Molly Shoul has appeared in several talent shows at Park Springs Elementary School over the years.
And she was planning on participating again on May 11.
The ten-year-old decided to sing Pink’s new song, “Dear Mr. President,” which the pop star says is one of the most important songs she’s ever written. (The lyrics to the song are at bottom. To hear Pink perform, click here.)
Molly says she got the Pink CD for Easter, and she was attracted to this particular tune.
“It’s a really good song,” she says. “I wanted to sing something meaningful” for the annual talent show.
So she auditioned with it, and she says the music teacher told her it was very good, but that he would have to ask the principal.
And the principal, Camille Pontillo, put the kibosh on it, as Jamie Malernee of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel first reported in an excellent story on May 5.
The biting song includes lines such as: “How do you sleep at night?” and “You don’t know nothing about hard work,” and “You pave the road to hell” and “What kind of father might hate her own daughter if she were gay?” and “You’ve come a long way from whiskey and cocaine.”
Molly says the principal said the song was too political and would be inappropriate because it had the word “hell” in it, along with “whiskey” and “cocaine” and “gay.”
When that decision came down, Molly says she felt “a little bit angry and sad and upset, and a bit confused.”
Her mother, Nancy, was upset, too.
She wrote an e-mail to the principal on May 2, which she shared with The Progressive.
“I think we are sending a bad message," Nancy wrote. “Molly has become aware of world events and she was EXTREMELY excited to find this song and want to sing it. She is passionate about it—has been practicing it since the day the Talent Show was announced. With limits, I think our kids should be allowed to express themselves in a respectful, meaningful way. To try to ‘shield’ them from the real world is, I believe, a real mistake. Could I please get your feedback on this?”
Principal Pontillo responded in the following way: “I understand your position, however, the song she chose is a political song and does use the word “hell” in it. I am sure there are other songs that she can choose from that will allow her to express herself. We must remember that there are going to be students from pre-K to 5th—not just an older audience, such as middle school, or just 5th grade. I hope you understand.”
On May 11, Molly will not be participating in the talent show.
“I’d feel weird,” she says, adding that it would be like giving up to sing another song.
Her mom, who happens to be a high school teacher in the same school district, is not happy about the outcome.
“This was undoubtedly censorship,” she says.
The Progressive left a message for Principal Pontillo: she did not call back.
Nadine Drew, a spokesperson for the Broward County Public Schools, says, “It was the principal’s decision that it was inappropriate for the elementary age group.”
As to the charge of censorship, Drew says: “I don’t have a reaction to the parent.”
Lyrics to Pink’s “Dear Mr. President”
Dear Mr. PresidentCome take a walk with meLet's pretend we're just two people andYou're not better than meI'd like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestlyWhat do you feel when you see all the homeless on the streetWho do you pray for at night before you go to sleepWhat do you feel when you look in the mirrorAre you proudHow do you sleep while the rest of us cryHow do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbyeHow do you walk with your head held highCan you even look me in the eyeAnd tell me whyDear Mr. PresidentWere you a lonely boyAre you a lonely boyHow can you sayNo child is left behindWe're not dumb and we're not blindThey're all sitting in your cellsWhile you pave the road to hellWhat kind of father would take his own daughter's rights awayAnd what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gayI can only imagine what the first lady has to sayYou've come a long way from whiskey and cocaineHow do you sleep while the rest of us cryHow do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbyeHow do you walk with your head held highCan you even look me in the eyeLet me tell you about hard workMinimum wage with a baby on the wayLet me tell you about hard workRebuilding your house after the bombs took them awayLet me tell you about hard workBuilding a bed out of a cardboard boxLet me tell you about hard workHard workHard workYou don't know nothing about hard workHard workHard workOhHow do you sleep at nightHow do you walk with your head held highDear Mr. PresidentYou'd never take a walk with meWould youTo hear Pink perform this song, click here.