Newsroom image of kids

Child Watch® Column: "America’s Broken Hearts"

Release Date: February 15, 2013

Marian Wright Edelman

As President Obama closed his State of the Union speech on February 12, after all of his other policy proposals for the nation’s future, he said this: “Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource—our children.”

As he urged the members of Congress in the audience to bring upcoming proposals for common sense gun reform to a vote, he continued: “In the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun. One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house. Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.”

Like the twenty beautiful young faces of Newtown five- and six-year-olds massacred by guns two months ago, Hadiya’s story and beautiful smile have become sadly familiar to many Americans over the last two weeks. As a sixth grader Hadiya had appeared in an anti-gang video to encourage other young people to avoid gang violence, saying, “It’s your job as students to say ‘no’ to gangs and ‘yes’ to a great future.” She could have meant a future like her own: as a high school sophomore, she was an honors student at a college preparatory school—doing everything right, with the world ahead of her. But all that changed because of a gun.

Gun violence has left our nation littered with broken hearts, decade after decade. Since 1968, more than 1.3 million Americans have been killed by guns including children and teens that would fill 7,815 classrooms of 20 children each. On Valentine’s Day, two months to the day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Hadiya’s mother Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton joined the Children’s Defense Fund and One Million Moms for Gun Control to deliver a powerful message to all members of Congress. One Million Moms for Gun Control is a non-partisan grassroots movement of American mothers created after the Sandy Hook tragedy to demand action on common-sense gun legislation. In just two months it has gained tens of thousands of members in nearly 80 chapters across the United States. In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, mothers around the country and their children made more than a thousand homemade valentines for their members of Congress with messages like this: “Have a heart. Moms demand action on common sense gun safety laws. I’m a Mom, and I vote.” On Thursday the valentines were hand-delivered to each member of Congress along with a broken-hearted teddy bear with the message “Protect Children, Not Guns.”

Hadiya’s mother spoke at the event alongside Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA), a Vietnam veteran, gun owner, and the chair of the House of Representatives Gun Violence Prevention Task Force; Representative Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) from Newtown and a vice chair of the task force; Shannon Watts, the founder of One Million Moms for Gun Control; and Patti Hassler, CDF’s Vice President of Communications, whose sister Pamela Jean Hassler Groff was a victim of domestic gun violence in her Pennsylvania home, killed by her estranged husband in front of Patti’s beautiful 11-year-old niece and nine-year-old nephew. They were a reminder of how many millions of American parents, children, sisters, and brothers have been left broken-hearted by gun violence. Whether the violence happens in urban Chicago, suburban Connecticut, or rural Pennsylvania; whether guns kill by homicide, domestic violence, accident, or suicide, the resulting trauma for all of the loved ones left behind is always the same. As Patti said, “We all live with how that gun changed our lives forever…Some wounds never heal.”

This Valentine’s Day, a movement of mothers and others chose to tell their members of Congress that these families are not alone—we are all left broken-hearted by their losses, and millions of Americans are ready to stand with them and demand change. Shannon Watts said, “A child’s heart is her mother’s pulse . . . Today, I am here for every beat lost. And I am here to tell every mother who has felt her core broken because of senseless gun violence—I am here to tell you that there is an army of mothers behind you.”

We all need to join the army fighting to say no more gun violence in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and communities. Our nation’s children and families have suffered enough broken hearts. We are determined that children get a vote on common-sense gun safety measures to protect them from guns. Take action with us. Watch and share our America’s Broken Hearts video widely on social media. Call your members of Congress at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to protect children, not guns and end the epidemic of gun violence and broken hearts all across America which threatens our children’s lives and nation’s soul.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

Sign-up to receive CDF President Marian Wright Edelman's weekly Child Watch Column.

Let us know what you think about this column:

Enter this word: Change

Here's what others have said:

Submitted by Platinum at: April 23, 2013
My heart goes out to everyone that has lost a loved one to gun violence, homicide, domestic violence, accidental, or suicide. I can't say that I know how they feel truly but I can express through the friends that I have lost to the violence, just senseless!!! I really enjoyed reading this article and would love to read more. Thank you for taking the time to read this and best wishes to each and everyone.

Submitted by J.L. at: February 21, 2013
Tighter gun laws is a good idea. What do we do about the guns that are already out there in the hands of dangerous, possibly, insane people? Usually, people that are killing people are not law abiding citizens.

Submitted by Sarah R at: February 20, 2013
An important message for all!

Submitted by kedmond1 at: February 19, 2013
Shared video on my facebook acct. Keep up the fight for safety and stop the chaos of the non-thinking.

