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Dr. Lein: And I in turn want to welcome you to the presentation "More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City" by William Julius Wilson and to give a special thanks to the Interdisciplinary Group on Poverty and Inequality for putting together this program culminating in this address. I also want to introduce to your notice Professor Sandra Danziger who's been instrumental in the conference and while I get to begin this session, she will bring it to a conclusion and moderate the question and answer period. William Julius Wilson is the Louis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University, one of only 19 university professors, the highest professional distinction for a Harvard faculty member. He is a past President of the American Sociological Association and has received 41 honorary degrees including Honorary Doctorates from Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. A Macarthur Prize Fellow from 1987 to 1992, he's been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Philosophical Society, the Institute of Medicine and the British Academy. In June of 1996 he was selected by Time Magazine as one of America's 25 most influential people. He is a recipient of the 1998 National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor in the United States and was awarded the Talcott Parsons Prize in the social sciences by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003. He has authored a number of publications including the "Declining Significance of Race," winner of the American Sociological Association's Sydney Spivack Award, "The Truly Disadvantaged" which was selected by the editors of the New York Times Book Review as one of the 16 best books of 1987, and received the Washington Monthly Annual Book Award and the Society for the Study of Social Problems C. Wright Mills Award. In addition, and I speak from experience here, he is also a colleague of grace and wisdom. He's worked extensively with teams of researchers exploring the power that a range of interdisciplinary approaches bring to the problems he addresses. He leaves his colleagues and his students strengthened and inspired and it is my pleasure and honor to welcome him to speak to us today. Thank you.
W. Wilson: It's a pleasure to return to this great University and to be introduced by Laura who used to be part of a research team that analyzed data on the responses of families to welfare reform in three cities, Chicago, Boston and San Antonio, and I got to know her then, respect her as an outstanding scholar and I think that University of Michigan was very wise to hire her as Dean of Social Work. Thank you very much Laura. So as I said, it's a pleasure to return to this great University to be the keynote speaker for the Interdisciplinary Group on Poverty and Inequality, it's a conference on Emerging Issues in Poverty and Inequality. My lecture this afternoon could not be more timely because it is based on a new book that will be officially published on Monday by W. W. Norton Press and because Barack Obama is our new President and his candid views, views on race and poverty will be discussed near the end of my talk. Given the theme of this conference, Emerging Issues in Poverty and Inequality, I will present a thought-provoking and original perspective on how to think about race and urban inequality in America that includes a call for a more frank and honest discussion of these important issues. So let me begin. I am an internationally-known Harvard Professor looking considerably younger than my age, I'm 73, yet a number of unforgettable experiences remind me that as a black male in America I am often feared. For example, several times over the years I have stepped into the elevator of my condominium, dressed in casual clothes and could immediately tell from the body language of the other residents in the elevator that I made them feel uncomfortable. What were they thinking, what is, what is this, were they thinking, what is this black man doing in this expensive condominium? Are we in any danger? I once sarcastically said to a nervous elderly couple who hesitated to exit the elevator because we were, we were all getting off on the same floor "not to worry, I'm a Harvard Professor and I've lived in this building for 9 years." I talked with this couple later and they told me how embarrassed they were when I, when I said that and they realized that I lived in the building. When I am dressed casually I'm always a little relieved to step into an empty elevator but I'm not apprehensive if I'm wearing a tie, dressed like I am now. I get angry each time I have an experience like the encounter in the elevator. It would be easy to say that the residents' reaction to me is simply another manifestation of racism, however, when I lived in a middle class Chicago neighborhood that bordered a ghetto neighborhood, in fact the same neighborhood that is the current home of Barack and Michelle Obama, I too would tense up when I walked my dog at night and saw a black man or a group of black male teenagers approaching me on the street. The portrayal of black men in the media and their widely known disproportionate rates of incarceration may have influenced some of the residents in my condominium when they saw me in casual clothes. This situation's especially problematic for low skilled black males when employers assess their suitability for jobs. This is a cultural phenomenon in which people respond to perceptions about black men depicted in the electronic and print media including racist perceptions. But as a sociologist, from years of research and study I am also aware of and understand the structural reasons including the limited availability of economic and social opportunities for the extremely high crime rates of young black men from ghetto neighborhoods. Although we've made considerable progress since the days of Jim Crow segregation, it is clear that we still have a long way to go. Indeed one of the legacies of historic racial subjugation in, in this country is the extremely high crime rate among black males including the violent crime rate and as long as these disturbing rates persist, people of all racial and ethnic groups will often react to black males in public and private spaces in negative ways. These problems will not be addressed however if we are not willing to have an honest and open discussion of race in America including a discussion of why poverty and unequal opportunity so stubbornly persist in the lives of so many African Americans. We depend on the work of social scientists to help us come to grips with and understand these issues, however, as I pointed out in my book, social scientists have yet to find common ground on how to explain the social and economic destinies of African Americans. And more than just race, I hope to further our understanding of the complex and interrelated factors that continue to contribute to racial inequality in the United States. In the process I call for reexamining the way social scientists discuss two important factors associated with racial inequality, social structure and culture. Although the book highlights the experiences of inner city African Americans, it should be emphasized, however, that the complexities of understanding race and racial inequality in America are not limited to research on blacks. Formal and informal aspects of inequality have also victimized Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans. In this book, however, I use the research on inner city African Americans to elaborate my analytic framework because they have been the central focus of the structure versus culture dispute. The book will likely generate controversy in some circles because I dare to take culture seriously as one of the explanatory variables in the study of race and urban poverty, a topic that is typically considered off limits in academic discourse because of a, of a fear that such analysis can be construed as "blaming the victim." Indeed, I developed a framework that integrates structural forces ranging from those that are racial, such as segregation and discrimination, to those that are non-racial, such as changes in the economy and cultural forces, to not only show how the two are inextricably linked but to also explain why structural forces should receive far more attention than cultural factors in accounting for the social outcomes of poor African Americans and in framing public policies to address racial inequality. That said, my book examines two types of cultural forces. One, national views and beliefs on race and two, cultural traits, shared outlooks, modes of behavior, traditions, belief systems, world views, values, skills, preferences, styles of presentation, etiquette and linguistic patterns. Cultural traits that emerge from patterns intra-group interaction in settings created by discrimination and segregation and that reflect collective experiences within those setting, including the micro-level processes of meaning, meaning making and decision making. That is, the way that individuals in particular groups, communities or societies develop an understanding of how the world works and make decisions based on that understanding. The processes of meaning making and decision making are reflected in cultural frames, shared group constructions of reality. Racism has historically been one of the most prominent American cultural frames and has played a major role in determining how whites perceive and act toward blacks. In the United States today there is no question that the more categorical forms of racist ideology, in particular those that assert the bio-genetic inferiority of blacks, no question that the categorical forms of racist ideology have declined significantly, even though they still may be embedded in institutional norms and practices. The vast majority of social scientists agree that as a national cultural frame, racism in its various forms has had harmful effects on African Americans as a group. Indeed, considerable research has been devoted to the effects of racism in American society. However, there is relatively little research and far less awareness of the impact of emerging cultural frames in the inner city on the social and economic outcomes of poor blacks. Note that distinct cultural frames in the inner, in, in the inner city have not only been shaped by race and poverty but in turn often shape responses to poverty including, as we shall soon see, responses that may contribute to a perpetuation of poverty. You see, one of the effects of living in racially segregated neighborhoods is exposure to group-specific cultural traits, orientations, habits and world views as well as the, as well as styles of behavior and particular skills that emerge from patterns of racial exclusion and that may not be conducive to factors that facilitate social mobility in society. For example, the sociologist Elijah Anderson revealed in a recent book the existence of informal rules in the inner city ghetto that govern interactions and shape how people engage one another and make decisions. This decision making is influenced partly by how, how people come to view their world over time, what we call meaning making. It is important to remember that the process of meaning making and decision making involve in situations imposed by poverty and racial segregation situations that place severe constraints on social mobility. Over time these processes lead to the development of informal codes that regulate behavior. Anderson talks about the code of the street, an informal but explicit set of rules developed to govern interpersonal public behavior and regulate violence in Philadelphia's inner city ghetto neighborhoods where crime is high and police protection is low. Anderson argues that the issue of respect is at the root of the code. In a context of limited opportunities of self-actualization and success, some individuals in the community, most notably young black males, devise alternative ways to gain respect and emphasize, that emphasize manly pride, ranging from simply wearing brand name clothing to have the "right look" and talking the right way to developing a predatory attitude toward neighbors. Anderson points how, out, however, that no one residing in, in, in these troubled neighborhoods is unaffected by the code of the street, espesh [phonetic] especially young people who are drawn into this negative culture both on the streets and in the schools as they must frequently adopt street behavior as a form of self-defense. As Anderson puts it "the code of the street is actually a cultural adaptation to a profound lack of faith in the police and the judicial system and others who would champion one's personal security." A related informal but regulated pattern of behavior was described by my former student Sadir Vinkatesh [assumed spelling], a professor at Columbia University, in his study of the underground economy in a ghetto neighborhood in Chicago Southside. Vinkatesh points out that "the underground arena is not simply a place to buy goods and services, it is also a field of social relationships that enable off-the-books trading to occur in an ordered and predictable manner." This trading often results in disagreements or breaches because there are no laws on the books "but the main point is that in institutions ostensibly criminal and often threatening to personal security, there is still a structure in place that shapes how a people make decisions and engage one another." In other words, informal rules actually govern what would appear on the surface to be random, underground activity. These rules stipulate what is expected of those involved in these informal exchanges and where they should meet. So, just as Anderson describes a code of the street, Vinkatesh talks about a code of shady dealings. Like Anderson, in his effort to explain the emergence of the code of the street, Vinkatesh argues that the code of shady dealing is a response to circumstances in inner city ghetto neighborhoods where joblessness is high and opportunities for advancement are severely limited. Furthermore, both Anderson and Vinkatesh clearly argue that these cultural codes ultimately hinder integration into the broader society and are therefore dysfunctional. In other words, they contribute to the perpetuation of poverty. Anderson finds that for some young men the draw of the street is so powerful that they cannot avail themselves of legitimate employment opportunities when they become available. Likewise, Vinkatesh maintains that adherence to the code of shady dealing impedes social mobility "the underground economy enables people to survive but can lead to alienation from the wider world," he states. For example, none of the work experience accrued in the informal economy can be listed on a resume for job searches in the formal labor market and time invested in underground work reduces time devoted to accumulating skills or contacts for legitimate employment. However, many liberal scholars are reluctant to discuss or research the role that culture, culture plays in the negative outcomes found in the inner city. It is possible that they fear being criticized for reinforcing the popular view that the negative social outcomes, poverty, unemployment, drug addiction and crime of many poor people in the inner city are due to the shortcomings of the people themselves. Indeed the Harvard University sociologist Orlando Patterson maintains that there is "a deep-seated dogma, a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960s, the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group's cultural attributes, its distinctive attitudes, values and tendencies and the resulting behavior of its members and a relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low income, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing." Patterson claims that social scientists have shied away from cultural explanations of race and poverty because of the wide-spread belief that such explanations are tantamount to blaming the victim. That is support the conclusion that the poor themselves and not the social environment are responsible for their own poverty and negative social outcomes. He colorfully contends that it is "utterly bogus" to argue as the many academics that cultural explanations necessarily blame the victim for poor social outcomes. Patterson argues that to hold an individual responsible for his behavior is not to rule out any consideration of the environmental factors that may have evoked a question of behavior to begin with. "Many victims of child abuse end up behaving in self-destructive ways," he states, "to point out