Healthy Families: Appealing to Our Politicians
I recently watched an interview with the “Dean of Politics,” President Bill Clinton. At the Clinton Global Initiative, he sat across from Charlie Rose and answered a few questions. I agreed with much of what he said. But I lament what he did not say. It is an area that most politicians neglect to talk about.
Arguably the most astute and able politician of our times, President Bill Clinton garners a huge amount of respect from hundreds of millions in this country and around the world. And while he was asked many probing questions in this particular interview, one was especially simple, yet poignant—typical of master interviewer, Charlie Rose. The question: “What would you suggest, thinking about America today, as the narrative, the imperative theme essential for us to go forward as a nation?”
President Clinton stared intently forward for a few seconds and then gave an answer that was thought-provoking and on target, as is usual for him. He responded with two points. He said:
- The recovery of our capacity to provide a society that offers equal opportunity and the possibility of shared prosperity—an expanding middle class with poor people having a reasonable chance of working their way into it.
- And a more vigorous orientation toward the future. That is, making future related investments, like a modern electrical grid, and a national wireless network where the computer download speeds are comparable to South Korea.
For the left side of the political spectrum, this answer is a guiding light for forward progress. For the right, their answer would probably be more aligned with protecting our nation and people. And creating opportunity for the individual by decreasing the burden of government on the average person. These are the common answers all of us are used to hearing. Great answers. Great principles. Great ideas.
But I am calling for a new message that all our politicians should be supporting, just as consistently and as emphatically. So what am I referring to?
Very few politicians talk about how crucial it is that our society has healthy families. Our families have suffered consistent deterioration over the last fifty years. Yet most of our leaders do not talk about the importance of the family. While a few acknowledge this crisis, not nearly enough is being said. Here is an excerpt from a speech of President Obama:
We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled—doubled—since we were children. We know the statistics that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools; and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it. - President Barak Obama
We are all victims when the family breaks down. Crime increases, illiteracy upsurges, more children are born to single parents, and divorce becomes the norm. When children are not properly cared for in the most nascent and impressionable years of their lives, they become teenagers and adults who struggle.
I know that this topic can raise the temperature of some, because it may invoke religious values that a minority of people may not share. That should not deter us from talking about it. We can start with what I think most of us share…I believe most of us can agree that children need to be raised in a healthy, nurturing, and supportive home that provides love and teaching of core values of respect, humility, confidence, integrity, respect of law, love of country, acknowledgment of the Divine, service to our communities, generosity, and honoring of the human spirit.
In the spirit of open dialogue and humility, I appeal to all our politicians today, to help lead us back to great family values—regardless of how unpopular, or polarizing it is to discuss in the public sphere. Great citizens make great nations. And great citizens are made in the home.
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