Obama was taunted for his ‘big ears’ as a child

Updated: Mar 11, 2011, 12:27 PM IST

Washington: US President Barack Obama has confessed that he was taunted as a kid over his ‘big ears’ and his unusual name.

Participating in a White House summit on preventing bullying, Obama said: "Bullying isn’t a problem that makes headlines every day, but every day it touches the lives of people all across the country."

Obama revealed aspects of his difficult childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia.

"As adults, we all remember what it was like to see kids picked on in the hallways or in the schoolyard. I have to say with big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune. I didn’t emerge unscathed," he said.

"If there is one goal of this conference, it is to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up," The Telegraph quoted Obama, as saying.

"It’s not. Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people," he added.

The White House said nearly a third of schoolchildren or 13 million students are bullied each year. It said targeted students are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and have mental health issues.

First Lady Michelle Obama noted several high profile cases that have made media headlines that have seen kids driven to distraction and even suicide after they were severely bullied.

"As parents, it breaks our hearts to think that any child feels afraid every day in the classroom, or on the playground or even online," she said.

"It breaks our hearts to think about any parent losing a child to bullying," Michelle said, at an event which included several families grieving after their offspring had committed suicide following harassment at school.

Thursday’s daylong conference at the White House included sessions and discussions on cyber bullying, campus bullying and pioneering new programmes to combat harassment of schoolchildren.