the link between their behavior and the, the destructive acts is in no way to deny the causal role of their earlier victimization and a need to address it." Patterson also contends that a cultural explanation of human behavior not only examines the immediate relationship between attitudes and behavior but it also looks at the past to investigate the origins and changing nature of these attitudes. I strongly agree with Orlando Patterson that an adequate explanation of cultural attributes must explore the origins and changing nature of these attitudes going back decades, even centuries, but unfortunately such analyses are complex and difficult. For example, it took years of research by my former student Kathryn Neckerman of Columbia University to provide the historic backdrop to explain why so many black youngsters and their parents lose faith in the public schools. She shows in her brilliant book "Schools Betrayed" that a century ago when African American children in most northern cities attended schools alongside white children the problems commonly associated with inner city schools were not nearly as pervasive as they are today. Neckerman carefully documents how and why these schools came to serve black children so much more poorly than their white counterparts. Focusing on Chicago public schools between 1900 and 1960 she compares the circumstances of blacks and white immigrants, groups that had similarly little wealth and status yet received vastly different benefits from their education. Their divergent, divergent educational outcomes, she contends, were the result of systematic decisions made by Chicago officials to segregate schools and deny equal resources to African American students in an effort to deal with the increasing black migration to the city. These decisions reinforce inequality in the schools over time. Ultimately, she points out, these actions eroded the schools legitimacy in the lower class black community and dampened aspirations for education. "The roots of classroom alienation, antagonism and disorder can be found in school policy decisions made long before the problems of inner city schools attracted public attention," states Neckerman. "These policies struck at the foundation of authority and engagement making it much more difficult for inner city teachers to gain student cooperation and learning. The district history of segregation and inequality undermined the schools' legitimacy in the eyes of its black students as a result inner city teachers struggle to gain cooperation from children and parents who had little reason to trust the schools." We need, we need more studies like this to fully understand the current cultural dynamics in inner city neighborhoods. The use of a cultural argument however, is not without peril. Anyone who wishes to understand American society must be aware that explanations focusing on the cultural traits of inner city residents are likely to draw far more attention from policymakers and a general public than structural explanations will. It is an unavoidable fact that Americans tend to de-emphasize the structural origins and social significance of poverty and welfare. In other words, the popular view is that people are poor or on welfare because of their own personal shortcomings. A 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that "fully two-thirds of all Americans believe personal factors rather than racial discrimination explain why many African Americans have difficulty getting ahead in life. Just 19% blamed discrimination. Nearly three-fourths of U.S. whites, a majority of Hispanics and even a slight majority of blacks believe that blacks who have not gotten ahead in life are mainly responsible for their own situation. If the views of blacks on this issue is surprising, consider my former student Alfred Young's study. Young is now a professor here at the University of Michigan. He found in his impressive study of how inner city black men perceive opportunity and mobility in the United States, he found that although some men associated mobility with the economic opportunity structure, including race and class based discrimination, all of these inner city men shared the view that individuals are largely accountable for their failure to advance in society. The strength of American cultural sentiment that individuals are primary, primarily responsible for poverty presents a dilemma for anyone like myself who seeks the most comprehensive explanation of outcomes for poor, black Americans. Why? Simply because culture arguments that focus on individual traits and behavior invariably draw more attention than do structural explanations in the United States. Accordingly, I feel that a social scientist has an obligation to try to make sure that the explanatory power of his or her structural argument is not lost to the reader and to provide a context for understanding cultural responses to chronic economic and racial subordination. Consider, for example, the complex causal flow between structure and culture. In an impressive study that analyses data from a national longitudinal survey with methods designed to measure inter-generational economic mobility, Patrick Sharkey [assumed spelling] of NYU, also one of my former students, found, I don't mind saying it, I'm proud of my former students so you have, you just have, you just have to put up with it, okay? Sharkey, [inaudible] Sharkey found "that, that" more than 70% of black students who are raised in the poorest quarter of American neighborhoods, the bottom 25% in terms of average neighborhood income will continue to live in the poorest quarter of neighborhoods as adults. That's incredible. He also found that since the 1970s a majority of black families have resided in the poorest quarter of neighborhoods in consecutive generations compared to only 7% of white families. Thus, he concludes that the disadvantages of living in poor black neighborhoods like the advantages of living in affluent white neighborhoods are, in large measure, inherited. We should also consider another path-breaking study that Sharkey co-authored with senior investigator Robert Samson [assumed spelling] of Harvard and another colleague, Steven Roddenbush [assumed spelling] that examined the durable effects of concentrated poverty on black children's verbal ability. They studied a representative sample of 750 African American children ages 6 to 12 who were growing up in the city of Chicago in 1995 and followed them anywhere they moved in the United States for up to 7 years. The children were given a reading examination, a vocabulary test at 3 different periods. Their study shows "that residing in a severely disadvantaged neighborhood cumulatively impedes the development of academically relevant verbal ability in children" so much so that the effects linger on even if these, even if these children leave these neighborhoods. The results revealed one, that a neighborhood is an important developmental context for trajectories of verbal cognitive ability, two, that young African American children who had earlier lived in a severely disadvantaged neighborhood had fallen behind their counterparts or peers who had not resided pre, previously in disadvantaged areas by up to 6%, by, by up to 6 IQ points, a magnitude estimated to be equivalent to missing a year or more of schooling and, three, "that the youngest effects appear several years after children live in areas of concentrated disadvantage" and this research raises important questions about ways in which neighborhoods may alter growth and verbal ability, producing effects that linger on even if a child leaves a severely disadvantaged neighborhood." The studies by Sharkey and Samson and his colleagues both suggest that neighborhood effects are not solely structural. Among the effects of living in segregative neighborhoods over extended periods is repeated exposure to cultural traits and this would include linguistic patterns, the focus of Samson et al study that emanate from or other products of racial exclusion, traits such as verbal skills that may impede successful maneuvering in the larger society. As Sharkey points out and I quote, "when we consider that the vast majority of black families living in America's poorest neighborhoods come from families that have lived in similar environments for generations, continuity of the neighborhood environment, in addition to continuity of individual economic status, may be especially relevant to the study of cultural patterns among disadvantaged populations." Unfortunately, very little research attention has been given to these cumulative, cultural experiences and it is sometimes difficult to separate cumulative cultural experiences from cumulative psychological experiences. Take, for example, repeated experiences of discrimination and disrespect that a lot of blacks share in common. If these experiences are systematic over an extended time period they can generate common psychological states that some may interpret as norms because they seem to regulate patterns of behavior. Resignation as a response to repeated experiences with discrimination and disrespect is one good example. Parents in segregated communities who've had such experiences may transmit to children through the process of socialization a set of beliefs about what to expect to life and how one should respond to life circumstances. In other words, children may be taught norms of resignation, they observe the behavior of adults and learn "the appropriate" action or response in different situations independently of their own direct experiences. In the process children may acquire an inclination to interpret the way the world works that reflects a strong sense that other members of society disrespect them because they are black. Thus in addition to structural in, influences exposure to different cultural influences in a neighborhood environment over time has to be taken into account if one is to really appreciate and explain the divergent social outcomes of human groups. But to repeat, in delivering this message, we must make sure that the powerful influence of structural factors do not recede into the background. Indeed, a fundamental question remains, what is the relative importance of these two dimensions in accounting for the formation and persistence of the inner city ghetto, the plight of black males and the breakdown of the black family, three subjects that I focus on in my book. Culture matters, I would have to say, it does not matter nearly as much as social structure. From a historical perspective, it is hard to overstate the importance of racially structural factors that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought so hard against. Aside from the enduring effects of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, public school segregation, legalized discrimination, residential segregation, the FHA's red-lining of black neighborhoods in the 1940s and 1950s, the construction of black housing in projects and poor black neighborhoods, employer discrimination and other racial acts and processes. There is the impact of political, economic and policy decisions that were at least partly influenced by race. In contrasting the combined impact of the structural factors with cultural factors it would be very hard to argue that the cultural factors in the black community are equally as important in determining life chances or creating racial group outcomes. For example, if one attempts to explain rapid changes in social and economic outcomes in the inner city, there is little evidence that cultural forces have the power of changes in the economy. We only need to consider the impact of the economic boom on the reduction of concentrated poverty in the 1990s to illustrate this point. And I shudder to think what the figures are going to reveal about the impact of the current economic crisis on the inner city. Nonetheless, my book also argues that culture is not simply a product of structure with no independent or autonomous power, although cultural forces are often generated, fostered in and empowered by structures. In some cases structures are created or reinforced by cultural forces. For example, on the local level, a weakening of the informal job information network that Sandra Smith talks about in the inner city ghetto, has been partly a function of an inclination to distrust in the inner city which is a cultural trait that inhibits cooperative relationships needed in the job-making process. Incidentally, Sandra Smith was also one of my students and they're trying to recruit her here to the University of Michigan. She's not at Berkeley. And on the national level, Bruce Western [assumed spelling] so clearly shows, as his research so clearly shows, the changes in the criminal justice system that have led to the mass imprisonment of African American males in recent decades were by-products of the cultural framing of crime punishment driven by conservative political ideology. Furthermore, as Eric Olinwright [assumed spelling] has reminded me, one person's social structure maybe another person's culture. Take for example, employers' negative attitudes toward black men as workers. A representative sample of Chicago area employers by research team in the late 1980's revealed, clearly reveals employer bias against black males. A substantial majority of employers considered inner city black males to be uneducated, uncooperative, unstable or dishonest. As the employers see it, they are expressing, not only dominant cultural views about most skilled black men that are shared by many members of the larger society but also the shared views of employers regarding their interaction with poor African American workers. As some of the young black men seeking employment see it, this culturally-shaped practice of employers is a "structure," a pattern of exclusion that is systematically enforced through repeated rejections of their job applications. However, not only do employers share common cultural beliefs or perceptions about black males but they also have a power to affect the lives of these black men when they act on those beliefs. Employers make hiring, hiring decisions which is an exercise of power and their decisions are based on their control over economic resources. Policymakers who are dedicated to combatting the problems of race and poverty and who recognize the importance of structural inequities face two challenges. First is a problem of institutional entrenchment which always reduces the chances of reform, for example, as sociologist Dierdre Bloome has said, "we cannot expect equity in public school funding much less the disproportionate allocation of resources to the most needy without changing long accepted mechanisms for allocating resources and staffing which had become "normal" and gained constituencies willing to fight to maintain their current privileges." And overcoming institutional entrenchment should be one of our primary objectives if we're committed to combating inequality. But the second challenge facing policymakers committed to reform is how to generate political support from Americans who tend to place far more emphasis on cultural factors and individual behavior than on structural impediments in explaining social and economic outcomes. After all, beliefs that attribute joblessness and poverty to individual shortcomings do not engender strong support for social programs to end inequality. Nonetheless, in addressing the problem of structural inequities, it would not be wise to leave the impression in public discussions that cultural problems do not matter, indeed, proposals to address racial inequality should reflect awareness of the inextricable, inextricable link between aspects of structure and culture. The ongoing social science debate over the role of social structure versus culture in shaping the social outcome of African Americans has apparently done little to educate Americans on the importance of, of a relationship between structural inequities and culture. Ideological inclinations often predict the position one takes whereas liberals tend to focus on structural conditions especially racially structural factors such as segregation and discrimination, conservatives tend to emphasize cultural factors such as individual attitudes and behavior. Now over the years, I have reflected on this debate. However it wasn't till I attended a panel discussion at the University of Chicago in 1995 on Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray's controversial book "The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class in American Life" that I saw the most compelling reason for combining cultural arguments with structural arguments. When