Submitted by Linda at: February 19, 2013
GAG, GrandmothersAgainstGunViolence, began when my published letter to The Cape Cod Times received an overwhelming response from other grandmothers enraged and sickened by the Sandy Hook tragedy. We demand that our elected officials vote as our representatives, not representatives of the NRA! An assault weapon ban, universal background checks, limits on number of bullets, gun trafficking as a federal crime and identification and help for the mentally ill are steps we are endorsing to control gun violence. Our elected officials must vote for these solutions as a majority of their constituents agrees with them. Let us all band together and put pressure on those we elected to office to vote for these solutions. Thank you.

Submitted by jjbubbles at: February 18, 2013
I was one who sent teddy bears to my three representatives. Is there any way to know how many bears were sent in total or what kind of reaction they got as they were delivered---especially to those who received multiple bears?

Submitted by sammy at: February 18, 2013
Thank you for trying to protect the children of this country. However, your "common sense" approach to gun control and threat to the second amendment is not the answer. We need only look to a place like Chicago to see that their strict gun control laws do not work. Let's focus on the people who are allowed to get guns and work toward correcting the issuance of guns to people with mental health issues. Our nation can do a better job helping those with mental issues. Let's focus on the resolution of the problem and not make keen-jerk reactionary proposals as "solutions".

Submitted by Jay at: February 18, 2013
This is indeed a serious matter of concern in America. In my self help book Redeem Yourself speaks about a willingness to change and the pitfall(s) that youth are facing, such as education, drugs, economy, mass incarceration, gangs and violence. You can read excerpt on or

Submitted by Carla M at: February 16, 2013
Guns are no better and no worse then the user. However, the user can be evil in the use of guns and when that happens. Many people, good and bad are killed. To put a ban on guns doesn't always work. The evil beings can always find away to get them. What you have to do is, start using the existing laws and make them stick, (HARD) We do have them, all one has to do is use them.

Submitted by Chris at: February 16, 2013
Make it happen! End the violence!

Submitted by Bro. Charles Burgin at: February 16, 2013
As someone whose brother was gunned down in the streets of Buffalo N.Y., while holding a bible, and as someone who has helped facillitate more than 100 prayer vigils and attended more than 100 funerals for mostly young Black males caught up in the senseless violence and fratricide--I know the pain of the mothers and support the efforts for real change. I truly know that one man can make a difference as I served four years at a Charter school as a volunteer mentor before founding Brotherman's Progres Teens At-Risk Kultural Identity Mentor Program which provides group mentoring to empower and uplift our young Black males. I then joined the Buffalo Public Schools District Parent Coordinating Council in which I was elected Chair of their Mentor Committee. I began advocating fervently on behalf of the 75% Black male students who were dropping out or should we say were pushed out to a certain extent due to social, economic and educational disparities. To make a long story short the Superintendent and Buffalo Board of Education appointed me to serve on a new Mentor Committee tasked with developing a comprehensive mentor program to serve Buffalo Public Schools students regardless of race or nationality. Presently, I'm the only one sitting on that Mentor Committee that does not have some sort of College degree or title, but I'm the one who is keeping them honest while continuing to fight for my constituency--the Afrikan American young males who need to know their history and kulture as well as developing a life skills foundation. Lastly, I started a Nonviolence Pro Mentoring of At-Risk Youth Petition seeking 50,000 plus signatures from the "good neighbors" of Western New York to send to Obama and the local powers-that-be, while alternately sending a message to our children living in fear for their lives, that we love them and help is on the way. Stay Blessed. Shanti, Bro. Charles Burgin Founder of Brotherman's Progress Org.

Submitted by marysapricot at: February 15, 2013
The goverment has to get more strict about gun control too many killings of kids.

Submitted by bill at: February 15, 2013
gun control well not stop these things from happening. you just want to take away another of our freedoms. crimenals will still be able to get these guns and we will be unprotected.

Submitted by Pat M at: February 15, 2013
Thank you for the work you are doing at the Children's Defense Fund on behalf of all of us who wish we could be there with you in DC advocating on behalf of our children - our nation's future!

