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As millions of Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas and their belief that God entered human history as a poor tiny baby, let us remember all the poor babies and children who struggle to live and realize their God given potential in our own rich land and all around the world today. And commit to act to assure hope and justice for them all.
In the year since six-year-old Ben Wheeler was murdered by a gun in his classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut along with nineteen other first graders and six teachers, more than 30,000 other Americans have been killed by a gun—30,000 more families now drowning in the same grief.
This second decade of the 21st century is a crucial one for the children in America and for the nation’s future. When the Children’s Defense Fund began 40 years ago I never would have dreamed that in 2013 our work would be so unfinished and would be so hard. Although we have come far we are at a precarious moment when so many important gains have been partly eroded by a global recession, long term economic challenges, and the lack of investments in our children.
While many American families gather around the Thanksgiving table this week, some of us combining this year’s traditional dinners with Hanukkah feasts, a too quiet group will be left out of the national celebration. The nearly 49 million Americans—including nearly 16 million children—living in food insecure households will be struggling to afford the food they need. These families won’t be choosing between apple or pumpkin pie this holiday season but will face choices about paying for groceries or rent, heat, electricity, medicine or clothing for their children as they do each month—choices no family should have to make in our nation with the largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the world.
“It should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live.”
These are words from President John F. Kennedy’s “Unspoken Speech” he was on his way to deliver at the Dallas Citizens Council’s annual meeting when he was assassinated in his motorcade on November 22, 1963.
The introduction this week of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) is a hugely important and long overdue step forward towards leveling the playing field for children, especially poor and low income children. Investing in them in their early years to be ready for school will provide a foundation for future success with lifelong benefits for them and economic and social benefits for our entire nation. Its enactment would demonstrate our commitment as a nation to doing what we know works for all of our children as research shows that poor children can perform as well as nonpoor children if we provide them the supports to do so.
The Strong Start for America's Children Act invests in and encourages expansions of high quality home visiting programs, Early Head Start, Head Start, child care, pre-K and quality kindergarten programs to reach poor and low-income children.
Nine-year-old Jaime Gordillo Villa was born in the United States and is a good student who has gotten awards for both good grades and behavior. He wants to be a lawyer when he grows up to help immigrants and others who need help. He says he doesn’t want people to suffer for things they didn’t do.
Davion decided to take his future into his own hands and asked his caseworker if she could help him speak at a church. She made arrangements at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. There, as the article reported, the shy teenager who’s worked hard to get A’s so far this year in everything but geometry and would love to play football if he had someone to drive him to practice, stood at the pulpit and asked the congregation if “someone, anyone” could adopt him.
In the 1960s, when my grandfather was teaching me to drive in his little red Ford Falcon, there was an epidemic of deaths on the highways in the United States, and young people were dying in very large numbers.” That’s how Dr. Mark L. Rosenberg, president and CEO of The Task Force for Global Health, and former Assistant Surgeon General and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, recently began talking about today’s public health crisis for young people.