I left that debate, I mean that panel discussion, I was thinking that integration of the two could be used to construct a truly comprehensive explanation of the social and economic outcomes of poor people of color and provide more compelling arguments for those policymakers truly committed to eradicating racial inequality in our society where a majority of citizens believe that personal not structural factors account for differences in social and economic achievements. In their book "The Bell Curve" Herrnstein and Murray found differences in the test scores of blacks and whites even after they included environmental factors such as family education, father's occupation and household income in their analyses. I use this difference in test scores to support the argument that the social and economic outcomes of blacks and whites differ at least in part, because of genetic endowment, a position that suggests that African Americans are innately inferior. Now to my mind none of the panelists gathered that day at the University of Chicago provided a satisfactory rebuttal and I left depressed. I mean, I made some comments but I wanted the panel to, you know, to, to comment. I left the discussion thinking that Herrnstein and Murray's arguments for the importance of group differences and cognitive ability was based on an, an incredibly weak measure of the social environment. In other words simply taking into account or controlling for differences in family education, father's occupation and household income hardly captures differences in cumulative environmental experiences. Herrnstein and Murray did not provide measures of the cumulative and often durable effects of race including the effects of prolonged residence in racially segregated neighborhoods. I discussed earlier, two recent ground-breaking longitudinal studies that revealed that these cumulative effects are both structural and cultural. Unfortunately, such studies were not available at the time of the contentious debate over "The Bell Curve." Paradoxically, although liberal social scientists rejected the book's inferiority thesis, they were in effect playing into the hands of Herrnstein and Murray by not conducting research that would illuminate all the dimensions of the social environment. By ignoring the impact of culture and how it impacts, and how it interacts with structural factors, they were not able to capture all the important of the social environment. If culture is a sharing of outlooks and modes of behavior that are sustained through social interaction within a community and often transmitted from generation to generation, then patterns of behavior in racially segregated inner city neighborhoods often represent particular cultural traits that emanate from or are the products of racial exclusion. Obviously, as we have shown, some of these traits may impede successful maneuvering in the larger society. Accordingly to fully explain or understand the divergent social and economic outcomes of racial groups, cultural influences in the environment have to be taken into account. For all of these reasons it is extremely important to discuss how the issues of race and poverty are framed in public policy discussions. How we situate social issues in the larger context of society says a lot about our commitment to change. A useful example of how this works comes to me from Robert Esson [assumed spelling], a professor in the Department of Communications Arts at the University of Wisconsin. He has reminded me that the political framing of poverty, that is a way in which political formulate arguments about how we as a nation should talk about and address issues of poverty, in a New Deal Era was quite different from the political framing of poverty today. During the New Deal Era the emphasis was on structure, namely that devastating impact of the economic crisis. America's clearly recognized that hundreds of thousands of citizens were poor or unemployed mainly because of a severe and prolonged job shortage. In the public arena today, poverty tends to be discussed in reference to individual initiative. This distinction, he points out, reveals how larger shifts in society have influenced our understanding of the nature of poverty. Indeed, it's reasonable to assume that the current economic crisis would lead to a gradual shift away from explanations that highlight personal shortcomings to one that stress the adverse effects of a declining economy, especially with Barack Obama as President to serve the bully pulpit, to communicate this message. These deliberate, deliberative frames not only orient our debates on public policy but they can also be shifted through debates. So, just because cultural explanations resonate with policymakers and the public today, does not mean that structural explanations cannot resonate with them tomorrow. To shift political frames however, and hopefully provide a more balanced discussion, requires parallel efforts among politicians, engaged citizens and scholars. Now in my previous writings I called for the framing of issues designed to appeal to broad segments of the population. Key to this framing, I argued, would be an emphasis on policies that would directly benefit all groups, not just people of color. My thinking was that given American views about poverty and race, a color bling agenda would be the most realistic way to generate the broad political support that would be necessary to enact the required legislation. I no longer hold to this view. The question is not whether the policy should be race, thank you. The question is not whether the policy should be race-neutral or universal. The question is whether the policy is framed to facilitate a frank discussion of the problems that ought to be addressed and to generate broad political support to alleviate them. So now my position has changed. In framing public policy we should not shy away from an explicit discussion of the specific issues of race and poverty. On the contrary, we should highlight them in our attempt to convince the nation that these problems should be seriously confronted and that there is an urgent need to address them. The issues of race and poverty should be framed in such a way that not only a sense of fairness and justice to combat inequality is generated but also people are made aware that out country would be better off if these problems were seriously addressed and eradicated. In considering this change of frame, indeed a change of mindset on race and poverty, I am drawn to the then Senator Barack Obama's speech on race, given March 18, 2008. In taking on the tough topic of race in America, Obama spoke to the issue of structure and culture as well as their interaction. He drew America's attention to the many disparities that exist between "the African American community and the larger community today," disparities that "can be traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow." He also discussed a lack of economic opportunity among black men and how "the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family contributed to the erosion of black families." Obama called on whites to acknowledge that "the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African American community does not just exist in the minds of black people, that the legacy of discrimination and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past, are real and must be addressed not just with words but with deeds, by investing in our schools and our communities, by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system, by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams, that investing in the health, welfare and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper." However, Obama did not restrict his speech to addressing structural inequities. He also focused on problematic cultural and behavioral responses to these inequities, including a cycle of violence among black men and I quote "legacy of defeat that has been passed to future generations," and he urged those in the African American community to take full responsibility for their lives by demanding more from their fathers and spending more time with their children "reading to them and teaching them that while they may speak, while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism. They must always believe that they can write their own destiny." By combining a powerful discussion of structural inequities with an emphasis on personal responsibility, Barack Obama did not isolate the latter from the former as Bill Cosby did or as so often the case in the remarks of talk show hosts, journalists and conservative politicians and commentators. Obama's speech gave an honest appraisal of structural racial inequality as he called for all Americans to support blacks in their struggle to help themselves. Struggle to help themselves, to repeat. I feel that this speech could serve as a model for the kind of careful political framing of the issues of race and poverty that we need in this country to move forward. With the election of Barack Obama I am hopeful that this will be achieved. Thank you.
[ Applause ]
Good afternoon, and welcome. It's great to see everybody here on a rainy afternoon, but we're happy to welcome you here to what I'm sure will be a very interesting talk and reception to follow. I'm Susan Collins, a Joan and Sanford Weill dean here at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. And it's a great personal pleasure for me to be able to introduce our speaker today, Kristin Seefeldt. Kristin is a research investigator here at the Ford School, and she's also assistant director for the National Poverty Center. She teaches a very, very highly regarded course on social welfare policy, and she's mentored a great many of our students who just simply sing her praises. We're very pleased to note that Kristin's also an alum of the Ford School, and so she has many close ties to a lot of us here in the community in different ways. She earned her Master's in Public Policy here in 1966, and we're very proud of --
1996. Did I just say '66 [laughter]?
Wasn't born [laughter].
Kristin would welcome some questions. And so why don't we take perhaps a half an hour or so, and I'll let Kristin [inaudible].
As somebody who has to leave a couple minutes early to pick up my son from day care, I have a question about child care arrangements and all of this. I understand these are more women. But to what extent did formal child care, whether paid child care, [inaudible] child care, or a relative child care through the grandmother in the area, the aunt and uncle in the area, even the neighbor in the area, to what extent did that play a role in these women's lives in helping to manage the [inaudible].
So in all the conversations we had with these women, it really didn't come up much at all, say for maybe from one or two women who had very small children. Again, for the most part, these were women whose kids were between the ages of 10 and 16, so formal child care really wasn't something that they needed. I can say, though, in a study that I'm currently working on with Helen Levy who also just left the room to get her child, we have women who have much younger children, and discussions about child care don't really come up much. And that's something that I think we're going to have to try to probe at, or my own sense is that there's probably a lot more unsupervised care than people want to admit to and a lot more of unstable familial arrangements. We do know that, at least in Michigan, the -- women who receive subsidies for child care, the primary method of provider is a relative or friend, not a formal day care arrangement. Jenene [phonetic].
I think I really like the input or the focus on the shorter work week. And I guess, in terms of trying to do that with my own organization, we seem to be bumping up against the issue of people then not being able to -- needing to work less time but not able to make do with less pay. So what are you seeing or what are your thoughts about the relationship between time at work and income, and are there some things we need to think about definitely in terms of what basis are we actually paying people? Is the product output outcome versus time in, time on task?
Yeah. I mean, I think that is certainly one -- one way to go, like looking at output rather than just the amount of time you spend in a particular place. I mean, another route to go is to think about do we need to do more through the tax system higher up, you know, the income distribution if, indeed, we want to try to be able to facilitate a better work-family balance and do that through, you know, shorter work weeks. I know there's some models, several which are in the Netherlands, which had -- you know, tried to do more with coming up with formulas that prorate wages but in a way that it's not the -- the loss isn't so great, and that's something that I'm trying to learn more about myself. Yes.
I'm not entirely sure how to ask this question, but I have a question. One of the problems you clearly indicated is that being a single mother makes managing family and work very difficult. One of my perceptions that may or may not be correct is that, when you're on welfare, that's a requirement that you be single; but as you go off welfare, that's not a requirement, obviously. And so I'm wondering if there's -- as you look at sort of what some of your people were thinking and doing over this ten-year period, is there any indication that either going off welfare encouraged two-adult families to sort of reconvene or rejoin. Or is there any indication that some of the single women realize that, if there were two adults in the household, life would be a little bit easier; and so that was maybe one of their goals or objectives.
Well, certainly many women realized that, if there were two adults in the household, life would be a lot easier. To the extent that the welfare system itself, you know, was a disincentive to form those partnerships, really, I would say not. And I think the research evidence of welfare as a -- as a disincentive to marriage just really isn't there. And there's been a number of studies that were launched after welfare reform to really explore more closely what it is that goes on in these very types of families where there is a single mom, what happens to that relationship, and look that more through the relationship lens rather than through the welfare lens. A few women -- a number of women in the WES did get married over time. In a companion qualitative study to this one, a colleague and I also conducted in-depth interviews with about 35 women who did get married to talk about, like, exactly what you're talking about, what were some of the reasons. And one women out of the 35 knew that if she got married that probably she wouldn't get Medicaid. She had some idea that there was some benefits that she would lose. But all of the other women, their reasons for getter married had to do with, you know, I finally met someone who seemed like he'd be a good companion. He gets along with my kids. You know, we have similar goals, you know, the types of things we might think that are -- you know, that are good reasons to partner up and not really the welfare system. Yes.
So there's been some national rumblings, I guess, on the urban policy side with Bruce Katz coming out of the Brookings Institute sort of looking at these metro nations, revitalizing urban centers, especially Midwest. I know he's done a lot of work in Ohio. That brings to mind, you know, change in different policies, transportation policy and looking at labor policy or labor and gender policy, allowing for more flexible time with work. Do you see this happening, or are you -- are any labor policy restrictors thinking along those lines or doing any work along that?
Well, I think -- I've seen just, you know, slow movement, you know, inch at a time. Ten years ago at organizations that did a lot of policy advocacy work around issues affecting low-income families, you would never read about or hear these types of issues you're talking about, like, flex time or more working at home or some of these other. It was all about, you know, how do we -- you know, how do we best get women into jobs, how do we support them but not much about, you know, addressing care giving responsibilities. These days -- and I can speak of one particular organization, the Center For Law and Social Policy which has long been an advocate for low-income families, this is one of their key issues that they focus on is work-family balance. So I do think it's moving along, probably not what the speed some of us would like to see it. But sometimes these things happen that way. Fred.