Submitted by redstar2777 at: February 15, 2013
Those who MANUFACTURE AND SELL GUNS, are the ones who must support this. THOSE WHO MAKE BILLIONS FROM THE SALE OF GUNS SHOULD BE POLICING THE WEAPONS THEY DISTRIBUTE for profit. It should NOT BE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CITIZENS WHO DO NOT "NEED" GUNS TO LIVE THEIR LIVES, IT SHOULD BE ON THOSE WHO MAKE THE PROFIT and so far have done NOTHING to protect society from their "business" for money. Since this is an issue about protecting people, mainly CHILDREN, it might also be heard if I say that another industry profiting from the sale of DEADLY products to our children and for use on our children, is the PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY, subsidized by funds from CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES. These two "industries" are working together to both KIDNAP and DRUG CHILDREN from good families who are POOR, AND CANNOT AFFORD TO FIGHT FOR THEIR CHILDREN. There are BILLIONS OF TAX dollars STOLEN by the processes and procedures used for the removal and placement of children, and it is done aggressively and without thought for the well being of the child or the mother. FAMILIES ARE DESTROYED, BILLIONS OF DOLLARS STOLEN, CHILDREN ARE DRUGGED, because they want to go home, so they become unruly or emotional, and are given psychotropic drugs, while EVERYONE in the "business" just looks the other way. So, if The President wants to protect ALL OF THE CHILDREN from harm, assault, molestation, drugging, rape and murder, it is time for CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES to be AUDITED - STARTING AT THE TOP AND GOING DOWN THROUGH THE RANKS TO SEE WHO IS INVOLVED in this process of fraud, conspiracy and legalized child trafficking. BEFORE THEY HAVE TIME to make a hasty exit with billions of dollars, the parties involved with ANY PART OF THIS PROCESS KNOWINGLY or WILLINGLY, must be ordered to STEP DOWN or BE REMOVED, investigated, their assets are frozen, charged with criminal activities and crimes against humanity and prosecuted to the highest extent of the law. There is one more issue that is affecting the safety and well being of our children of poor families, with working mothers, and many times absent fathers due to divorce or separation, or even abuse. THAT ISSUE is the BILLIONS OF DOLLARS THAT IS GIVEN TO THE ASSOCIATIONS that CONTROL and EXPAND the FATHER'S RIGHTS MOVEMENT while MANIPULATING THE OUTCOME IN FAMILY COURT, and REMOVING THE CHILD FROM THE PROTECTIVE PARENT so that the COURT BATTLES CONTINUE AND THE MONEY CONTINUES TO FLOW FOR THE "CAUSE" OF "FATHER'S RIGHTS. There is NO SUCH MECHANISM IN PLACE FOR MOTHERS and they are having their children removed and given to their abuser whether he is an alcoholic, drug dealer, batterer or sex offender. The family court is involved in the removal of children from the PROTECTIVE PARENT, usually the mother, and the children are traumatized, abused, assaulted, molested, raped and even killed, and there is nothing any of us can do about it. We are tired of our children becoming statistics and our right to motherhood, grandmotherhood AND our children's childhoods being STOLEN BY CPS/SS/FAMILY COURT for PROFIT. So, Mr. President, I have supported you through both elections and encouraged my friends and coworkers to do the same. I could see change coming, but, I did not know that it was this bad until it destroyed my family. We have lost everything; most mothers have lost everything, and our children and grandchildren are separated from their mommies and their families and they are suffering. Please have all of the ORDERS BY COURTS THAT HAVE REMOVED CHILDREN from their PROTECTIVE PARENT, ESPECIALLY MOTHERS, REVIEWED AND OVERTURNED, AS WELL AS FORCED ADOPTIONS AND CHILDREN PLACED WITH FOSTER PARENTS OR IN FOSTER CARE. PLEASE, ALLOW MOTHERS TO SPEAK and BE HEARD, AND ALLOW THE OLDER CHILDREN TO CHOOSE, OR AT LEAST HAVE RIGHTS TO SEE THEIR MOTHERS. THIS GOVERNMENT FUNDED KIDNAPPING IS THE WORST TRAVESTY AGAINST HUMANITY IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, AND IT IS A CORE PART OF THE CHILD TRAFFICKING THAT IS HAPPENING AROUND THE WORLD. Thank you for all you do, we are MOTHERS WHO WANT OUR CHILDREN BACK, and we will never give up... The courts know that, so, that is why they take our children...

Submitted by Margo at: February 15, 2013
As a mother and an educator, my heart breaks whenever I hear about the senseless deaths of children and other innocent people due to gun violence. Enough is enough lawmakers need to take a courageous stand and stop the violence.

Submitted by HarKatJean at: February 15, 2013
I think that Marian Wright Edelman's column entitled "America's Broken Hearts" is a beautiful, poignant remembrance of the lost hearts of those dying from gun violence. I am not a gun owner nor do I aspire to be a gun owner. I wish that our country outlawed guns or at least required every person buying a-n-y gun to go through a complete background check. In reality, we may be able to accomplish the second of the two. I do understand some people's desire to own protection and our country's history of the right to self defense. Therefore I do not expect there to be a ban on guns. I am hopeful that we, as a country, can find a way to bring guns under control. It will take a lot of work and determination.

Submitted by Ann M at: February 15, 2013
For all the sweet,sweet children who were murdered in Newtown, and for Hadiya, I will stand strong ,with all mothers,and pledge to protect and speak ,loudly for children not guns. The insanity needs to end NOW.

Submitted by Susie at: February 15, 2013
Marian, I agree with every word you have written and you can count on me to do everything you suggest. Thank you for your steadfast leadership on every possible issue affecting the well-being of children in our country.