As you probably know, Dr. Seuss was cancelled yesterday. Two academic scholars with an opinion convinced the President to upside-down a children's holiday that celebrated an author whose name became synonymous with teaching children to read. Now, despite a lifetime of serving his country - in the Army, writing children's books, and ultimately, demonstrating personal growth that can be observed across his lifetime of literature, the man will be posthumously reduced to the damning illustrations of six titles. To be clear, this article is NOT about the cancellation of Dr. Seuss' six books, it's about the cancellation of his birthday and all of the growth and accomplishments he made during his lifetime.
Before Dr. Seuss came to write the children's books he is known for, he spent time in the U.S. Army drawing posters and pamphlets during World War II. According to the Department of Defense biography, Dr. Seuss was in Belgium when the Battle of the Bulge erupted, and it took three days for him to be rescued from behind Hitler's enemy lines. He left the Army in 1946 as a lieutenant colonel, had a brief stint in Hollywood filmmaking that earned Academy Awards, and eventually settled into his role as a children's author.
According to Dr. Seuss' family, the people who know him best, he grew to publicly acknowledge his regret over some of his early works. Many have acknowledged this evolution of Dr. Seuss, including author and illustrator Grace Lin who said, "It's important that viewers -- especially children -- know Dr. Seuss as he really was: a person affected by his time, but able to grow beyond it. Seuss, himself, deserves that explanation."
Later in life, Dr. Seuss went on to write extensively about themes of inclusion and tolerance - "The Sneetches", "The Lorax", and "Horton Hears a Who" are only a few illustrations of the growth he experienced and then encouraged in children through his work.
In many ways, Dr. Seuss's journey reminds me very much of another man we celebrate - George Washington. Despite having been a slave holder for 56 years, George Washington always struggled with the institution of slavery, spoke frequently about ending slavery, and ultimately made the decision to free all of his slaves in 1799, making him the only Founding Father to do so. We celebrate Presidents' Day on Washington's Birthday - very much like Read Across America was synonymous with Dr. Seuss' birthday. I wonder if the President will cancel George Washington next year?
In closing, if we want people to experience and demonstrate growth and evolution, we must allow for them to do so. If we lambaste people who break a vicious cycle, but criticize them when they don't, what is the right answer? And if people can never be wrong, then that means that people will never change. Fortunately, most people seem to be more forgiving and less judgmental, realizing that we have ALL made horrendous mistakes in our lives, but can rise above and still be good people, good parents, good role models. Let's hope that our President might realize that too someday.
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss.