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Jamie Benson column: Focus and approach matters

Given the recent debate over professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem, it seems like a good time to share a few observations and to reflect on a few teachable moments to share with our children.

First, focus matters and so does the approach. If the NFL player purpose of kneeling was to bring focus to human rights issues, there were times this past week when it seemed like the focus was lost due to the timing and approach (kneeling while facing the flag during the national anthem). Learning Lesson 1: let's teach our children that if the method and approach of a protest creates a whole different conversation than intended (additional negative controversy), then it might be time to re-think the "approach."

As our nation takes sides on the debate over kneeling, I hope our leaders don't lose focus on additional important things such as human suffering in the aftermath of three hurricanes and/or national race relations. Focus and approach matter.

Second, fortunately we live in a country that allows the right to protest and allows for free speech. The NFL kneeling protest caused some members of society much irritation over disrespecting the flag; insulting veterans; and as being unpatriotic. Others defended the right to kneel. Learning lesson 2: Let's teach our kids that when you disagree with the approach another person uses to express their First Amendment rights, temper your approach with respectful opposition.

Let's get back on track with civil conversations that lead to positive change and stop tweeting the arguments, for the sake of arguing. We need an "adult in the room" right now and we need to redirect the focus of our conversation(s).

Third, whether you are an NFL player or the president of a nation, we all know that leaders influence. Learning lesson: Let's teach our kids that when they earn a position of leadership, that they should understand an obligation to be a positive influence—don't add gas to a burning flame of negativity.

Sometimes it seems like when our politicians and some media personalities would learn by going back to school—where we teach kids how to disagree in a civil manner; how to advance the "why" of certain protests; and how to converse in ways that help to solve our problems, rather than to inflame the problem.

The School District of River Falls, innovative leader in personalized learning, ensures the development of every student's unique potential in order to excel as responsible, productive, global citizens, facilitated by forward-thinking staff in a safe, nurturing, and collaborative environment.

In summary, let's not allow our nation to get lost in the smoke and mirrors of distracted politics. Let's not allow our children to grow up thinking that negativity, blaming, shaming, and throwing the other guy "under-the- bus" is the way to resolve our differences.

Let's be the adult in the room and demand that media, athletes, politicians, and our larger society get back to a focus on our common beliefs and having civil conversations around the issues of humanity, social justice, and race relations.

If positive change in societal understanding of equality, humanity, love, and respect for all is to occur, then we all need to focus on the right topics and use the right approach. We need to lead with dignity and class; we need to de-escalate conflicts; we need to be "the adult in the room." The more we have civil conversation on how to improve the lives of the disenfranchised and less fortunate members of our society, the more effective we will become.

Let's focus on the right topics and with the right approach.

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