What a wonderful world for our children


I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces, of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying, “I love you”
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Louis Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971) recorded What A Wonderful World in 1967; it was released as a single and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. What A Wonderful World was appropriately the song of choice at the recent Childcare Centre graduation ceremony that I attended.

The Childcare Centre which accepts children from 2 ½ to nine years old held its graduation ceremony on June 22. There were proud parents, grandparents and other relatives at the graduation ceremony and several excited and proud graduates. The 12 preschool graduates who will be starting Junior Kindergarten next year sang “Kindergarten Here We Come” with gusto. They all knew the words which is a testament to the excellent work of the staff who teach and care for these little ones. The 13 kindergarteners proudly recited the poem “I Know Numbers.” The seven school age students performed an African Caribbean dance choreographed by Stacy Ann Vassell. I was there to cheer and take photographs of my little ones Jenaejah, Iiliyah, Taiwo and Kehinde.

There they were along with all the other children beaming proudly, dressed in their black trousers (the girls wore trousers too) and white tops. They all looked like they were ready to graduate from university with their mortarboards, complete with tassels, perched on their heads. As they stepped up one after the other to receive their certificates, parents, grandparents and other relatives were recording the historic occasion. That first graduation ceremony only happens once in a lifetime so it was important to record the event for posterity. There will be other graduation ceremonies but there can only be one first.

The Spanish cellist (born to a Puerto Rican mother) Pau Casals (December 29, 1876 – October 22, 1973) is credited with this quote: And what do we teach our children? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work-we must all work-to make the world worthy of its children.

How appropriate that the words of a man whose life spanned two centuries (1800s to 1900s) is relevant to the lives of our children in the 21st century, some of whom may very well live into the next century. With the advances in technology it is very possible that many of those born in this century will have the opportunity to live well into their 90s.

As African people living in North America we need to let our children know that “they are marvels, unique, have the capacity to achieve anything and maybe when they grow up none of them will want to harm another who is also a marvel”.

We begin the process when we celebrate their achievements like the Childcare Centre did, supported by the parents, grandparents and other family members who attended the graduation. Every child felt appreciated and valued when they stepped up amid cheers to receive their certificate. These children will have a different life experience from the ones of their parents and grandparents.

The words of What A Wonderful World brought to mind that the children graduating on June 22 are growing up in a world their ancestors could hardly have imagined. As recently as the 1970s there were no cell phones. Regardless of the fact that the first cell phone was invented in the 1970s the things were so big, clumsy and expensive that they might as well not have existed. Today, cell phones can fit in the palm of our hands and our children born in this century are so technologically savvy that a two-year-old can use a cell phone. This is the stuff of which 1950s science fiction imagined.

Our children and grandchildren of the 21st century were born into a technological world and are comfortable with cell phones, computers, the Internet, text messaging, GameBoys, PlayStations, Ipods etc. To them, it is all a normal method of communicating, learning and playing.

Research confirms that while children enjoy playing games on computers, they also develop skills in communication, creative writing and research. While adults born before the 1980s may feel that we live in a world where the use of technology is accelerating at warp speed, to our 21st century children and grandchildren cell phones, video games and social networks are a part of everyday life.

On June 22, as the next generation – Jenaejah, Iiliyah, Taiwo, Kehinde and all the other children – received their certificates at their Childcare Centre graduation ceremony Louis Armstrong’s words were very appropriate:

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.

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