New Year resolutions: Protect children from violence, poverty



MSR EditorialBy Marian Wright Edelman

Guest Commentator


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? If we did that kind of countdown, we’d learn:

• Every second-and-a-half during the school year a public school student receives an out-of-school suspension.

• Every eight seconds during the school year a public high school student drops out.

• Every 32 seconds a child is born into poverty in America.

• Every 47 seconds a child is abused or neglected.

• Every 72 seconds a baby is born without health insurance.

• Every five-and-a-half hours a child is killed by abuse or neglect.

A majority of all American fourth- and eighth-grade public school students can’t read or do math at grade level including 76 percent or more of Black and Latino students. Millions of American children start school not ready to learn and millions more lack safe, affordable, quality child care and early childhood education.

If we were counting we’d see that millions of poor children are hungry, at risk of hunger, living in worst-case housing, or are homeless in America. And we would find a child or teen is killed by a firearm about every three hours and 15 minutes — over seven every single day.

The devastation at Sandy Hook put the media spotlight on a tragedy that strikes families in communities across America daily as a result of our nation’s shameful refusal to protect children instead of guns. In 2010, 2,694 children and teens died from gun violence.

What do these numbers tell us about who we are and who we hope to be? Why do we choose to let children be the poorest age group in our rich nation and to let millions of children suffer preventable sickness, neglect, abuse, miseducation, and violence? Why do we continue to mock God’s call for justice for children and the poor and our professed ideals of freedom and justice for all? It’s time for new resolutions backed by urgent and persistent action.

In 2013, the United States celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and of the Birmingham movement. Our first African American president will be inaugurated for a second term, in a public ceremony that will take place the same day as our national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our prophet of nonviolence.

How will we honor and carry forth our long struggle towards freedom and equality? Let’s resolve not to make this another year of platitudes and remembering the dream but make this a year of action to end child poverty and violence as Dr. King called for.

Dr. King said: “The Declaration of Independence proclaimed to a world, organized politically and spiritually around the concept of the inequality of man, that the dignity of human personality was inherent in man as a living being. The Emancipation Proclamation was the offspring of the Declaration of Independence… Our pride and progress could be unqualified if the story might end here. But history reveals that America has been a schizophrenic personality where these two documents are concerned.

“On the one hand she has proudly professed the basic principles inherent in both documents. On the other hand she has sadly practiced the antithesis of these principles.”

He concluded: “There is but one way to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation. That is to make its declarations of freedom real; to reach back to the origins of our nation when our message of equality electrified an unfree world, and reaffirm democracy by deeds as bold and daring as the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

” Let’s match the history of this 2013 moment with bold and daring steps to close the gap between what every child needs to grow to productive adulthood, what we know works, and what we do to ensure their healthy development. It must begin with safety from guns. If the child is safe all of us are safe.

Please sign the Children’s Defense Fund’s letter to the president and members of Congress demanding they protect children, not guns.


Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund. For more information, go to www.



One Comment on “New Year resolutions: Protect children from violence, poverty”

  1. Well said! As I am grieving the brutal murder of my 19 year old brother, I spent my morning writing to the assigned detective and my local representatives wanting someone to take ownership for the problem, just wanting someone to realize that loosing a child to gun violence should not be the norm. As I am compiling, statistical data to prepare to send my next wave of letters, I ran across this post. I, sincerely, thank you for being dedicated to protecting our children. Legislation and the judicial system failed to protect my brother; the murderers were charged with making a previous attempt on my brother’s life and were sentenced to 1 year and 1 day. After serving only 11 months in jail,they were released and 2 weeks later they murdered my brother.

    Where I live,the rapidly growing number of black youth that are murdered does not make headlines;our cases are not publicized. Aareyun James was murdered on 11/17/2012 and the 30 second news segment did wrongly stated his name and age…hmm. “It is the little said that speaks volumes”.I especially love the tone of accountability and ownership, for the problem, which you are conveying. One of the largest problems, with my brother’s brutal murder, is that so many people saw it happening and people are choosing not to speak out either out of loyalty or fear. This culture of doing nothing, perpetuate and cultivate violence. We have become such an individualistic society that a group of people could watch a young man being gunned down and still feel that they are immune to murder.I guess that changes when it is their relative or as you well stated, it is not until soothing BIG happens… then everyone is asking “how could this happen?” Well it happen everyday over here in Palm Beach County Florida. And because it is allowed to happen here, in time, it will happen elsewhere.

    On Nov. 17th, it was my brother, my mother’s son and unless WE as a people recognize that this is not an individual problem, there will continue to be families crying my never ending tears.I do believe that we are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Thanks for the post…hopefully it will provoke thought and a sense of accountability in these folks that are counting! It has been 2 months since my brother was murdered and I have cried everyday for the last 60 days. No mother should have to bury their 19 year old child. Unfortunately, I know that my story is not isolated because, as a teenager, I lost several friends to gun violence. So, yes please “PROTECT OUR CHILDREN, not guns!”

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