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When news broke of the murders at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on August 5th, people of all faiths and backgrounds and the first responders who came to the scene to help were horrified by the ambush on men and women as they prepared for worship services. Leaders across the country quickly denounced the hate crime and the FBI immediately began investigating the attack as a possible case of domestic terrorism. But as easy as it was for all of us to be outraged by another senseless attack and heartbroken by the congregation’s stories, it was difficult to be surprised by how it took place again in a nation unwilling to curb guns designed just to kill lots of people in the hands of lawless people. Would this have happened without a semi-automatic gun and high-capacity clips of bullets?
The 2012 National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths® manual is a resource to assist faith communities in planning a Children's Sabbath celebration in their place of worship. This year's theme "Pursuing Justice for Children and the Poor with Urgency and Persistence” will help guide participants to live up to the sacred charge to nurture and protect children and the poor, to equip members with new understanding about the huge threats facing children and democracy, and to join together as a place of worship and with other places of worship in your community and across our nation to ensure a level playing field for every child.
At the Children's Defense Fund’s recent national conference Barbara Arnwine, the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a leader of Election Protection, the nation's largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, issued an urgent call to action. Right now assaults on voting rights across the country in advance of the 2012 elections are keeping her very busy.
Right before the U.S. House of Representatives left for the summer to go home to campaign for your vote, they voted to extend the Bush era tax cuts for the richest Americans – millionaires and billionaires. For more than ten years the richest one percent have received almost $750 billion from these tax cuts. Income and wealth inequality have grown astronomically threatening the very fabric of our democracy. The top one percent in our nation now possesses more net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined. In 2008, the 400 highest-income taxpayers earned as much as the combined tax revenue of 22 state governments with almost 42 million citizens. It’s way past time to reset our moral and economic compass, demand a more just tax system where those with the most pay their fair share, and stop the reverse Robin Hood policies that take from the poor and young to give to the rich and powerful.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” When we look at the state of our union and the state of America’s children in 2012, his words ring very true. It’s impossible to deny that our nation’s economy, professed values of equal opportunity, future, and soul are all in danger right now.
On July 24th, Dr. Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, gave a video keynote speech to 3,200 community and youth leaders attending the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati—not on the details of national fiscal policy, but on the crucial importance of effective early childhood supports and public education to the success of our economy.
The State of America’s Children® Handbook provides key national information in a range of areas, as well as state tables showing how children in your state are faring and how your state compares to other states in protecting children. A more comprehensive version will be posted on the web as new data becomes available later this year as part our State of America's Children® annual report.
In 1642 the Massachusetts General Court passed one of the very first laws about education in what would become the United States. It ruled that because it was apparent “the good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any Common-wealth,” all parents and guardians were required to make sure children received “so much learning as may enable them perfectly to read the English tongue, & knowledge of the Capital Lawes.” Educating children well enough to read and understand the laws of the community was considered so critical that local selectmen were put in charge of making sure it was done—and they would be able to tell children hadn’t been educated properly if they became “rude, stubborn & unruly.”
“The first fact that we need to understand is that America has a longer history of disenfranchisement than it does of enfranchisement. What do I mean by that? At the time of the American Revolution when America was finding its footing, more than two-thirds of the people who resided in the colonies couldn't vote. You had to be white, you had to be male, you had to have property, and you had to be privileged. This history of America is a history of political exclusion . . . It was because people were trying to control power from the very beginning.”
A Black boy born in 2001 has a one in three chance of going to prison in his lifetime and a Latino boy a one in six chance of the same fate. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world: 7.1 million adult residents-one in 33-are under some form of correctional supervision including prison, jail, probation, or parole. Michelle Alexander writes in her bestselling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness that there are more adult African Americans under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. In 2011, our state and federal prison population exceeded that of all European nations combined. Something's very wrong with this picture.