If we were
to change it to read: "When shall all children's good be
each person's rule...", the world would be healed. I think we've
forgotten the primary rule of all civilizations and all creatures.
A lioness will die protecting her cubs; elephants will move about
the land in search of food and water clustered around their young
who walk at the center of the group, surrounded by caring adults.
beings, besieged by drugs, violence, economic distress, and a
culture ready to dump its values over the side of the lifeboat
for material gain and power, become less than the beasts? Sometimes
I'm afraid that we're getting there.
first is not always the easiest or most comfortable thing to do.
I have been a full-time mother and the full-time president of
the Children's Defense Fund for almost three decades. I know how
hard it is to remember what is important, to keep a proper balance
between work and family, to constantly examine the pages of my
life story by the light in my children's eyes. But I know that
nothing else I can ever do will matter as much. If you're a parent,
you've been here. You know what it's like to juggle a dozen things
and wonder how you can make it through one more day. But you do,
because you must.
But what if
you're not a parent? Shouldn't you care about children too? Something
disturbing has happened to us in the past few decades. People
who have no children of their own have begun to think that children
are none of their business. If that's where you are, you're dead
It is said
in the Native American culture that a grandparent's job is to
pray for the children. Children, I believe, are everyone's responsibility
— a trust that involves working, praying, and living in a way
that puts children first and provides a model for adulthood.
If you are
involved in glorifying violence in the media, you are not putting
children first. If you work or advocate for federal, state, or
local government policy like protecting guns and cigarettes and
marketing them to children, you are not putting children first.
If you are not supporting the life of a child you brought into
the world with time, attention, and money, you are not putting
children first. If you are abusing alcohol or drugs or indulging
in violence in the presence of children who do what you do, not
what you say, you are not putting children first. If you are not
teaching and living a love- and value-based life, you are not
putting children first.
this is a crucial time in the history of the world. It should
never become too trite to say our children are our future. As
we approach the new millennium, we can work to ensure a future
for our earth and our species. We can make each year a "golden
year" by making "all children's good" our own personal rule. We
can put children first in everything we do. We can all work towards
the goals we at the Children's Defense Fund and the Black Community
Crusade for Children have made our passion and our life's work:
to ensure for all children a Healthy
Start, a Head Start, a
Fair Start, a Safe
Start, and a Moral Start
Or we can
end history in a generation.
Let me end
as I began with Tennyson's message of hope: