"As tough as times are and as hard as families are struggling for children, each and every one of us can do better. It is time to hold ourselves to a higher standard in our homes, in our communities and in our government at all levels. And that is why we are coming together at the Lincoln Memorial on June 1st."
WHO CARES ABOUT AMERICAN CHILDREN?
May 28, 1996
--- Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund
Everyday the news brings another wave of child violence, cut-backs in school funding and social programs, and increases in airwaves, water, and food pollution. With all the problems facing today's children, what does the future hold for the next generation?
In the pause between Mother's Day and Father's Day, the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) has set aside June 1st to focus upon the plight of American children. On "Stand For Children Day" more than 2,500 national, state, and grassroots organizations will gather in Washington D.C. to figure out how to put children first in families, communities, and the nation with actions and not just words. "If you've had enough of political leaders from all parties using children as political props and pawns and talking about family values while not supporting what families need to raise healthy, safe, moral, and educated children, come stand with us," Edelman says.
But the rally is not just focused on politicians and law-makers. "We parents can do better for our children. Grandparents can do better for grandchildren," Edelman says. "Churches, synagogues, and mosques can do better for children. Community organizations can do better...."
But can the single mother working two jobs really do better? If everyone is responsible for this nation's children, how do we decide the best courses of action? Instead of blaming laws and politicians, how can national and grassroots organizations and concerned individuals work with them to build a safer, stronger America for future children? Jonah Edelman, Associate Director of the Stand For Children and son of CDF President Marian Wright Edelman, answered your questions.
A question from Ron Reese of Superior, WI
Dear Jonah, Our church would like to make a difference in the lives of children in our community. Our location places us near dozens and dozens of low-income and often quite troubled families. We are realizing that they belong to us and we belong to them. Are there resources that talk about how to make a difference .... and perhaps tell stories of organizations or churches that have made a difference? Thanks for hearing my question.
Sincerely, Ron Reese
Jonah Edelman responds:
Ron, I am so glad you asked your question. There is much that is unique about our Stand For Children. Not only is it the first-ever mass mobilization for children this country has ever seen, but it is a mass mobilization designed with follow-up in mind. We want June 1 to be a new beginning for children, not just a great day, and to make that happen we are putting in place a process whereby we can provide the practical information that people need to follow through and stand for children every day, whether as a volunteer, as part of a congregation (like yourself), civic organization, school or community group, as an advocate, or as a citizen. This Stand Action Center will be composed of a 1-800# (1-800-663-4032) and our current Web site (www.stand.org), which I encourage you to visit. The Action Center will also be a forum for communication, so you can discuss your needs and concerns and successes with others around the country and so that you can tell us what you are doing and we, in turn, can tell others. It will be a very important resource.
With respect to your specific question, your congregation can start an after-school, weekend or summer program for needy youngsters, sponsor scholarships to camp or to college, launch a food drive, or be one of the many thousands of congregations in this nation that hold Children's Sabbath celebrations each year. Call or e-mail the Stand Action Center for more details about how to do each. We will be ready for you in mid-July. And for more information on the Children's Sabbaths call the Children's Defense Fund at 202-628-8787.
A question from Paul White of Villanova, PA
In previous generations there was more community involvement in the rearing of children, even in the case of discipline. I remember being slapped by an older woman across the street for stealing a neighbor's bike. But adults are afraid of butting into other people's business these days, and children have much less respect for their elders, their teachers, and even their parents. Movies like "Home Alone" teach kids that they are as smart as, or even smarter than adults.
I cannot be in Washington June 1, but this is the issue that concerns me most. What can we do about this, and is it an issue that will be addressed during your march?
Jonah Edelman responds:
Paul, this is an important concern that you bring up. There really isn't the same sense of community now in many places as there was before. This is something we are highlighting: what each and every one of us can do to reach out and improve the quality of children's lives. What neighbors and community members can do is an important part of this. We are distributing action guides on the day to all who attend (the action guide will be on our Web site, too -- http://www.stand.org) which focuses on what all of us can do improve children's lives. Part of that guide is a section on what communities are standing up already. If you would like a copy of the guide, call 1-800-663-4032 or visit our Web site. And stay in touch. We want to know how you are standing for children.
A question from Jenny MacLean of Cougar, Oregon
And what do you think the legacy of the march will be?
Jonah Edelman responds:
Jenny, just because you are in Oregon doesn't mean you can't be there in spirit. Our formal program between 1-3p.m. e.s.t. will be nationally televised (on CSPAN and possibly other channels), and there will be a moment when we ask everyone who is present and who is watching to take a personal pledge to stand for children. In addition, we ask that all supporters of children who cannot attend take our "virtual pledge," which will be on our Web site: www.stand.org. Finally, as I said before, we hope that in addition you will call to get our action guide at 1-800-663-4032.
Carol Jenkins of Coty, WY
The idea of a rally is a little 60s-ish ... why now?
Jonah Edelman responds:
Carol, I have to disagree. I think that this rally is distinctly 90-ish because the challenges we are focusing on are those facing our children today, as we approach the new millenium in this the last national election year of the century. On the other hand, we do hope that - just as the memorable March on Washington did for civil rights in 1963 -- Stand For Children Day will raise awareness in this country about the need for each and every one of us to hold ourselves to a higher standard for children, and for each and every one of us to hold our leaders to a much higher standard for children. We must insist not only that our leaders do no harm to children, but that they make it easier rather than harder for families in these tough times to raise children to be moral, healthy, safe and educated. We are letting our leaders fail us right now because we have not shown them how important it is to us that they support children. After June 1 we hope this will change.
Joe Nevin of Red Lodge, MT
There are more than a handful of responsible men that want custody of their children, but the playing field is not level. In spite of cases such as Orr vs. Orr, the rule of thumb used by the courts is "little children belong with their mommies". (If I were to say Marian Wright Edelman should be at home baking cookies, I'd be labeled a sexist). So it is incumbent on the father to prove not only parity with regard to parental skills, or even clear superiority, but in fact he must show gross unworthiness of the mother.
I, for one, have not lost heart and am doing all I can to be a nurturing influence and positive role model for my sons, but how can you expect single fathers as a group to dig in and do more when the deck is stacked so enormously against them??
Carole Chaney of San Bernardino, California
Now that Hillary Clinton has expressed an interest in possibly adopting a child, I read that the Romanian government has already contacted offered to expedite an adoption of a Romanian orphan.
My question is, "Why is adoption such a complicated procedure in the United States that many people opt for foreign adoptions? Does your organization have a position on adoption?
Garth Gans of Atlanta, GA
The last march in Washington was the Million Man March, and recently the Promise-Keepers, a organization of Christian man met in RFK stadium. Both rallys stressed male responsibility in the family. Did these events create any positive effects in local communities?
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