I had a -- I have a question about how people are accounting for care in the sense of you mentioned that -- I think you mentioned that in some cases it seems that people with younger kids didn't seem to talk as much about caring arrangements as some of the people as the older kids or something like that.
Well, most of the women in the study had older kids. So, yeah. It wasn't a point of discussion really at all.
Okay. Because I was wondering whether or not there was a difference in terms of having older versus younger kids or a mix of kids or even the timing and your life course when you start having kids that might have something to do with the way you account for setting up caring arrangements. So I was wondering whether or not there were different accounts that were offered about the way they're setting up these caring arrangements.
I mean, I don't have a whole lot of cases, obviously. But 26 to 46 was the age range of women, and the difference in women's ages was not something that jumped out to me at all. You know, possibly the reason for the similarities about how they talked about care giving arrangements was that the ages of their kids were very similar, and that could definitely be true. What I was really struck by when I started this question -- started this project, my research question really was, well, you know, how are women thinking about employment advancement. You know, that was sort of the central issue. I didn't really ask a whole lot initially about this whole, you know, work-family balance issue. That came up in like the first three interviews that I did, and I realized, you know, this might be something to explore further and then started probing a lot more on that. So that was something people offered up to me and not something I necessarily was, you know, really interrogating them about. Yes.
I'm curious about their attitudes, particularly the ones that were on welfare before the reform and then afterwards what their thought was on -- I guess their attitudes towards work and their attitudes towards welfare before and after.
It's interesting. There were a couple of women who really did attribute welfare reform as, you know, that was really the reason they -- one, Jackie even said she had got off her butt and went to work. For a couple of women, it made them report work they were already doing and maybe work a little bit more than they were already doing. But welfare as a general, you know, topic, also not something I asked about directly and sort of asked about it indirectly. What could government do more of to help support your family? But it just -- it wasn't on people's minds. Welfare reform wasn't on people's minds. The current welfare system wasn't. You know, a few of them were still getting food stamps. Some were getting Medicaid for their kids. But they didn't really sort of see themselves as attached to the welfare system anymore. They were workers. Eric.
One of your suggestions is that you think that EITC [inaudible] is a one-time lump sum payment. Do you think that it should continue to be paid like that, or should we look at other ways to possibly do it, like on a quarterly basis? Or instead of having, you know, $4,800 in March, they'll have $2,000 in March, 2000 in June, something like that?
So the EITC -- and, Sheldon, you can correct me if I'm wrong -- people can opt to have it paid out over the course of a year or over quarters, one or both. Most people don't do that. So that option already exists. You know, there's some argument that if the EITC in whole was larger people might have more of an incentive to take it throughout the year. But I think it -- my impression, again -- and this is from a new study I'm doing -- is that people like the lump sum. You know, it's something to look forward to. And also, you know, certainly now when people in the low-wage job sector are bouncing around from job to job so much and experiencing some, you know, not so insignificant spells of unemployment in between, maybe it wouldn't make sense to have it paid out over the 12 months and just take it as a lump sum at the end. Susan.
I would be interested in knowing whether any of the interviews that you conducted with the women raised issues around some of the other kinds of institutional supports available for their children. So, for example, a number of the women that you referred to were talking about they need to make sure they were there to support their kids [inaudible] and to make sure that they were actively engaged in positive ways after school. Did it come up whether there were concerns about availability or help within the schools or after school or other kinds of organizations? And was that something that was raised on the interviews in specific?
Could you talk a bit more about how they're thinking about higher education but it was something a lot of them were thinking about for the future, mainly because I don't need to know the literature very well, but my understanding is different types of views of higher education that lead to vastly different outcomes. So actually getting a degree is, you know, worth a lot more than going or, you know, associate's and bachelor's degree. So what type of education are they thinking about?
Well, if the goal of Work First slogan was jobs, better jobs, career, do you think it failed in the sense that career was either not chosen or not obtained?
So I'll answer that two ways. Yes, it failed. But I'm not actually sure that that mantra was an actual goal of the programs as it was a slogan to make people who actually show up to the program feel better about it. You know, a lot of that caseload decline that you see is because people went to work first and got a job. A lot of it was people were told they had to show up at this program and were, like, I can -- I can get a job on my own. I know how to do the stuff that they're going to do, teach me in there. So I will just go off myself. And for some women, just, you know, the ones who have the mental health problems, the ones who have multiple challenges, they are an increased likelihood to just dropped off altogether and not found jobs at all, and there's nothing in the safety net there to pick them back up. Yes.
Speaking of that, did you run into anybody who had been homeless or was homeless at the time?
Not with the in-depth interviews. But, again, I purposefully selected women who had more stable employment histories, so they were likely not to have experienced homelessness. Certainly homelessness and evictions happened to women in our study more broadly. And it could also be that other women were homeless but had just moved in with a family member or a friend for a short period of time. A lot of -- they were only now understanding how difficult it can be in surveys to pick up a lot of these changes and situations that can happen pretty rapidly and be very dynamic and, you know, might be homelessness, but women themselves might not consider themselves homeless. Yeah.
I'm just wondering about also off-the-books support that women do. So is it -- did any of them talk about whether they were taking up off-the-books types of housekeeping or other types of work because it might be that some of the informal work might help to account for their willingness to forego better jobs because they can supplement that income in other ways that are off the books? And similarly with caring arrangements, it also seems to me there might be other types of informal types of caring arrangements that they might be able to tap into that they might not even call it child care. So there might be other types of arrangements that aren't accounted as child care, but they serve the function of child care. I was wondering whether or not you were able to get into any of that qualitative work?
So on the off-the-books piece, I think there were two women among these 32 who were doing off-the-books intermittent things like mowing lawns. I can't remember what the other women was doing. But they were doing that because they really did have great steady work. So Mayline, you know, who gets paid $130 a week to take care of her grandmother, she said that was her job. That was her job. But, then, on the side, she also did some child care because her job just didn't pay her enough. The other women, though, no. And I would say it was probably because they didn't have the time. You know, they were working 35 to 40 hours a week and off -- you know, if you want to spend quality time with your kids, where are you going to find the time to do that off-the-books or kind of informal work? On the -- you know, the issue of more informal child care arrangements, yeah. I think that probably was going on. Women certainly did talk about, like, you know, swapping, trading off with a sister where sister could pick up her kids on the day she had to work late. I more heard about it, though, in that that was what I used to do. But then I noticed my sister wasn't paying attention to their homework, so now I have to watch them. Sarah.
So there's been a lot of attention to the declining [inaudible] of men, particularly less educated, less skilled men in the labor force in the United States as there's rightfully been a lot of attention to women. And I was thinking about your policy options and wondering whether some of these changes or some of these policy lovers would actually help them as well. So if you could speak a little to that, I know it's not at all what you do, but it's kind of interesting to think about how there could be broader spill-over effects making some of these changes for men who are having a really hard time in this labor market, as well.
Well, interestingly enough, on Friday, I was at a whole day workshop on how to reconnect disconnected men. So I feel like I now know a little bit more about that than I certainly did on Thursday. Certainly, you know, changes to higher education could help men in the same, you know, in terms of financial aid packages could help similarly situated men as women, especially if they're trying to juggle work with going to school. You know, and you might also -- there are -- there's definitely been a lot of discussion about doing some changes to the earned income tax credit so that men who -- you have to be the custodial parent in order to claim it, so men who are dads but don't have the kids living with them can't claim it. So we could think about changing the EITC so that men could also get a bonus too. There's a lot of complications about that and issues about what do we do if they're not paying formal child support, but I think there are probably ways that that can get hashed out. And on the shorter work week, you know, the hope is that that sends a message to men also that they can and should be equal care giving partners with their children.
But just [inaudible] what's happened is that men have lost mostly manufacturing jobs that were, in fact, full-time higher wage, and women have not been in that category. So, of course, more men are losing those jobs now. Women are much more likely to be employed part-time and in positions that aren't even counted in terms of welfare or after layoff resource is provided. So it's not exactly so rosy.
Although if you're -- particularly a young African-American male coming out of prison or otherwise have a criminal record, things are not looking so good for you. Eric.
One of the articles that was read in class talked about scaled payments for women based on the age of the child. Do you think that's something we can actually implement here in the United States or that we should implement?
What article are you talking about now [laughter]? It's very embarrassing [laughter].
Basically, it was that [inaudible].
Yeah. Oh, right. Yes, yes. I don't know. I'm not sure that -- that that's necessarily the right way to go because there are these other costs, right, these costs or benefits, depending on the lens you're looking at it, just the time. And even if young children cost more in dollar figures because you have to put them in formal child care, it doesn't mean that we should necessarily treat older kids differently when it is true that their mothers want to -- want to participate in their lives just as much. Kerry.
I'm curious in your conversations with your interviewees whether or not you got a sense of their knowledge of the system, especially after they had left the welfare rolls if they had an emergency come up or came across other barriers to employment whether or not they were able to access services or knew where to go to be able to maintain their employment instead of having a span where they had to quit or some other sort of --
So, no, not really. And part of that I think stems from the fact that they'd been out of the welfare system for quite some number of years. But also because they had been part of the welfare system, I got a very strong sense that public systems outside of education but public systems that we in the policy community think of as being out there to help and to assist were viewed with some amount of suspicion, either being too invasive to one's privacy, wanting too much information, or just not providing the kind of assistance that they thought they needed. So, you know, if I were going to suggest something to -- for example, like the workforce development sector, I would say, you know, you need to do some more marketing and just get the word out and also maybe change -- change the image a little bit. Yes.
I had two questions. First is about who conducted the 32 qualitative interviews and second is about the way that questions were framed about the time bind between work and family. And the reason I'm asking these questions is for the first question there may be some distance in the social identity, the class and race and education backgrounds of the interviewers and interviewees and sort of a process where interviewees are miming the things that they think that people want to hear about family values and work ethic. And the second question also has to do with that, how questions may or may not have been framed in getting respondents to fixate on that time bind as opposed to other challenges that they may have been facing.
Fair enough. So I did the majority of the interviews. And I primarily -- one other graduate -- no, two other graduate students who kind of helped do the rest. So these women, though, had been interviewed since 1997 by women who were hired through the Survey Research Center here at U of M. By and large, these tended to be other women from that community who sort of looked like them socioeconomically.
Well, thank you very much, first of all, to all of you joining us. We do have copies of Kristin's book. So [inaudible] book store has brought them, and we have a reception and a book signing to follow. But I'd also invite you to help me thank Kristin for giving a window on a very important and interesting set of issues and some of the insights from her new book. So thank you very much.
