Marian Wright Edelman's Child Watch® Columns
Marian Wright Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the President of CDF. Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families.
Her Child Watch column is sent every Friday to subscribers and posted to The Huffington Post weekly.
Child Watch Column Archives
Child Watch® Column: "Preventable Hunger in Our Land of Plenty"
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.
Child Watch® Column: "Ask What You Can Do For Your Country"
“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.
Child Watch® Column: "Will We Act to Save All Our Children and Our Nation’s Future? We Can!"
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.
Child Watch® Column: "We Need Immigration Reform Now!"
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.
Child Watch® Column: "Davion Navar Henry Only"
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.
Child Watch® Column: "It’s Not Rocket Science"
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.
Child Watch® Column: "Getting it Right, Right from the Start"
In 2011, Dr. Jerry Weast retired after serving for twelve years as Superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools, a district just outside Washington, D.C. that was the largest and most diverse school system in Maryland and the 16th largest district in the nation. During Dr. Weast’s time as Superintendent the county underwent a large demographic change, with growing numbers of students of color and students living in poverty.
Child Watch® Column: "Stop the Shutdown, Prevent Economic Meltdown"
Since the government was forced to shut down on October 1st one of the most common refrains has been that some members of Congress are acting like children—or, more accurately, worse than most children. Even five-year-olds understand that quitting the game and taking the ball home because the other team won’t give you your way is wrong. Extremist Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives continue to hold funding for the federal government hostage for the second week in a row, opposing a clean extension of government funding without conditions. Their actions as they refuse to do their constitutionally mandated duty are harming the economy and countless real children and families across the country.
Child Watch® Column: "The Closest Thing We Have to a Panacea"
This week there is some good news from Washington, D.C. in the midst of all the dismal Congressional news on the shutdown. Like many American cities, the nation’s capital faces deep challenges, including some neighborhoods where poverty, violence, and unemployment rates are rampant.
Child Watch® Column: "I Want to Make a Difference"
Doctors told Jaime Gonzalez’s parents that his birth defects were so severe he probably wouldn’t live to age one. When he did, doctors told them next that he’d probably never walk. He did that too—though it is still difficult even after a series of surgeries. “[My parents] both pushed me,” Jaime said. “When I was little and didn’t want to try, my mother said, ‘Don’t say you can’t. You can.’ That became my attitude, and even when it was hard—I’m in pain even now—it’s never been an option for me to quit.”
Child Watch® Column: "Gunshots"
“There’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate…I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots. Let's get rid of this. This is not America.” – Dr. Janis Orlowski, MedStar Hospital, after treating gunshot victims of the Navy Yard massacre
Child Watch® Column: "Celebrating Forty Years for Children"
On September 30th friends and supporters of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) will gather at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to celebrate CDF’s 40th anniversary and honor our best known alum, Hillary Rodham Clinton. She was a law student with CDF’s parent organization, the Washington Research Project, and joined CDF as a young staff attorney right out of law school.
Child Watch® Column: "Mentors Matter"
Mike Ruff had to make up his mind a while back that he was going to step up and become one of the leaders. That’s what he told participants at the recent symposium “Black Male Teens: Moving to Success in the High School Years,” sponsored by the Educational Testing Service and the Children’s Defense Fund. Mike explained how he came to embrace standing out from the crowd by defying low expectations—and how he reached a key turning point when a mentor told him he couldn’t succeed.
Child Watch® Column: "All Children Deserve Teachers Who Care About Them"
As children across the country are returning to their classrooms, Janol Vinson is part of the next generation of educators and administrators who will be shaping our children’s future. He recently received his bachelor’s degree in middle grades education from Northern Kentucky University and is now pursuing a master’s degree in higher education administration at Florida International University.
Child Watch® Column: "Where Do We Go From Here?"
As the nation celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, many are discussing what Dr. King would say to the nation and world today and tell us to do. But his message to us today is as clear as it was fifty years ago if only we could hear, heed, and follow his warnings about what we need to do to make America America.
Child Watch® Column: "We Need a Change"
In mid-July, students at Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® summer enrichment sites across the country participated in a National Day of Action. The Freedom Schools program seeks to empower children to know that they are not just citizens in waiting. We want them to grow up knowing that they can and must make a difference in their homes, schools, communities, nation, and world.
Child Watch® Column: "Invisible Children"
When he was 15 Darryl ran away from home and got arrested and sentenced to two months in juvenile detention centers. When he tried to go back to high school, school officials said without guidance and support he couldn’t come back. They suggested he get a G.E.D. Soon he was arrested again. The turning point for Darryl was getting involved as a community organizer, finding a mentor, and going through leadership training programs.
