My name is Jenny Koelling. I'm nine years old . . . I think about nuclear power more in school . . . it kills things and people. It could kill you. Anyhow, if we stop building nuclear bombs to try to be more powerful maybe they'll stop. Do you want to stay alive? If you do you better start to take it into your hands. --Children's Nuclear Disarmament Network newsletter.
Jenny and David and Liev and Elaine and Daniel saw a movie not too long ago called "Thinking Twice About Nuclear War." Afterwards, they decided to do something.
They formed the Children's Nuclear Disarmament Network.
"I feel scared but I think we can stop it if everyone tries," says 9-year-old Jenny Koelling from her spot at the blue round table at Games School, a private school in Georgetown. "If it drops I don't know what I would do. But I just don't want people to die."
There is a lot of talk about death and fear this afternoon from the District and Maryand students at the small, open-classroom school. One after another, as the conversation spills around the table, each of the seven students, ages 6 through 10, delivers his or her own child's-eye vision of a nuclear holocaust.
And, one after another the seven state rather matter-of-factly, that, yes, they will be heard, children or not. And, yes, they are going to be part of the nationwide campaign to halt the nuclear arms buildup. An important part.
Their words, one syllable and two, devoid of jargon like MX's and megatons, are those of children but their sentiments are those of the new generation.
These are the children of the nuclear age fighting against a nuclear war.
From 8-year-old Daniel Bernhardt, who lives part-time in Takoma Park and part-time in Northwest Washington and says he wants to be a football player, a Marine and a singer: "I feel scared and not scared. I know if a nuclear bomb drops I will die anyway and I probably won't feel anything."
From Daniel's 10-year old brother David: "It's unfair because we didn't start it. It's unfair if a bomb drops for people like me who are trying to stop it just because there are other people who are trying to kill people. I think it's stupid. . . .
"I think we should hide or just go to the moon and not allow people up there who want to use bombs. Earth can be the battlefield."
From 7-year-old Liev McLeod, a soft spoken child from Capitol Heights: "I'm afraid I might die and I don't want to get hurt."
They are only seven now, all students at Games School. But they are contacting friends, sending out a newsletter to other children, soliciting contributions--all in the name of a nuclear freeze. Believed to be the first children's antinuclear-weapons group in the Washington area, they have modeled themselves after the Children's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Vermont.
On April 18, at Takoma Park Elementary School, they will sponsor a concert by poet and composer Stephen Longfellow Fiske, an Arlo Guthrie-style musician who has written a number of songs protesting the nuclear weapons buildup.
"I know we have a chance to stop it, but we need a lot of people to join us," says 8-year-old Elaine Brigham of Silver Spring, who says she wants to be, "I think they're called archaeologists. They collect dinosaur bones."
On this spring afternoon, after a roundtable discussion of the effects of a nuclear war on a child's psyche, the brightly dressed children tumble into the basement classroom with white walls and canary yellow ceiling. A chartreuse upright piano stands in the corner. Their teacher, Marty Dutcher, 34, plays a tape by Fiske.
From the floor, from the table, from the model car track set up on the carpet, they join in, singing and clapping. Liev dances around the room, one foot up and swaying then the other. There is something special in the room and in their spreading smiles.
But there is something distressing in their unfairy tale-like words and how loud and how well they sing them.
"I am an actual survivor of good old World War III,
"It's really not as bad as they said it would be,
"I've come back from the future just to tell the story
"So none of you would be discouraged from your nuclear glory."*
It is not the first time that this group of students has become involved in a political movement. Last year, they took part in a Save-the-Whales protest on Capitol Hill and wrote letters pleading for the protection of the white harp seals. They have collected money for the World Hunger Project and discussed the massacres in Cambodia. Taped to one of the white counters is an open letter to President Reagan asking, simply, for a better world.
"They're frustrated with the adult world," says their teacher, Dutcher. "But the exciting thing for me is that the children operate much closer to their vision of what they want the world to be. They have less time to think about why it can't be that way. . . .
"I trust them when they speak."
Stephen Fiske will also make an appearance for big people at 8 p.m. on April 16 at the Friends Meeting House, 2111 Florida Ave. NW.(FOOTNOTE)
*"I'm an Actual Survivor" by Stephen Longfellow Fiske and Ken Keyes Jr. Copyright (c) 1982 (END FOOT)