[ Laughter ]
Well Marian Wright Edelman's life has exemplified a willingness to do the work. The Children's Defense Fund, which she founded in 1973, sprang directly from the Civil Rights Movement, and represented her commitment to extending the principles of that movement to children's issues. Some of you might know that it was Marian Wright Edelman and her colleagues at the CDF who first popularized the phrase, or I should say the mission Leave No Child Behind. They've worked tirelessly for that cause through education, prenatal healthcare and nutrition, high quality affordable daycare, tax relief for working families with young children, adolescent pregnancy prevention, and much more. And all of these policy areas have been shaped and sharpened over the decades by the hard work of Mrs. Edelman and the Children's Defense Fund. Mrs. Edelman is a graduate of Spellman College and Yale Law School, and she began her career in the mid 1960's as the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar. She directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Office in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1968 she moved to Washington D.C. as counsel for the Poor People's Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death. She founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm that was the parent body of the Children's Defense Fund. She's received many honorary degrees and awards, including one from the University of Michigan's Law School. And in 2000 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings, which include eight books. Like King, and Obama, Marian Wright Edelman is an inspiration who through decade, who for decades through her words and her actions, has articulated and fought as a champion for justice, and a committed activist for positive change. Her work continues to remind us that individuals matter and that we each have a role to play. And her work continues to remind us how important public policy is for setting the stage in which dreams can be realized. With this 2009 theme, A Dreamer But Not the Only One, I can think of no one more appropriate or inspiring to deliver the Ford School's Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Address this year. Please join me in welcoming Marian Wright Edelman.
[ Clapping ]
Marian Wright Edelman: Thank you. Thank you very much. I love being here at this transformative time in American history. I'm proud America as I've always said, more proud than I've ever been. And now I want us to be even prouder, as we together come together as citizens to build a movement to make our new great leader realize what we've got to do and which Dr. King hoped for. That is an effort to put the social and economic underpinnings beneath every human being in America and every child. So what a moment this is to be alive. I thank Dean Collins for that bit of introduction. I've worked for years with Sheldon Dansinger and really happy to reconnect with that center, and I've met some of your young people from your students of color and so I'm glad to see all of you here at this incredible time of challenge and hope. And I know Dr. King is smiling, I've been wearing my Harriet Tugman and [inaudible] truth medals with me, they've been having the best time since the Democratic Convention. And I often think, what would they be doing today. And I know that they would be speaking up to make sure that all the inequalities that have grown and grown would be closing, and that we'd be about the business of freeing all of our children from poor health and illiteracy and the prison pipeline, and that's what we must be doing. The day he died, Dr. King called his mother from Memphis to give her his next sermon's title for the next Sunday. And it was Why America May Go to Hell. And he said, America is going to hell if we don't use her vast resources to end poverty, and to make it possible for all of God's children to have the basic necessities of life. And I don't have any doubt that if Dr. King were present today that he would be calling for poor people's campaign, for poor children's campaign. When he died there were 11 million poor children and today there are 13.3 million poor children. Our GDP is three times bigger than it was when he died. The gap between rich and poor is higher than it's ever been in our recorded history and I know what he would be doing and that's what I think we should be doing, because so many of us love to celebrate Dr. King, but it is really now time to follow him, and to hear him, and that is the chore for the next eight to ten years and with this wonderful new moment in American history, with this wonderful new leader this is our opportunity. And Dr. King from the beginning realized that movements make leaders, citizens make great leaders, not leaders the other way around. And so we have got to make sure that we start that hard work of movement building and carry over the enthusiasm and the organizing efforts and the, the call and respond to the call, community and unity that will enable our president to be the great president he wants to be. But, but we must help him. I tell the story a lot. There are no friends in politics and I tell the story about A. Philip Randolph going to the White House to visit President Franklin Roosevelt, and he was telling him about racial discrimination and the need to have federal action against that. And early on before the '63 march on Washington, he was talking about a march on Washington to deal with the education inequities and to deal with job discrimination and job needs of the black community. And President Roosevelt was alleged to have said, and listened very sympathetically and then to have said at the end of the conversation that, Phil I agree with absolutely everything that you just told me, now you go out and make me do it. So our job over the next four to eight years is to make our political leaders do what they need to do for the least amount of [inaudible] and to invest in our human capital which is going to be the key to America's global competitiveness, because there's so many things on the table. There's two wars to solve with an economic debacle that we're trying to solve, with global warming, with pollution and all the big things, we've got to make sure the children and the poor stay at the table. And that we build a mighty noise to make sure that we create a level playing field. That's what Dr. King would be doing today and that's what I'm going to be doing forever. The day after Dr. King died there was rioting and looting all across the nation, and I went out into the District of Columbia of public schools to tell young people not to riot and not to loot because I didn't want them to ruin their futures. And a little boy, about 12, looked me straight in the eye and said, Lady what future? I ain't got no future. I ain't got nothing to lose. And I have spent the last 40 years trying to prove that boy's truth wrong. I never realized how hard it would be. And the richest nation on the earth professes to have a creative equality for everybody and a democracy, but we've got to answer that boy's truth, and that's what I want to talk about today. Imagine God visiting our very wealthy family blessed with six children, five of them have enough to eat and comfortable warm rooms in which to sleep. One doesn't. She's often hungry and cold and on some nights she has to sleep on the streets or in a shelter and may even be taken away from her neglectful family and placed in a foster care or a group home with strangers. Imagine this rich family giving five of their children nourishing meals three times a day and snacks to fuel boundless energy. But sending the sixth child from the table and school hungry with only one or two meals and never the dessert the other children enjoy. Imagine this very wealthy family making sure five of its children get all of their shots, regular health checkups before they get sick and immediate access to healthcare when illness strikes but ignoring the sixth child who is plagued by chronic respiratory infections and painful toothaches which sometimes abscess and kill for lack of a doctor or a dentist. Imagine this family sending five of their children to good stimulating preschools and making sure they have music and swimming lessons after school, sending the sixth child to unsafe daycare with untrained caregivers responsible for too many children, or leaving her occasionally with an accommodating relative or a neighbor or even all alone. Imagine five the children living at home with books and families able to read most of their children every night. But the other child is left unread to, untalked and unsung to, unhugged or propped before a television screen or video game that feeds him violence and sex and racial and gender charged messages, intellectual [inaudible] interrupted only by ceaseless ads for material things that are beyond the child's grasp. Imagine this family sending some of their children to high quality schools in safe neighborhoods. With enough books and computers and laboratories and science equipment and well prepared teachers, and sending the sixth child to a crumbling school building with peeling ceilings and leaks and lead in the paint, and asbestos. No known books or not enough of them, and teachers untrained in the subjects they teach, and with low expectations that all children can learn, especially the sixth child. Imagine most of the family's children being excited about learning and looking forward to finishing high school, going to the University of Michigan and getting a job. And the sixth child pulling further and further behind grade level, not being able to read, wanting to drop out of school and being suspended and expelled at younger and younger ages. Because no one has taught him to read and compute or diagnose his attention deficit disorder or treated his health and mental health problems, and helped him keep up with his peers. Imagine five of the children engaged in sports, in music and arts and after school and summer camps, and in enrichment programs. And the sixth child hanging out with peers, or going home alone because mom and dad are working, or are in prison or have run away from their parenting responsibilities and escaped in drugs and alcohol, leaving him alone or on the streets during the non-school hours and weeks long non-school hours and weeks and months. At risk of being sucked into illegal activities and the prison pipeline or killed in our gun saturated nation. Well this is our American family today where one in six of our children lives in poverty in the richest nation on earth. More than 40% live in extreme poverty and the numbers of 13.3 and 5.6 in extreme poverty they're going to get worse in this period of down turn. Our data is old. And it is not a stable or healthy or economically sensible or just family. Our failure to invest in all of our children before they get sick or drop out of school, get pregnant or get into trouble, is morally defensible and extremely costly. Every year we let 13 million children live in poverty caused by a half trillion dollars in lost productivity and the cost of crime and health and other dependency. And I've heard others, especially children without consequences. And contrary to popular stereotypes, America's sixth child is more than twice as likely to live in a working family that to be on welfare is more likely to be white than black or Latino. And is more likely to live in a rural or suburban area than in an inner city. However, black and Hispanic children are at far greater risk of being poor and of entering the cradle to [inaudible] pipeline. The most dangerous place for a child to grow up in America today is at the intersection of poverty and race. Racial disparity still permeate all the major America institutions that shape the life chances of millions of children. On the [inaudible] by poverty, these disparities are putting countless children at risk of incarceration and funneling hundreds of thousands of them every year into a pipeline to prison, derailing their chances for reaching successful adulthood. Incarceration has been coming the new American partied. And poor children of color are the product. All of us must see and understand and sound the alarm about this threat to American unity and community, act to stop the growing criminalization of children at younger and younger ages and tackle the unjust treatment of minority youths and adults in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems with urgency and persistence. The failure to act now will reverse the hard earned racial and social progress Dr. King and so many others have died and sacrificed for. And weaken our future capacity to lead. All leaders in all sectors must call for investment in all children from birth through their successful transition to adulthood. Remembering Frederick Douglas' direct observation that it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. So many poor babies in rich America in a world with multiple strikes against them, born without prenatal care at low birth rate and to a team poor and poorly educated single mother, and absent father, though I do hope that the, the signal of our new president says you can make it even if your daddy did leave home when you were two and even if your mother was on food stamps and even if you did have an unstable mobile childhood. But we can't just say, children you go do it, you've got to put into place the building blocks so that they can actually succeed. And I love, I told the story earlier this morning being in a juvenile detention center a few weeks ago, and I asked a young man what this election meant. And one young man, about 15, who had, was in there for very serious things said, you know a week ago I couldn't even imagine getting my GED, and now I'm going to hang in there and get my PhD. So hope has been around, and we've got to make sure he has the tools and the means to get that G, PhD. And so let's put the building blocks and meet on the hope that will allow our children to succeed now that their expectations and sense of themselves has been lifted. At crucial points in their development after birth until adulthood, more risks pile on, making a successful transition to productive adulthood significantly less likely and involvement in the criminal justice system significantly more likely. Since children of color are always and have been always disproportionately poor, their odds of incarceration as adults greatly exceed that of white children. Black children are three times as likely as white children to be poor and almost six times as likely as white children to be incarcerated. A poor black boy born in 2001 has a one in three chance in going to prison in his lifetime. A Latino boy a one in six chance. A black girl and a white boy a one in 17 chance. A Latino girl one in 45 chance. A white girl a one in 111 chance. The past continues to strangle the present and the future. Children with incarcerated parent are more likely to become incarcerated. Black children are nearly nine times and Latino children three times as likely as white children to have an incarcerated parent. Black that comes to one third, Latinos one-fifth of our imprisoned population. One in three black men, 20 to 29 years old, father s of children that need them at home and are able to provide the nurturing care is under correctional supervision or control. Of the 2.3 million people in jail or prison, 64% are minority and the 4.2 million people on probation, 45% are minority. And of the 800,000 people on parole, 59 percent. We're not in a post-racial society yet, but we're about to get there. And for any of us who thought the change of the top is so crucial is going to solve all the problems for those at the bottom, and which have been deepening and downward mobility has been increasing over the last decades, need to address this. And this is the time to take this new era and this new leadership to really make sure that we lift the bottom and create a level playing field for all of our children. Unjust drug sentencing policies have greatly escalated, incarceration of minority adults and youths. Now these numbers that I just shared are black and Latino community tragedy. But they are an unfolding national catastrophe that we've got to address. They are ripping apart billions of families, stripping away the right to vote for many, and blocking the chance to get a job to support a family. They decrease public security as more and more prisoners reenter society without the means to legally support themselves, and they drain taxpayer dollars as increasing billions are spent on massive incarceration and beyond and old. We need to change course. Our states are spending on average three times more per prisoner than for public school pupil. I can't think of a dumber investment policy. And I am delighted that your new government is trying to begin your governor. She's not new anymore, but is trying to begin to change and reorder these priorities. Please support her. And speak up against the growing power of the prison unions and of the prison industrial complex. Prisons are