More Than Half of Leading Presidential Candidates Pledge to Stand Up to Bullying, Commit to Compassionate Leadership

The Tyler Clementi Foundation asked each 2020 presidential candidate to demonstrate leadership, pledge to refrain from using bullying words and actions

 

NEW YORK  The Tyler Clementi Foundation, which works to end bullying in schools, workplaces and faith communities, has secured a commitment by seven presidential candidates to stand up to bullying behavior and to show leadership by refraining from cruelty toward political opponents and marginalized Americans during their campaigns and in all aspects of their lives. Seven leading candidates so far have taken the foundation’s anti-bullying #Upstander pledge, including more than half of the candidates set to debate on Thursday. The first to sign the pledge was Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Other front-runners to sign include former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris and Gov. Steve Bullock. 

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Rep. Seth Moulton signed the pledge before exiting the presidential race. The Tyler Clementi Foundation is glad that they, along with the other candidates, have committed to serve as models of kindness and respect in their other political pursuits and in everything they do as leaders.

Sec. Julián Castro, former Rep. John Delaney and Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to the foundation’s request with interest but have yet to sign the pledge.  

The following candidates have not responded nor signed the pledge:

President Donald Trump, Gov. Bill Weld, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Rep. Tim Ryan, Sen. Michael Bennett, Sen. Tulsi Gabbard, Mayor Wayne Messam, Marianne Williamson

Jane Clementi, CEO of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, reached out to Democrat and Republican candidates running in the 2020 race to ask candidates to sign. “We know that real leaders build people up, create a culture where everyone is included and stand up to behavior that is meant to hurt or exclude,” said Clementi. “We hope to see this leadership reflected in candidates who are seeking the position of role model in-chief. In fact, we’re calling on all candidates for state and national office to take the pledge and refrain from using bullying language and actions in the campaign and beyond, against one another, and particularly against vulnerable people in this country.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Upstander pledge or would like to interview Jane Clementi about her interactions with the candidates, please reach out to Meredith MacKenzie at mmackenzie@westendstrategy.com. Candidates can sign the pledge here.

The foundation’s outreach to campaigns was prompted by studies that found there was an increase in bullying and hate crimes among all ages during and following the 2016 election. The behavior displayed by candidates in the 2016 election sent a negative message that bullying is not only acceptable – but even perpetrated – by the most powerful people in leadership positions, implying tacit permission for others to bully.

In her letter to candidates, Clementi writes, “Your statements and interactions are being broadcast into homes, shared on the internet and being seen by millions of Americans  adults and children alike. For the next 18 months, all eyes and ears will be on this race, and for that reason, I am calling on all candidates to pledge to exhibit real leadership.”

Full text of the letter sent by the Tyler Clementi Foundation to candidates is below. 

Jane Clementi’s message to the remaining candidates who have yet to sign this pledge is, “You have a huge opportunity to influence our nation and its young people. Use this moment and your power responsibly. By being an Upstander, you can help promote a culture shift toward a kinder more caring and civil nation. Standing up to bullying will save lives!”

  

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The Tyler Clementi Foundation’s mission is to end online and offline bullying in schools, workplaces and faith communities. Founded in 2011 by the Clementi family in memory of Tyler – a son, brother and friend – the foundation’s flagship bullying-prevention and education program is #Day1. Other programs include the Upstander Pledge,Upstander Speaker Series, Tylers Suite, Workplace Training and True Faith Doesnt Bully, a public education campaign that fights religious bullying. The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, re-introduced in Congress in 2016, would require colleges and universities receiving federal funding to prohibit harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion.

 

Dear Candidate,       

I am the co-founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and more importantly, I am Tyler’s mom.  Through this foundation, we are carrying Tyler’s legacy forward while working to ensure that no one else ever experiences the pain, shame or humiliation that Tyler endured after he had been cyberbullied, shortly before his death by suicide.

As the election cycle begins in earnest, the 2020 Presidential campaign already dominates the news. Your statements and interactions are being broadcast into homes, shared on the internet, and are being seen by millions of Americans — adults and children alike. For the next 18 months, all eyes and ears will be on this race, and for that reason, I am calling on all candidates to pledge to exhibit real leadership.

I believe that in order to provide a safe and inclusive space for youth to grow up and thrive, we must work to create a culture shift toward a kinder, more respectful and compassionate society. I encourage you to please refrain from using bullying language and actions against your political opponents and especially against vulnerable people in this country. 

The behavior displayed by candidates in the 2016 election sent a terribly negative message that bullying is not only acceptable – but even perpetrated — by the most powerful people around us, and therefore gave others permission to bully. It was a message that was, unfortunately, received. Teachers reported and studies found that there was an increase in bullying and hate crimes among all ages during and following the 2016 election. 

As you campaign and debate, I ask you to think of a student who may be suffering right now because a few years ago, a classmate saw a presidential candidate mock someone on television and thought it was ok for them to do the same.

One of our core programs helping us to achieve our goal of a respectful and compassionate culture is our Upstander Pledge. An Upstander is someone who does not remain a passive bystander, but rather stands up and speaks out when they see someone being humiliated, harassed or bullied because of who they are. Upstanders take action by either interrupting, reporting the incident to an appropriate person, or reaching out to encourage and support the target of the bullying behavior.  An Upstander always works to make others feel safe and included by showing respect and compassion to everyone regardless of what makes them special and unique. 

The simple act of signing a pledge motivates people to be much more conscious of their words and actions and makes them more likely to think about the impact they’re having.

The Tyler Clementi Foundation is currently reaching out to all presidential candidates to sign our Upstander pledge, because we believe our leaders need to exemplify behavior our youth can look to as a positive role model.  

Change can come from many places, but certainly having leaders who are active Upstanders is an essential component of our movement to create a world where no one is bullied because of who they are.  

Please sign our Upstander pledge and commit to running as a candidate who will not bully others.

You have a huge opportunity to influence our nation and its young people. Use this moment and your power responsibly.  By being an Upstander you can help promote a culture shift toward a kinder more caring and civil nation.  Standing up to bullying will save lives!  

The choice is yours, will you take a moment to be the difference we need now!

Thank you for your time, 

Jane Clementi  

Co-founder & CEO