It is called “Madison’s Message to You” and I ask the children to sing the refrain with me.

The refrain goes like this:

My message is for all to see
Be kind, be thoughtful, it’s so easy

The song speaks of appreciating our differences and being kind to all people, no matter what their differences might be. It is always a thrill to share Madison’s message with people and to have them sing the refrain with me. I contemplate how wonderful the world would be if we could learn to be kind and thoughtful to all.

I love that Ellen DeGeneres signs off her show every day with the reminder, “Be kind to one another.” Such simple words, yet so important if we are to ever live together in harmony.

I will continue to encourage good will and appreciation of differences through my readings and sing-alongs from Madison’s book. I am confident that Ellen will continue to sign off from her show each day with her special reminder. And I ask Jolie to continue sharing this message during her numerous public appearances.

Maybe someday people won’t feel they have to hide their differences for fear of being ostracized.

The author's beloved dachshund Madison
The author’s beloved dachshund Madison, Photo: Barbara Anne Kirshner

MADISON’S MESSAGE TO YOU
By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Don’t let your difference get you down.
Embrace it like a sunny day.
It is a gift to keep around.
To help you learn in many ways.

You soon will thank your lucky stars,
That you are not like all the rest.
Be proud and share with near and far
What you learned from your tough test.

My message is for all to see.
Be kind, be thoughtful, it’s so easy.

Don’t let your difference get you down.
Embrace it like a sunny day.
It is a gift to keep around.
To help you learn in many ways.

If you are good to all you meet
The world will open up for you
And usher in new friends to greet
They’ll bring insights you never knew.

My message is for all to see.
Be kind, be thoughtful, it’s so easy.

My message is for all to see.
Be kind, be thoughtful, it’s so easy.

Barbara Anne Kirshner is the author of Madison Weatherbee-The Different Dachshund. She is a regular contributor to DansPapers.com.

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