Child Watch® Column: "Teddy Bears, Toy Guns, and Real Guns"
Imagine your kindergartner is visiting a new friend’s house. During the hour they are running around together they’ll pick up and play with all three of the following things, but only two of them have been tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for safety standards. Which one do you want to be sure has been regulated for safety?
Child Watch® Column: "We Must Do Better: Look at the Facts"
Have we been fighting the wrong wars to keep our children safe? Nearly five times more children and teens were killed by guns in 2010 than U.S. soldiers killed in action that year in Iraq and Afghanistan. America’s military and law enforcement agencies have four million guns. Our citizens have 310 million. And we have no idea how many of those guns were purchased without a background check. The gun lobby has been enriching gun manufacturers at the expense of our children’s safety for far too long.
Child Watch® Column: "Ready for School?"
Is your child ready to start school? For parents and children trying hard to enjoy at least a few weeks more of downtime before beginning back to school shopping and school year routines all over again, the answer is probably a resounding not yet! But even when September arrives, for millions of American children the answer will still be no. Right now, far too many of our youngest children aren’t prepared to start school ready to learn and succeed this year or any year. Although some may consider me a broken record, I’ll keep playing it until we hear, get it, and act. The greatest threat to America’s economic, military, and national security comes from no foreign enemy but from our failure to invest in healthy and educated children regardless of their lottery of birth.
Child Watch® Column: "Justice Denied"
The reaction to the not guilty verdict from George Zimmerman’s jury was swift and strong. Young people poured onto the streets in peaceful protests in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. By 3 a.m. more than 100,000 people signed an online petition urging the Justice Department to pursue civil rights violation charges against George Zimmerman.
Child Watch® Column: "It Just Takes Everything We’re Not Doing Now"
“You don't have to be a Black male educator to teach Black students. You just have to love Black male children and believe that they have unlimited potential and opportunity, and they’re just as smart and capable as anyone else and caring. And it’s hard. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile,” said Michael Tubbs, an extraordinary young leader and teacher who is part of the Children’s Defense Fund youth leadership development movement. “It takes school, church, neighborhood, government, partnerships. It takes relevant curriculum. It takes love. It takes trial and error. It takes being creative. It takes messing up. It takes getting back up. It just takes everything we're not doing now.”
Child Watch® Column: "A Quiet American Epidemic"
Thirteen-year-old Michael Graham, an eighth grader at Henry H. Wells Middle School in Brewster, New York, was popular with his classmates and played football, basketball, and lacrosse. But this year on January 14th, Michael committed suicide using a pistol he had found in his home. Michael’s father had three unregistered handguns in the house: a .40 caliber, a 9mm, and a .44 Magnum.
Child Watch® Column: "We Can Do Better"
Guns killed more preschoolers in one year than they did law-enforcement officers in the line of duty. Ask yourself if this is really what we as Americans meant by putting our children first?
Child Watch® Column: "Stress, Trauma, Loss, Rage"
What if we looked at violence in America as a public health crisis rather than a crime problem? What if we look for promising practices and expanded the ones that work to eliminate the epidemic of violence that keeps our graveyards, jails, and prisons full? That is exactly the approach recommended by a panel of the nation’s leading gun violence researchers in a report released this week by the Institute of Medicine. Convened by the federal government in the wake of the Newtown shooting, the panel provides a national road map for the research that needs to be done to prevent gun violence and improve public safety, especially for our most vulnerable.
Child Watch® Column: "It Didn't Have to Happen"
“I’m learning that milestones are a very difficult thing to get through in this first year . . . Everything has become ‘after Noah’s death,’” said Jodi Sandoval through a stream of tears. Jodi lost her 14-year-old son Noah McGuire to gun violence in Clintonville, Ohio on July 5, 2012.
Child Watch® Column: "Numb - Spiritually Dead - Nation"
Ka’Nard Allen has been shot twice in his 10-year-old life. On May 12 he went with his mother to the annual Mother’s Day second line parade in New Orleans. When two gunmen shot into the line of participants—men, women and children—Ka’Nard’s cheek was struck by a bullet. Eighteen other people were wounded including a 10-year-old girl. Less than a year ago, at Ka’Nard’s 10th birthday party in his front yard, his five-year-old cousin Brianna Allen was fatally shot by an AK-47, and he was shot in the neck.