big business. We're spending $200 billion a year we have more people. They're, they employ more people than our three largest employers, Wal-Mart, GM, recently GM, and Ford. This is big, big business. And I tell you as I get older, I want to make sure that they are we are producing enough productive workers to support us and our older ages, and, and infrastructure we need to be strong in the infrastructure we need to be strong and the new centers and us supporting them. And prison and, and at greatly increased cost. We can redevelop. We have a paradigm change, and we all need to sort of call more, and we need to stop incarcerations as a first resort and really begin to invest preventably and, and, and early, and trying to divert our children into a pipeline for successful adulthood through college and through productive work. I think that is the gender for us, Children's Defense Fund for the next decade for all of us. We need to create that level playing field. Now child poverty and neglect and the cradle to prison pipeline and the racial disparities and the systems that serve our children are not acts of God. They are America's immoral, political and economic choices that can and must be changed with strong political, corporate, community leadership. No single sector or group can solve these child and nation threatening crises alone, but all of us can together. As leaders we must all begin to come to the table and use our pulpits and our skills to replace our current paradigm with again a paradigm of prevention and investment in children before they get sick and drop out of school and get into trouble. It'll save lives, it'll save families, it'll save taxpayer money, it'll save our nation's aspirations to be in a fair society and it'll allow us to compete in the global arena where our children are going to have to have the skills and the means to maintain our economic [inaudible] with competition from China and India and Europe and everywhere. We can no longer afford to waste our children. And it is time for us to live up to our creed and that is in the goal of this time. Ending child poverty is not only an urgent moral necessity, it's economically beneficial, as Dr. Solo and my team [inaudible] and economics wrote in Wasting America's Future. I think Sheldon [inaudible] was a member of that epic. And he said ending child poverty is at the very least highly affordable. More likely it is a gain to the economy and to the business as taxpayers and citizens within. A healthy social security and that ends Dr. Solo's quote. For I say a health social security and Medicare system for our increasing elderly population needs as many productive workers as possible. And we can ill afford to let millions of our people and children grow up poor in poor health uneducated, under educated and dependent rather than productive citizens. So what can we all do today as community and other leaders to build our spiritual and political will to help our nation pass, pass the test of the God of history and better prepare for America's futures. What steps can we take together to heed Dr. King's warning, not to let our wealth become our destruction, but our salvation. By helping the poor Nazareth says languishing at our gates. How can we cease the enormous opportunity today. To use our great blessings to bless all the children entrusted to our care and rekindle America's dimming dream. Other first is for all of us. To be leaders in our community and in our networks and in our disciplines that call all of us to our [inaudible] and to heed president's who call all of us, to create new epic of caring and sacrifice and service. And we must begin at every level to try to overcome the deep divides between rich and poor and white and non-white and men and women and imprisoned and free. And but despite the huge strides over the past decades we really are seeing our social economic process stalling again the top has been wonderful. And threatening to reverse. And we've got to get ourselves on the right track again. We've got to move forward and not backwards. We've got to reset our nation's priority but have created that greatest gap between rich and poor in our history. And between our rich and poor in the globe. Because we really are one big human house. And everything is interconnected as Dr. King told us over and over again. And we've got to step up, go away from the false either ors and the present mission, there's a number of them, but I say the false either ors between personal, family, community and societal responsibility for children. And for simplistic solutions that don't address these complex but solvable problems. Since all of us are responsible for ensuring our nation's future, all of us need to come together to work together across discipline, across race, across [inaudible] and to put our children's healthy development at the center of our decision making. Because if the child is safe, everybody is safe. And the child doesn't come in pieces, the child comes in families, families are affected by communities, communities are affected by the policies and investment priorities of their state and local and national governments, and all of us are affected by the culture, that seems to glorify violence and excessive materialism and militarism, that Dr. King warned us about and these have to be seen in context because they are all affecting our children's healthy development. The second is that I just hope we will all come together and really envision that we can eliminate poverty and eliminate child poverty in this country, starting with extreme child poverty. And wouldn't it be nice if we set a goal for 2015, which is the day that the United Nations millennial goals for lifting many, many millions out of poverty, and in developing nations around the world and what an example we might show. I remember how heartbroken I was at a UNICEF meeting some years ago when I was sharing with them the, the facts of child poverty and mortality and were [inaudible] in our country and the developing nations were absolutely crushed because they thought my goodness in we could just become like the United States. If we could just become a developed nation these problems would disappear. I really want us to be a good role model, I mean it's just, we need to show that democratic capitalism is not an oxymoron. And so it would be so wonderful if while we're losing ground with these [inaudible] developing countries, if we could set a goal that says we're going to eliminate child poverty and I, I'm always in a hurry because children are growing up, they have only one childhood. I think we've lost two generations of many of our poor and minority children. By 2015 and we all made a commitment, got our leaders to make a commitment to doing what we have to do to end the racial disparity suffered by millions of black, Latino, Native American children, who are disproportionately poor in the richest nation on earth. No other rich industrialized western nation permits the high rates of child poverty than we do. No other nation let's children be the poorest group among its citizens. We can do better. Benjamin Franklin said a long time, the best family policy is a good job. Every American family should have an adequate income based primarily on work and a decent safety net for anyone unable to work and everyone must be able to live a healthy safe job rich communities with affordable housing. And I don't want to hear anybody tell us we don't have the money to do it even in this period of economic downturn. Every child could be lifted out of poverty for less than nine months of the tax cuts of the top one percent, in four months of Iraq war. I was trying to convince the Congress that we really could afford $700 billion last year to cover all of our children rather than four of the nine million uninsured children, and to provide that national safety net, and they said we couldn't find the money we were too poor and look how quickly they found that $700 billion, and what are we talking about now? We don't have a money problem, we have a [inaudible] and a priorities problem and again the job is citizens. Is to make a mighty noise for a change in our investment priorities and I hope that you will join me in that. We can begin to stop the irresponsible giveaways to our richest 300,000 Americans and reinvest that in saving the futures of 13 million poor children. And I hope we will do that and fight hard for the tax relief, below and moderate income families including a fully refundable child tax credit which in the House stimulus bill and I hope you will pay attention to what's in that bill, because the first thing we can do is to make sure that the investments in low income people at this time and middle income people at this time really get put into that stimulus package which gives us something to build on when the temporary period [inaudible] But making the tax, child tax credit fully refundable will benefit millions of children and lift hundreds of thousands of them out of poverty now. Getting earned income tax credit expanded for larger families, with three or more children would begin to have an enormous anti-poverty impact. Investing in childcare and food stamps and for all of our folk, they're going to spend that money quickly, they've got to stimulate the economy and they are going to hopefully keep themselves together. But there are a lot of strong safety net programs spent on Medicaid assistance, but pay attention to it. The House package I think on the whole is very good, now keeping it in the Senate is going to be a challenge, but let's work on that because this is the time when we have a chance to move forward. If we lifted, if we expand the federal childcare support to families earning 200% or below the federal level we could lift over two million children out of poverty. To raise food stamp participation, increase the benefits 85 percent, we could again have an impact on millions. So here is a moment that we must cease and I do hope that you will call up your senators now and call up your congressmen now and really support the provisions that are in the house package. I hope we'll all take responsibility to educate ourselves and to educate others about who the poor are. And maybe in this period of economic downturn the many people never thought they'd be in a food stamp line, never thought they'd lose their home, never thought they'd be wondering where they're going to be able to pay their utilities bill. But this is a moment when we might be open and that the poor may well be us. We must help our nation remove their, our psychological cataracts and dispel many of the myths that we saw up in here and about the causes and consequences of child poverty, one of which I've already talked about. It cost too much to eliminate poverty. I think we need to change the trims of the debate because it costs too much to maintain child poverty. We need to produce productive citizens, not dependent ones. We hear a lot about it's not the right time, it's always the right time to be just and to be fair and to make sure that children are able to get the very basic things they need to grow up and to learn and to be healthy. We hear still that nothing works. Well we know a lot about work. Things that do work. We know how to immunize children, we should not have so many children that are immunized today. We know how to provide good health services for children and there should not be nine million children unable to find a dentist or a doctor. We know a lot about what works and we need to move them to scale and to maintain their quality. We know that we could overcome some of the myths like, you know, we fought a war on poverty and poverty won. Well we didn't fight a war on poverty, we fought a scrimmage on poverty and the war in Vietnam and the military budget won. Dr. King was calling for a poor people's campaign at the times when we were investing 40 times less, in the office of economic opportunity to fight the war on poverty than the war in Vietnam and other military spending. He knew this was an unequal contest. And we need to go back again. And he would not be pleased today to see that we're in two wars, and that trillions have gone into wars rather than to investing in our people. These are about making hard choices, and we need to answer them back. We often here that it is parents' responsibility to take care of their own children. They're not my children, they're other people's children. Well of course it's the parents responsibility, but what are parents to do if, if their jobs are down, are eliminated or are sent abroad. Our wages are there, they're working as hard as they can but they cannot lift themselves out of poverty or if they're not able to get healthcare. The majority, 90% of, of the children are without health insurance living in families, playing by the rules, but again can't get healthcare. And so while parents certainly should be the first line of responsibility, no child should be punished for parents they did not choose. And if you look at the book that you've been handed, you will find I'm pretty tough on parents, but we need to also support parents and being good parents. And nobody raises a child alone. They said a portion should not have babies, they cannot support. Nobody should have babies they can't support either financially or emotionally, but again you don't punish children for the problems of the parents that they did not choose. And we need to help rather than judge or blame or punish the poor or non-poor who neglect their children. And I hear a lot about class warfare even from dear friends who are concerned about children but don't really want to talk about changing our tax policies. And I don't hear anybody talk about the class warfare. I think we have seen how we've had this massive redistribution of income from the poor to the rich over the last decades, and, and corporate welfare has been extraordinary, something is wrong. And unfair when 46 companies in a recent year paid no federal income taxes, while reporting combined profits of $40, almost $43 billion and collectively receiving tax rebates total $5.4 billion. We need to have a little tax fairness here. And we've always tended to have socialism for the rich as we're seeing now in the bailout, and capitalism for the poor. We need to have better balance as we move forward. So that three in terms of public policy opportunities this year which require voice. And we do know what to do is that I hope we can all come together and see health insurance coverage for every American. But we if we can't get it for every American, and I hope we will and we work hard, I hope we can get it for every child and every pregnant mother. The Senate today is considering shift, I haven't been informed about whether in fact they ended up passing it. The House had passed the state children's health insurance bill that was Mr. Bush had vetoed several times last year. But that is not child health reform. It's a step forward. That's last year's unfinished business. It covers only four if the Senate does end up including as the House did not, legal immigrant children. But it's about four million children. But we are nine million uninsured children and we want them all having a health safety net. I said to them until I'm blue in the face, I have three sons, and I wouldn't dream of giving them one of them health coverage and two of them no health coverage. We can do better. And there God did not make two classes of children and this country can afford to cover all children. We can afford to give them all the same guaranteed package of comprehensive coverage which include mental and dental. We have children dying of tooth abscesses in this country. We shouldn't have that happen. I don't want to hear those Katrina children's problems over the next years that we've left them out there three years after this great trauma without the mental healthcare needs. I don't want to see children sitting out by the thousands in our juvenile detention facilities so many because they couldn't get mental health coverage in their community and parents having to judge themselves neglectful and abusive parents in order to get mental health coverage. We need to put in place a comprehensive benefits and we cannot have a two tier system of children who are eligible for Medicaid guaranteed comprehensive benefits. In fact we can, and children for Chip who don't have guaranteed benefits which is what we are trying to do is to make sure that we upgrade all children with the same set of benefits. You can have two children in the same family, different ages, depending on how the states structure this child health delivery systems, one is eligible for comprehensive benefit and guaranteed it throughout this economic downturn, the other child may be eligible for Chip. And not guaranteed anything and not have mental or dental. And as children are being cut back now in this economic down turn in the states, this two tier system must be corrected. Every child should have what they need to grow up healthy and to have the full range of comprehensive benefits. The third