Donald Trump, mental discipline, and college life

You may have seen this story:

On Monday, an enthusiast at Emory University reportedly wrote “Trump 2016” in chalk many, many times on the campus. Let us repeat the essentials: Trump. And in chalk. Like this one (of many) posted on


So this morning, James Wagner, president of Emory University, sent out this email on “unexpected chalkings.” Read and believe:

Dear Emory Community,

Yesterday I received a visit from 40 to 50 student protesters upset by the unexpected chalkings on campus sidewalks and some buildings yesterday morning, in this case referencing Donald Trump. The students shared with me their concern that these messages were meant to intimidate rather than merely to advocate for a particular candidate, having appeared outside of the context of a Georgia election or campus campaign activity. During our conversation, they voiced their genuine concern and pain in the face of this perceived intimidation.

After meeting with our students, I cannot dismiss their expression of feelings and concern as motivated only by political preference or over-sensitivity. Instead, the students with whom I spoke heard a message, not about political process or candidate choice, but instead about values regarding diversity and respect that clash with Emory’s own.

As an academic community, we must value and encourage the expression of ideas, vigorous debate, speech, dissent, and protest. At the same time, our commitment to respect, civility, and inclusion calls us to provide a safe environment that inspires and supports courageous inquiry. It is important that we recognize, listen to, and honor the concerns of these students, as well as faculty and staff who may feel similarly.

On the heels of work begun by students last fall and advanced last month through the Racial Justice Retreat and subsequent working groups, Emory is taking a number of significant steps:

• Immediate refinements to certain policy and procedural deficiencies (for example, our bias incident reporting and response process);

• Regular and structured opportunities for difficult dialogues (like the Transforming Community Project of several years ago);

• A formal process to institutionalize identification, review, and addressing of social justice opportunities and issues; and

• Commitment to an annual retreat to renew our efforts.

To keep moving forward, we must continue to engage in rich and meaningful dialogue around critical issues facing our nation and our society. I learn from every conversation like the one that took place yesterday and know that further conversations are necessary. More than that, such discussions should lead to action that continues to foster a more just and inclusive Emory.

Sincerely, Jim Wagner

There are several things one can say about this, and certainly others have done a fine job of it. 

I'd like to add a few small snippets and move on to a slightly different but related topic.

  1. If you can't tell the difference between "perceived intimidation" and the real kind, you're a doofus of the first order.
  2. No wonder the kids are soft and cuddly; did you see how their authority (so-called) figures react to patent nonsense?
  3. I think we'd be better off, as a society, if we simply paid for these kids and administrators to stay in college for the rest of their lives. Safer for everyone that way.
  4. What the heck kind of rhubarb is this? The president waxes eloquently about his college's devotion to free expression and vigorous debate, but try to make a speech at Emory saying (as respectfully as is possible) you personally do not believe it's a good idea for women to abort their babies, and see how fast they shut you down.
  5. I am not at all a fan of Donald Trump, but I confess the reaction of those students and that of Jim Wagner are making it difficult not to cheer a little. Face it: Trump has all the right enemies...

But seriously.

It's tempting to make fun of the precious snowflakes, and I've done more than my share of it. Yes. But we also have to mourn and deplore the parents, teachers and culture that made them the way they are. Let me be clear: Raising children who run for help when they see a political message with which they disagree, and are otherwise unable to cope with the difficulties of real life is a sin. These parents are hurting their children and hurting the rest of us by producing useless dolts.

I like to say that tough love is real love. I mean it. Sometimes it's your job as a parent to demand and expect that your children toughen up a little bit (lovingly, gradually, slowly, and in an age-appropriate manner), even if it hurts their feelings.

I've recently started working with my eldest on mental discipline and mental toughness. She's into competitive karate, and as I explained to her, you cannot win real fights at tournaments without it. She saw me win two of my three fights at our last tournament and she asked me if I'd found it easy to win them.

"No! These were hard fights against very tough opponents! I didn't find it easy one bit, in fact, I was scared!" But then, she asked, how did you manage to win?

Ah, child. That was me showing some mental toughness. You see, you need a few things to win difficult and scary fights. You need great technique (which you learn by drilling over and over again), great physical fitness (which you get by training hard), and you need a very healthy dose of mental toughness. After taking a 10-year break to make and care for babies, my sparring techniques aren't what they used to be. But I'm working on it. My physical fitness is pretty good, and I keep working on it, too. But without mental discipline, nobody can win tough fights for without it you fall apart real quick when faced with a stronger, better, or tougher opponent. I'm not saying I'm excellent at it. But at that last tournament I managed to stay focused on what I had to do in spite of everything, and I'm pretty sure that's what made the difference.

And guess what, I told Eldest, mental discipline is just like physical fitness: The more you do it, the better at it you get. Think of it as pushups for the mind.

So now we are working with her on one particular thing she needs discipline with - doing her chores right away, without being reminded or nagged. A small, simple step that's not quite as easy as it sounds. She can do it, of course. But it's doing it reliably and consistently that's the issue.

That's fine. We'll take the time she needs to master it. But she will do it. She agrees it's a good idea to do it. But of course she dislikes being reprimanded when she falls short and starts dawdling. And yes, it hurts her feelings.

I explained to her that I thought it better for me to hurt her feelings a little bit now, rather than wait for the real world to hurt them worse later. That when her mental discipline gets better, she will find it easier to accomplish more difficult tasks and she will also be better prepared, later in life, to succeed at anything she wishes to do. That it's better to start working on it at 9 or 10 than wait until you're 25 years old.

I make sure to hug her and show her I love her while I say these things. Tough love is real love because there's a lot of love along with the tough. But there has to be some toughening up happening or else you wind up with young adults who freak out at the sight of unpleasant political messages.

And that simply won't do, Donald Trump or no Donald Trump.

Kid logic

Stressed out indeed