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Our Alumni

Let’s use words to build up

Dwight Smith ’78, ’79 MBA, who co-founded My Special Word with his wife, Renée Stone Smith ’80, shares insights on communicating with kids.

Headshot of man wearing glasses in a pink checked shirt in front of an red and blue abstract art

Jo McCulty

Sometimes we don’t think about how deeply our words impact others. In this political climate, and with all the challenges of COVID-19 and social isolation, we need to recognize and acknowledge that our words have power. Especially when it comes to talking to our children, we ought to be using positive words.

I choose, at this time, to lift up our society, to lift up our children, by sharing positive words of affirmation. I choose love, kindness, understanding and empathy. When we’re talking to children about what’s going on in the world, let’s try to use words like hope, resilience, family, together. Let’s try to use words that make people feel confident we will overcome these challenges. Our children need to hear these sentiments: “You are special.” “We love you.” “We care for you.” “We celebrate you.”

I’ve always believed that if we can change the words we use, we can change the conversations we have. And if we can change the conversations we have, we can change behaviors. If we change behaviors, we can change the world.

When we go into schools with My Special Word, we ask children these questions: What word describes the person you are, or the person you aspire to be? What is your special word? Why did you pick your word? How are you living out your word? What can we do to help you become that very special person you aspire to be?

What if millions of children around the world were having these conversations with their teachers, their coaches, their pastors, their neighbors? What if they could say these things? Let me tell you who I am. I am kind. I am smart. I am funny. I am beautiful. Doesn’t that start to offset some of the craziness and negativity we — and certainly they — are seeing in society today? That’s why it’s so important.

So how do we create a worldwide movement? We need to meet children where they are. We can’t do school visits in the COVID environment, so now we’re working to reach more kids through the virtual world. We’ve created online exercises and digital resources for them.

With so many negative words being thrown around today, we need to flip the script. We need to acknowledge the power of what we’re saying, to think before we speak, to use our words to bring positive momentum. Let’s begin to have some of these really meaningful conversations, and let’s move those conversations into actions that make our world a better place.

Learn more

Catch up with My Special Word and find resources for kids at

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