thing that we're trying to do and we've drafted a bill that was in last year and which will be reintroduced for them this month it's called the all healthy children's act is that we would make sure that we simplify the child health bureaucracies. I don't want to see national health insurance with seniors having Medicare and the, I don't know what we'll end up with for all the rest of us, but the children cannot be left out there in two programs in 50 states. The lottery of geography of the [inaudible] Mississippi's child's life is no less valuable than a Massachusetts's child's life, or even a child's chance to live and thrive, cannot depend on the goodness of their government or the politics or wealth of their state. So we want a national safety net that says every child within a family with 300% poverty income or less would be given a guaranteed these services, and anybody with income above that can be able to buy in at affordable cost. And should make it simple. There should be one system. So we don't have the current problems with six million children of the nine million who are uninsured are eligible for either Chip or Medicaid. But they fall through the bureaucratic cracks and we need to make enrollment automatic at birth of any child that is in a mean [inaudible] program they are automatically enrolled. They are starting school but we should make sure we're getting them. We don't need to do all this outreach we just need to get them in the system. And the [inaudible] here is to serve children well. To tear down all these bureaucratic barriers that the states have put up to serve as few children as they can rather than serve as many children. So one of the things I do hope you will do is to have a robust engagement and this new debate is going on in national health insurance for everybody. But please pay particular attention to the children's health piece and to the pregnant women's piece. We want to cover every pregnant woman. It is disgraceful that our low birth rate rates are those of an underdeveloped nation that our infant mortality rates are those of undeveloped nation. And we know how to move this well. But we are going to need your help and your voice. And so the [inaudible] the finance committee they're going to have jurisdiction over much of what we need to do, whether it's poverty, a stimulus package or whether children's health coverage. But I do hope you will pay attention. I hope you will check into our website and look at the [inaudible] health insurance debates provisions and see how you can support it and encourage other people to support it. We must cover our children. We must close off that first big entry point in the prison pipeline by making sure that those children who are born with three or four strikes against them and low birth weight, didn't identify that they had a substance or alcohol abusing mother, a mother at risk, let's get them on there with a fair chance to run. And then let's put in place the second building block and that's a strong early childhood foundation. We know about early brain development and the first three years of life, yet early head start serves only 3% of the eligibles. And this stimulus package there is 2.1 billion increase in head start and I hope a lot of that will go into early head start. We know how to give good parent support programs and child/parent interaction is so important, but you can't teach what you don't know. And so this is another set of programs and policies that we need to move to scale. Parents need support. They're eager to be and hungry to do a better job, but they need help and we need to spend the chances for our children to have very strong early childhood experiences. We need to have a universal high quality early childhood system with head start and child care and preschool, and we need to sort of break down the silos between the child care people and the preschool people and the head start people and the after school people and see if we can't develop a high quality early childhood system that's got a help children get ready for school and be ready to get and learn in school. But also be safe at school. Children spend only 17% of their time in school. We need to get these congregations and you will see a very strong set of letters in the book you got. Please look at it, debate it and then go and confront your religious leaders and yourselves, our neighbors, for how we can begin to reweave the fact of this community. And open up our congregations to provide safe havens to the streets for our children. The gangs and the drug dealers are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And the television sets are always on. How do we begin to compete with them and to provide positive role models and, and programming for our children? So having a high quality early childhood and family support system. Very, very important and there will be legislation that will be introduced to try to do this. I think we need to ensure child and economic family security and I hope again you will plug in and look and I am sure that your, your leaders here in this school will have a lot to say as we move forward. I hope we can dramatically decrease the number of children coming into the child welfare system and again I keep going back to poverty. A poor child is 22 times more likely to be neglected and abused than a non-poor child and we've got to deal with the core causes and not just with the symptoms and you know we've got 345,000 [inaudible] abortion. I have been saying to all and I come from a family of Baptist preachers, if just ten% or 13% of them decided they were going to find one or two adoptive parents we could clean out the child welfare system. Or if we provided adequate support systems for families and kin, we could keep a lot of children out of the child welfare system. Because we know once children go into foster care they're going to be at risk of dropping out of school at much higher rates than children who have not been in the foster care system. They're much more at risk of, of going into juvenile detention. So we've got, again, to close all of that feeder system but it's going to take family and community and neighbors and, and good public policies. And again an attack on poverty. And I hope that we can begin to deal with our overburdened and underfinanced child welfare system which is a major feeder system into the cradle to prison pipeline. And I want to give a great shout out to granny parents. I've really been radicalized by becoming a grandma, and I am not going to leave this messy world to our grandchildren, and I think that when I look at the struggles of grandparents and they're about four/five million children living in grandparent headed households, and I try to put myself in their place, and I've got every support I need. My husband and I can manage and we have our grandchildren for one whole weekend and we are so worn out when they leave. I just cannot imagine what it's like for these 70, 75 and 80 year old grandparents trying to deal with children from and the loss of their own children which are many things. And many of them have special needs. Don't have the transportation, don't have the support, don't have the education, don't have the safer communities. I don't know how they manage. And we've been making some progress. There's new legislation to try to begin to bolster grandparents. But again, they need community supports. They need better public houses. They need to try to keep family together for children as much as we can, as we can. We need to figure out how to educate our children. I mean I can't figure out how in this wealthy nation that has managed to send spaceships to Mars and men and men and women to the moon, and cracked the genetic code and mind trillions of dollars and I, from a tiny microchip. We can't figure out how to teach our children to read by fourth grade, or even eighth grade, or 12th grade. The majority of all of our children of all races and income groups are not reading at grade level and fourth and eighth grade or 12th grade, if they are able, haven't been dropped out by then. And among our minority young people, 80%, over 80% of our young people are not computing at grade level in fourth or eighth or 12th grade if they haven't dropped out. Over 90% are not doing their math at grade level. What is a child to do in this globalized and postindustrial economy, information based economy if they can't read or write? They're headed off to prison. They're headed off to death. There's no place for them in this American place which is why we've got to make our public schools function, have high expectations for every child. Hold ourselves accountable for ensuring equal education and opportunity to tackle the growing re-segregation in our schools and the, the gaps between the quality we're able to give our children rich, and between, and I bring children in flat, but we've got to begin to deal with these basic problems of inequity. Have high expectations for all children. I've been so proud that I kept all three of my sons out of law school, and while I think that we, and I try to say that teaching and education is the civil rights issue of the, of this, of this era. And I applaud those young people who are going into Teach America. I'm so glad that two of my children are invested in education. But we've got to begin to get a hold of these children. We've got to begin to re-conceptualize our schools to have high expectations, to have high teaching equality, to reward teachers and then to hold teachers and principals accountable. And I tell everybody to go into teaching, but don't go into teaching if you don't see it as a mission, if you don't love and respect all children because you can have the fanciest classrooms, and you can have the best laboratories, but children know you don't love them and expect them to learn, please get out and do something else. But I think that the community needs an, we need to have community accountability. We need, when we see, as we are seeing the cradle of the prison pipeline, the transference of zero tolerance drug policies into zero tolerance discipline policies in our schools. And we see five and six and seven year old children being expelled for behaviors that used to be handled in the school principal's office or in the community. And when we see school systems bringing police in to school premises to arrest six and seven, eight year old children, handcuffing them at the ankles and at, I think we adults have lost our minds. And I just was listening the ACLU in New York recently about school security problems in that city. And the school security force in New York City constitutes the sixth largest police system in our country. I taught Boston public school. We have got to stop. We've got to look back and say what is the purpose of schools? And if we're engaging children and if we're giving them the supports they need. And if we are collaborating with parents, real parent collaboration, and are trying to make sure that we're building those bridges between early childhood and public schools and after schools and there's some school systems that are getting it right and there are a lot of wonderful innovation schools, a lot of places, there are not a lot of wonderful school systems that are lifting whole sets of children. But we know, we can look at Raleigh, we can look at Long Beach, and there are other places, but we've got to get it right. We've got to figure out in this wealthy great democracy how to teach all of our children to read and how to have high expectations, but that's going to come from citizens demand and we must begin to do it. We've got to reform the juvenile justice system and I just invite you to go and sit with juvenile judges for a day in court and see the breakdown of the systems and what the children who are coming in there. And then to go sit in adult criminal court and see the results of our failures to invest and to reweave the fabric of family and community. And lastly, the least popular political issue I could mention is gun violence, violence. And all of these are related, inner related. I mean we lose a child to gun violence every three hours. Eight a day. We made progress when we began to do our annual child and gun violence reports, we're losing 15 a day. But and we were going down steadily. We now have an uptick in, in gun violence. Went back up about 3,000, 3006. Since Dr. King died we lost 104,000 children to gunfire and three times as many have been injured by gun violence. We have the equivalent to Virginia Tech's massacre every four days in this quiet chronic problem of gun violence. And Dr. King and Robert Kennedy warned us about gun violence and we haven't listened. And so many thousands of our children are living in war zones, living traumatized every day. The stories are just horrendous. And I don't know what it's going to take to get us to stand up and say we're going to stop the killing of children in our country. And to stop the violence against children in our homes as well as in our streets and neighborhoods. It's very hard to focus in class if you're walking through streets and dodging bullets and, and, and are constantly afraid as so many of children are living in constant fear. And if you go into your juvenile dentition facilities you'll find that most of your young people are obsessed with not whether they're going to die but when they're going to die. And they feel hopeless. Children should not be growing up assuming they're not going to reach adulthood. We can do better. And these challenges are challenges we must make and we must somehow raise a stronger counter voice to the NRA and say we're going to stop with the killing of children, but all of these are interrelated. And how we respect and try to create for every child a reasonable and just chance to succeed in our rich democratic nation. I know we can do it. We have seen extraordinary revelation, revolutions over our lifetime. I've always felt very blessed as I say in almost every speech, to have been born who I was, what I was, at the convergence of great events and great leaders. I mean to have the role models of not just the Dr. King's and I loved Dr. King who never always knew, seldom always, seldom always, good gracious Mary, who seldom knew what the whole staircase was going to look like. And the first speech I heard him make at Spellman College in my senior year was how we should all take the first step even if you couldn't see the whole stairway and leave the rest to God. And I was always impressed by him because of his doubts, and because of his ability to fight and move on despite his fears. He taught me that courage was not not being afraid, it was going ahead and trying to find the means to act even when you were afraid. And that first speech I remember he talked about importance of continuing to move forward despite the political weather, importance of having thermostat leaders rather than thermometer leaders who stuck their hands up in the air when we needed thermostat leaders who could change the climate. And the need to speak right. If you couldn't fly you should all, you should drive. If you couldn't drive you should run. If you couldn't run you should walk. If you couldn't walk you should crawl. But you should keep moving. And there's been a lot of people who kept moving over the last 40 years. It's been a very tough wilderness period. And we're coming out now and I do hope that we're going to now stand up and build that transforming movement that Dr. King lived and died for. Let me end with a, a poem by Ann Weaves, called The Green Less Child, because a lot of our problem in America is the distinction we make between our own people, our own children and other people's children. I think all children are sacred. I think all children are children of God and that our civil creed as well as our creed from all great faiths say that the priorities should go to the most vulnerable, to the orphans, to the widow. And I hope that this is a time we might be visited. But I was very moved by Ann Weaves' poem about the green less child. She said, I watched her go and celebrated into the second grade, a green less child. Gray among the orange and yellow, attached too much to corners and to other people's sunshine. She colors the rainbow brown and leaves balloons unopened in their packages. Oh who will touch this green less child? Who will plant halleluiah's in her heart and send her dancing into all the colors of God? Or will she be left like an unwrapped package on the kitchen table? Too dull for anyone to take the trouble. Does God think that we are her keeper? Well I think so. And I think at this moment that we all have an enormous opportunity to turn this green less child into a green child, full of life, by putting into place the kind of community and family supports that every child needs. The role modeling and the mentoring that every child needs, and putting into place the kind of public policies and new investment policies and new sense of community and unity that makes this child feel welcome at the table of plenty in our rich land. Thank you so.
