There was something especially poignant about the presidential inauguration held on the same day as the nation celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was not just moving because it was the inauguration of an African American, but because President Obama chose on this occasion to address some of the civil rights issues that challenge our generation.
Only a few days have passed since the inauguration, but much has been said about the tone and tenor of the speech, lauded by some as visionary and by others as confrontational. What impressed me about the speech was that it was a synopsis of some of the critical issues that confront us. In particular I was encouraged by the line, “Our journey is not complete until all our children…know that they are cared for, cherished, and free from harm.”
The issues are easy to identify; the challenge, of course, is how to address them. I’m afraid that in the current polarized political environment the debate regarding the best approach to these issues may lead to inaction. This, of course, is not acceptable especially when the well-being and safety of our children is concerned. Regardless of any particular disposition on this and other issues, we must encourage our political leaders to find common ground on which to act.
In light of Dr. King’s civil rights legacy, I would suggest that assuring our children are cared for is akin to a civil rights issues. With this reference, I do not mean in any way to minimize the extraordinary struggle that was required to successfully establish civil rights for people of color in our nation. But I do feel it is appropriate to liken the efforts to secure the well-being of all children, especially those who have been traumatized by neglect andindifference, to such a struggle.
Today there are more children living in poverty than at any other time in recent memory. Funding for education has seen draconian cuts at all levels especially by state goverments. Children who have been served within the child welfare system continue to be more likely to fail in school and falter to gain employment as adults. The statistics all point to generations that have been jeopardized and, as a result, their dreams and hopes hindered–their rights denied!
Many have eloquently voiced the dream of a nation where children are cherished and kept from harm. Yet, the education and well-being of our vulnerable youth are often sacrificed because of pressing fiscal concerns and a host of other priorities. What could be more important than the success of our children?
If left unattended, the needs of our most vulnerable children and youth will become a devastating legacy that has the potential to haunt us just as much as the historic deprivation of civil rights has.
Like any change, it will be generated not by policy makers and electedofficials, but by individuals who embrace a dream and labor to see it realized. A hundred years ago, Evelyn Wile, our founder, had a dream and garnered the support of many to establish a mission to make a lasting impact on the lives of children disadvantaged by death, disease, destitution, and divorce. Today we embrace that mission and continue to apply our expertise and resources to realize the dreams of all we serve. As her example led the way to reforms that advanced the good care of orphaned children, we are committed to do the same and advance the provision of quality care for all we serve. In the process, we hope to be the catalyst to assure that children are cared for, cherished, and free from harm!