When McKay Hatch of Pasadena, California, and his friends started middle school at age 12, he was bothered by the increase in bad language. “I think what bothered me most,” says McKay, “was that they were using it every other word. It wasn’t just that they used a cuss word when they stubbed their toe. It was becoming part of their everyday language.”
McKay got up his nerve, spoke to his friends, and basically said that if they wanted to continue hanging out with him, they had to quit using bad language. He wondered if he would lose all his friends, but they stuck with him and cleaned up their language. McKay came up with the idea of starting a club—a No Cussing Club.
The first club meeting was held June 1, 2007, at the end of the school year. “A lot of people came,” says McKay. “I was surprised. We talked about what our goals were going to be and what we could do.” Since that simple beginning, McKay reports having members or branches of the club in all 50 states and in 35 countries. They now have T-shirts, wristbands, and a Web site.
The club wanted to have a cuss-free week in their city. McKay wrote to the city council, who agreed, and last year, March 3–7 was declared Cuss-Free Week. In March 2009, the county of Los Angeles, home to over 10 million people, is also going have a Cuss-Free Week, with McKay receiving the proclamation.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. At first, McKay almost quit because of negative response. Sometimes people would yell bad words at him. Or they would accuse him of trying to take away their freedom of speech. McKay points out that he isn’t making them do anything. He asks them to challenge themselves to improve. “I’m just trying to bring awareness about people’s language.”
McKay is often asked to talk at elementary schools. He tells the younger kids that their words become their thoughts, their thoughts become their actions, their actions become their character, and their character becomes their destiny. “I tell them it all starts with your words.”
Photograph by Brent Hatch