Child Watch® Column: "How Children Transformed America"
This teenage boy overheard talking to his father by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the hundreds of Birmingham children and youths who fifty years ago this month decided to stand up for freedom. They stood up to fire hoses and police dogs and went to jail by the hundreds and finally broke the back of Jim Crow in that city known as “Bombingham.” On this fiftieth anniversary of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade it is a time to remember, honor, and follow the example of the children who were frontline soldiers and transforming catalysts in America’s greatest moral movement of the twentieth century – the movement for civil rights and equal justice.
Child Watch® Column: "Children Need to Fly Too: End Sequestration"
Anyone despairing that Congress can’t get anything done should note last week’s swift vote to get furloughed air traffic controllers back to work. Congress can move very quickly and efficiently when it wants to and when their own comfort and that of constituents well-off enough to fly was affected. Reduced unemployment benefits, children dropped suddenly from Head Start programs, poor mothers and babies losing food supplements, teacher layoffs, and cancelled meal deliveries for seniors didn’t move them—but airport delays as members headed out of town for their April recess were apparently unacceptable.
Child Watch® Column: "A Child Without Dreams"
Every day four children in America are killed by abuse or neglect. More than 750,000 children are abused or neglected each year. Even when children survive or after physical scars heal, the emotional damage left by child abuse and neglect can last a lifetime just as the post traumatic stress left by gun violence leaves deep scars in countless children.
Child Watch® Column: “We Must Never Give Up!”
The United States Senate’s failure to pass common sense gun safety measures -- the Manchin-Toomey Amendment to expand background checks to keep guns away from underage or dangerous people, and amendments to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines designed only to kill as many human beings as possible -- is a moral failure of great magnitude. Once again the safety of children has been sacrificed by political leaders in service to the gun lobby. As Americans do we value guns more than the lives of children? Do we really want to continue to have political leaders who kowtow to the threats and money and half-truths of the gun lobby and who think their political jobs are more important than the right of children to live and learn and grow up in safety?
Child Watch® Column: “I Promise This Time There Will Be Change”
Last week there was real change in Connecticut. Thanks to determined and strong bipartisan leadership and support, the General Assembly passed one of the nation's strongest state gun violence prevention laws. How did this happen? The families from Sandy Hook were joined by a loud and persistent groundswell of advocates and other citizens from around the state demanding common sense solutions and change. Gun advocates came out in force, not surprising given that Colt, Mossberg, Stag Arms, and many other gun manufacturers are located in the state of Connecticut. Last month, the Colt plant in Hartford closed down for the day so employees could go to the Capitol to rally against gun safety measures. But thoughtful and determined lawmakers kept their eye on child safety and parents, grandparents, faith leaders, and other child advocates refused to give up or be drowned out.
Child Watch® Column: "Right and Wrong Answers on School Safety"
There is no evidence that armed guards or police officers in schools make children safer. An armed guard at Columbine High School in 1999 and a full campus police force at Virginia Tech in 2007 were unable to stop the massacres that occurred at both schools. A 2010 review of existing research found no evidence that the use of police to handle school disorders reduces the occurrence of problem behavior in schools but there is evidence that over-policing leads to a new set of problems.
Child Watch® Column: "What the NRA Doesn’t Want You to Know"
Why is the National Rifle Association so afraid of the truth? There are many misconceptions about guns and gun violence swirling around in Americans’ minds—and in many cases, this misinformation is no accident. For years the NRA has blocked the truth and actively fought against and prevented research in the causes and costs of gun violence because they don’t want Americans to know the truth about guns, how to prevent gun violence, and how to make themselves and their children safer.
Child Watch® Column: "Listen to the Children"
What about the costs we can count? In addition to the trauma that is so deep and pervasive that it is harder to quantify, there are actual costs to gun violence that can be measured and are enormous. Victims and families often find themselves paying a high economic price while struggling with the emotional one, and other taxpayers share the economic burden.
Child Watch® Column: "Missing: Leadership and Core Values"
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, Morehouse College’s president from 1940-1967, said this about the kind of men and leaders he expected Morehouse to produce. As a student at neighboring Spelman College, I heard and saw Dr. Mays often and had the privilege of singing in Morehouse’s Sunday morning chapel choir and hearing this great man’s wisdom. Of the six college presidents in the Atlanta University academic complex Dr. Mays was the one students looked up to most. Who are our Dr. Mayses today – our moral compasses in crucial sectors of American life? What a contrast Dr. Mays’ example is to that of a college president in the headlines recently, Dr. James Wagner of Emory University, who was criticized for praising the 1787 compromise declaring that every slave would be counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of state representation in Congress as an example of “noble achievement” that allowed Northern and Southern White congressmen to “continue working toward the highest aspiration they both shared—the aspiration to form a more perfect union.”
