• 81°

Niece#039;s comments illustrate future looks bright

Art Linkletter wrote his famous book "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" years before my niece was born, but his title fits her like a glove.

From her earliest days, Emily Lauren Upchurch, my older sister's youngest, has always said exactly what she was thinking.

Never was there a doubt about where she stood. That's right, she has absolutely no Bill Clinton-like waffling genes in her. She's cut and dried, black and white.

Of course, as you can imagine, her blunt forthrightness can often leave a few family members with looks of shock and awe on their faces.

Whether, it's asking her favorite uncle when he's going to settle down and get married to confessing secrets my sister had hoped would stay that way, Emily is all about the truth and all about personal generosity -- neither of which seems terribly normal for a 10-year-old.

Not all of her opinions reveal secrets; some are quite serious and touching. And in between a couple of her pointed discourses last week, out popped one such statement that gave me pause.

I don't remember how we got to the point in the conversation, but somehow my sister had brought up the subject of one of Emily's classmates. The little girl was a bit larger than the others in her school and their teacher discovered last winter that the girl did not have a large winter coat. My sister was describing how they found a coat for the little girl and the details of how her size must make it difficult for her in school.

"She can't even play on some of the playground equipment," my sister said.

"Well," Emily chimed in. "When I grow up and become PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) president, I'm going to make sure we have playground equipment so everyone can play -- even the ones in wheelchairs."

If I hadn't known any better, I'd have thought her response was one she regurgitated after hearing it somewhere else. It was the perfect campaign sound-byte type of a comment.

But,

I do know her and I know that she represents what is great about the next generation of Americans -- they will have more awareness of how different we all are. They may not see skin color the way many of today's adults do. They may not look at a person in a wheelchair and see what isn't there, but rather what is there.

If the adults in their lives don't screw up their impressionable young minds, those minds will make the future world a better place for all.

Linkletter was right: Kids do say the darnedest things. Better still, they mean what they say.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached by calling (740) 532-1445 ext. 12 or by e-mail to kevin.cooper@irontontribune.com.