The Day of Silence is heard at Obama


Lucy Newman, The Eagle Senior Writer

For the first time in as long as anyone at Obama can remember, the
halls rung silent today. Due to the national Day of Silence, many
Obama students had taken a pledge to give up speaking for the day.

At the national level, the Day of Silence is organized by GLSEN, the
Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. The Day of Silence
attempts to call attention to the bullying faced by many LGBT
students. The idea behind the Day of Silence is to demonstrate
solidarity with those who keep silent every day about their sexual
identity due to fear of being bullied.

The Day of Silence was originally created in 1996 by Maria Pulzetti,
who was a student at the University of Virginia at the time. She
wanted to organize a form of protest that would bring awareness of
struggles faced by members of the LGBT community, especially to people
who were not already involved in the movement to do so. The protest
was successful in reaching many individuals, and since then it has
spread to become a national event.

The Day of Silence has met some resistance from traditionalist
organizations who see the movement as a threat to Christian
principles. The Alliance Defense Fund has created the “Day of
Dialogue” in response to the Day of Silence, to “encouraging honest
and respectful conversation among students about God’s design for
sexuality.” The ADF feels that because of the movement to recognize
the struggles of the LGBT community, their anti-gay message has been
marginalized as hate speech. According to Candi Cushman, an education
analyst for Focus on the Family, the Day of Silence is “creat[ing] a
hostile climate for students of faith.”

Those participating in the Day of Silence would argue that their
message often is in fact hate speech, that people cannot change the
way they were born, and that arguing for “traditional families” is a
form of bullying.

At Obama, the Day of Silence was organized primarily by senior Paige
Swiderski. Our vice principal, Ms. Faddick, had approached her about
the idea of having a school-wide Day of Silence. Paige and some
friends put up posters about the event, and went around to lunch
tables to get people to sign a pledge to participate. Paige’s father,
who owns a printing company, made stickers to be distributed to

In all, almost 300 students at Obama participated in the Day of
Silence, around one hundred from the middle school and two hundred
from the high school. People participating in the Day of Silence
passed notes to their friends and wrote messages on dry erase boards,
and even those who hadn’t taken the pledge spoke in whispers. “It was
interesting,” says ninth grader Ellen Gall. “I participated in it, and
it was nice seeing how many other people care about this as well.”

Further, students at Obama were impressed by how difficult it was to
remain silent throughout the day. By the end of the day, many had been
tempted into speech, and the halls were again filled with their
typical chatter. This difficulty really brought home the message of
the movement. “It was hard for me but I felt like it was making a
statement to those who get bullied every day,” says eleventh grader
Sidony Ridge.

“I think it was really powerful how hard it was to remain silent and
to imagine someone going through that every day,” agrees Sarah Parker,
also in the eleventh grade. “But I also feel we shouldn’t be silent
about these issues. Enough suppressing feelings and sweeping these
problems under the rug. Everyone deserves respect and dignity.”

More and more, because of events like the Day of Silence, it is
possible to discuss these important issues out loud, and to find
people who listen and understand. The Obama community was remarkably
understanding about the Day of Silence. Teachers put up with the lag
in communication caused by writing notes, and there was no significant
anti-gay backlash.

So it seems that silence spoke louder than words. The halls were
silent today, and people were listening.