Child Watch® Column: "An All-American Crisis"
When many people think about gun deaths in America, the first stereotype that comes to mind is urban gun homicide—a crisis that disproportionately affects the Black community. As a result, too many people assume that despite recurring cases of often labeled “isolated” or “unpredictable” mass gun violence primarily committed by White male shooters, “ordinary” gun violence is mostly a Black problem that is or should be the Black community’s responsibility alone to solve. This is simply not true, although the Black community must mount a much stronger and more persistent voice against gun violence. The fact is that most Americans killed by guns are White, and most Americans who kill themselves or others with guns are White and our nation’s gun death epidemic is not simply a White or Black crisis but an American crisis.
Child Watch® Column: "Mrs. Rosa Parks - Before and After the Bus"
In reality, Mrs. Parks was not only a seamstress but a respected local activist; was willing to work without a spotlight but was not meek or quiet; and did not spontaneously act out of the blue just because she felt tired. Mrs. Parks was neither complacent nor long suffering, and had been fighting for equality and justice years before December 1955. In fact, like most Black people raised under Southern segregation, Jim Crow, and injustice, Mrs. Parks resented them from the day she was born.
Child Watch® Column: "America’s Broken Hearts"
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.”
Child Watch® Column: "The Courage and Vision of Medgar Evers"
hen Myrlie Evers-Williams gave the invocation at President Obama’s January inauguration, she was in part recognizing the vision and courage of her late great husband, Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers, assassinated by a gun 50 years ago. Medgar was a huge inspiration for me. As a 22 year old first year law student at Yale, I traveled to Mississippi during my first spring break in 1961 to reconnect with my friends from SNCC—the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. After the sit-in movement and SNCC’s founding at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Dr. King and Ella Baker pulled those of us who had sat down at lunch counters together from across the South, I decided on the spur of the moment to apply to law school after volunteering for the Atlanta National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and seeing how many poor Black people could not get or afford legal counsel. Few, if any, White lawyers took civil rights cases at that time.
Child Watch® Column: "Our Turn to Say No More-Right Now"
At the January 30th Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the survivor of a gunshot to the head, gave us our marching orders. The United States stands alone in the world in our tolerance of gun violence but in the wake of the devastating Newtown murders, a powerful outcry of ordinary Americans across the country is saying no more. This time we want our collective heartbreak and outrage to be followed by real change.
Child Watch® Column: "We Cannot Stop Until Children Stop Dying from Gun Violence"
On Saturday, January 26, I and many others will gather on the National Mall for the March on Washington for Gun Control. We are calling on members of Congress and state legislators to pass common sense gun safety laws to stop the epidemic of preventable child and adult gun deaths. Others are marching in Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, San Antonio, Jersey City, and in communities across the country. Grassroots groups are coming together in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Mothers and fathers, grandparents, pastors, gun violence survivors, law enforcement officers, elected officials, child advocates, and everyone who believes that our children’s right to live, learn and grow up safely must be protected before guns, must not stop marching, calling, writing, and visiting and holding our political leaders accountable. We must vote them out if they do not act to end the preventable and immoral loss of child and human lives and honor what most Americans want and our children need.
Child Watch® Column: "How We Can Truly Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."
In his last Sunday sermon at Washington National Cathedral, Dr. King retold the parable of the rich man Dives who ignored the poor and sick man Lazarus who came every day seeking crumbs from Dives’ table. Dives went to hell, Dr. King said, not because he was rich but because he did not realize his wealth was his opportunity to bridge the gulf separating him from his brother and allowed Lazarus to become invisible. He warned this could happen to rich America, “if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.”
Child Watch® Column: "The Massive Human and Moral Cost of Gun Violence"
The United States of America has spent a trillion and a half dollars on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars so far, purportedly to protect our children and citizens from enemies without, while ignoring the reality that the greatest threats to child safety and wellbeing come from enemies within.
Child Watch® Column: "New Year Resolutions"
As New Year’s Eve countdowns wound down, many people turned to the familiar ritual of taking stock of where they are now to make resolutions for what they can do better in the new year. We all measure our accomplishments and shortcomings in different ways. Some people count numbers on a scale or in a savings account. But what if we decided to take stock as a nation by measuring how we treat our children?