[ Clapping ]
Dean Collins: Thank you so much for that inspiring call to action on behalf of our children.
Marian Wright Edelman: Thank you.
Dean Collins: Marian Wright Edelman has agreed to take some questions. We have maybe 25 minutes. What I will ask is if people could come to the microphones, there's one here and there's one there. We have a large audience, which is wonderful, but it means that I will ask people to introduce themselves very briefly and to try to, to be brief with their question as well. So I will come back at 5:30 p.m. to shift to a reception. But if people would approach the microphones, thank you.
Marian Wright Edelman: Yes.
Audrey: Good after, can you hear me?
Marian Wright Edelman: Yes I can.
Audrey: Okay. Good afternoon and welcome to the University of Michigan.
Marian Wright Edelman: Thank you.
Audrey: My name is Audrey, I'm a two time grad of U of M. I looked through your book, and one of the things that impressed me was the mandate that you mention for teachers, you know, to treat each child with a sense of equity, regardless of their background. I would like to hear your thoughts on an individual that I've come to admire in this community. Her name is Ruth Swiffer [assumed spelling] She is a woman who, she's of Jewish background and she adopted children who were of a different race. And I personally feel that one of the most concrete ways that we can have an impact on poverty is to do hands on activities or hands on intervention to bring people who are different than we are into our personal lives, and to begin to understand what their barriers are. And to be a support to them to get through those barriers. So I'd like to hear your, your thoughts on, on what is required or what is the value of those of us who want to help in this area of reaching out and, and bringing in folks who are different than we are, in a very personal way into our lives.
Marian Wright Edelman: Oh I, I encourage it. I mean I think that we've, we are one nation. I think that's the, the poll and the appeal now. We are all equal under our Constitution, at least in theory, even though those of us who are women and those of us who are three fifths of everybody else. But look at the progress we've made over the last 100 years. We are living in a world, and in a nation, that is already becoming more and more like California, and in a world that is two thirds non-white and two thirds poor. And one of the great important things about this election is that we are joining the world in a very real way. I had wondered so much about how whether in 100 years we could restore our sense of respect in the world. But somehow I think that this man who seems to represent the DNA of every piece of the globe, everybody's able to see something of themselves in him, both, if you're biracial child or if you're, you're, it's, it's, it's a wonderful thing to see it all come together. And there was a big dispute for many years about whether there should be white families adopting black children. And I said well, you know, the good loving family and that really cares and respects children is better than any old institution you can find. They need caring adults, they need to be culturally sensitive, but I think we need to clean out our foster care system. We can't find enough adoptive families, you know, we need to do something, we need to get these children out and we need not just to be adopting children from around the world. So I, we're trying to find all the kinds of ways in which we can begin to get to know each other and work together. 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning as you know is still the most segregated hour in America, but we've got to find ways of building relationships in the faith community, and we need to have freedom schools, which is a model that CDF is pushing. We have a 150 of them, and black churches, and all around the country. But you know many of them have no money in rural areas. And they can begin to pair up with white churches, and all of us need to figure out how we can pool our resources and find ways of supporting each other to reach the children most in need. Just trying to see how you can begin to get churches of all colors, or synagogues or sort of take responsibility of the churches and children within five block radius. And wouldn't it be nice if they just knew the children around them, and begin to figure out how they could begin to open up their doors and provide services of all these opportunities to be a personal witness, and I hope you will look at some of the messages to families and neighbors, neighbors, and to congregations and to all of us. But while we're making this personal witness we also have to make a civic commitment and we have to be aware of the need of good, just policies and charity is not a substitute for justice. And personal caring is crucially important and is stuff that we should all do because we care and we serve and we're part of a common community and we should also be part of a movement that's going to change the investment origins of the nation. So it's a both and again, but I don't know the person you have mentioned, but I applaud what she's doing. Hi. Thank you. I can't see very well, the light. Yes. Okay. Thank you.
Sally Radford: Hello, Ms. Edelman. My name is Sally Radford and we met this summer during the Joshua Generation Conference in Tennessee.
Marian Wright Edelman: Good.
Sally Radford: I was a representative of Foster Club. And I guess I think it's fitting to know that since we're on a college campus I wanted to know if you could talk about what the, what the children of this fund does across the country to engage young people on college campuses?
Marian Wright Edelman: Well I think that the most important thing all of us can do is to mentor and prepare a critical mass of the next generation to engage in, in on-going advocacy and to sustain this movement. And the Children's Defense Fund invests an enormous portion of its resources in training young people. We are trying to create not just opportunities to have them meet but we are trying to also create structures for advocacy and service. They need to have a way of moving up the ladder of leadership and having on-going ways of staying involved. And so we bought, we bought Alex Haley's farm about 15 years ago. Most of us, most people think of CDF as a national policy group in Washington, and we do do that, but it's about a third of what we do, two-thirds of us is out in the states and local counties, and try and engage in community building. And we've been trying to create new models based some on the '60s, but preparing in the context of the 21st Century movement that we need to build. And so one example is that we created, we took the Mississippi Freedom Schools of '64, put a real curriculum under it, and have created 150 freedom schools which we now want to move to scale where we teach young children how, five to 15 year olds, but with color student teacher mentors, and a third of them in churches, a third of them in schools, and a third of them are in the mix of community institutions and some partners with higher education, Davison College has one, the University of Maryland. At any rate, but then we try to make sure that the young people, five to 16, become engaged in service. We talk, the theme of freedom schools is, I can make a difference in myself, in my community, in my family, in my nation and my world. And they have wonderful books that are designed to empower them. They look and study what children did to create, help the role that they played in overcoming legal apartide [phonetic] in this country in the Civil Rights Movement. They learn about little [inaudible] Bridges. They learn about the little Rock Nine. They learn about the children in Birmingham who without them Dr. King would never have been able to move Birmingham to fruition. And I can't recommend too strongly a look at the Birmingham children's movement. And to look at that, the southern poverty law centered at that piece. And now I'm going to make all the adults look at it because we adults, we tend to be very a-historical. And we don't know our history. And so it's really important that children and young see what they did to create a new America. But we have a range of children, of youth development programs. We have internship programs for all kinds of folk. We have beat the odds celebration for young people who are making it and who are my favorite pool of young leaders. And it just says what a difference one person can make. I mean these are young people who've gone through violence and homelessness and seen parents kill each other, and somehow a teacher or a counselor or a grandparent or a caring neighbor, has been their lifeline to reaffirm that they can make it and they are now wonderful, productive citizens. And there are about 700 of them. And they've gone into the Peace Corps and they're teaching and they are social workers, and they are doctors and lawyers. But then we're really trying to make a very big [inaudible] to draw from different networks and they are particularly interested in the faith networks so that we can help faith communities rediscover what it is they say they believe in. And so we've been having the greatest preachers in America. We have what we call the Moses/Miriam generation. That is hopefully transforming and working with the Joshua/Deborah generation to see if we can't affect the curriculum of the divinity schools. But we are having a mass transformation of leadership from Moses to Joshua. And from Miriam to Deborah in many of our major faith institutions in the black community are going now to 30 year olds and 40 year old preachers, and they need to rediscover their prophetic voice. And so Alex Haley farms where we're building movement and building a critical mass of leaders across generation discipline. I'm so sorry, I'm so glad you were engaged, and I hope you're bring more of them. We have programming year round. We're trying to put everybody through organizing training, but with a context of history and of movement building, which is what I think everybody needs to do. And all of us at the Children's Defense Fund are going to go through organizing training now to the policy people who will understand they need to know how to organize at the community level. So we're so glad that you are there and bring some folks next time and get the message out. But look at our website and see the different youth development programs and hopefully you will join us. Yes sir.
Peter Eckstein: My name is Peter Eckstein. I wanted to ask you to speculate a bit about the potential impact of a Obama presidency over let's say the next eight years, laws, executive orders aside, what kind of an impact do you think it can have or will have on the African American community, in terms of redefinition of possibilities in itself. You made some illusion to that, but maybe you can speculate.
Marian Wright Edelman: Well I think that already he's had an enormous impact. I mean the yes we can and to see this family in the White House, to see that this young man, and I say to everybody who is in other opposing camps some of whom said this was affirmative action, I said it wasn't affirmative action, he out organized you, he out visioned you, visioned you, he out strategized you, he in every, he just beat you, everybody fair and square because he was smarter and he had move vision and [inaudible] money. And so he was an extraordinary moment, person sent, and stepped up to the plate and I don't know anybody else could have, you know, been the right kind of role model and image. I think he sends an extraordinarily powerful message about that we're going to breakdown the stereotypes about who black families are. Because we are a diverse community, and I think that that family image in the White House has been, is extraordinary for all Americans as well a for young black Americans and for all of us. I think it's given a new sense of possibilities and sense of my example of a young felon in the civil detention facility you might actually be able to get a PhD instead of a GED. And so I think it's, it sends a message to children that I can, and that I, you know, that, that even if I am bi-racial, or even if I am, have an absent father, or even if I had a mother who's on food stamps and I can make it too with hard work and good old core values. And I think he has been using, already in his campaign, his bully pull pit to talk about how we all need to be paying much more attention to parenting, to turn off the TV set, and to turn off the video games, to pay attention to homework and to really focus in on helping children learn. Now there's some dangers. I heard a story the other day, because everybody's parent is saying yes you can, don't use any excuses for telling me why you bring home these bad grades. But then I heard somebody tell, calling me up and saying there's a man with a very seriously autistic child who was telling this child no excuses. And I said, you know we can't carry this to the extreme. But the, the important things is that we need to have these high expectations. We should use this incredible positive example for all of us, and I think it breaks down a whole lot of racial stereotypes as well. But I hope that we can also be clear about what we all have to do to enable him, enable our country to put into place the policies that children need in order to succeed. Because there's nothing worse than having these expectations up here and have them down here in schools with skills and education levels that are down here. So we've got to use this as a moment. We all have a sense of what is possible to put into place the building blocks of success. But I think it's an enormous transformation. It's an enormous generational transformation and I have loved watching the young people get engaged. I hope we can keep them engaged. And hope that all that energy that went into electing him now will go into building the movement to, to, to have a harvest for the policies that we need to have. Yes.
Good afternoon, thank you for your talk. Before I came back to work for my PhD in social work, I did a fair amount of work in child welfare. And one of the things that led me to come back and study is the fact that we talk about kids but we, we don't well enough with parents either. There's definitely culpability. We all that language in child welfare policy and law. But there's also the balance because many of these parents themselves were also victims.
Marian Wright Edelman: Yes.
So how then as a future policy maker, as a future practitioner, as a future educator, do I not only for myself help to navigate that balance, but also to teach others to navigate it as well?
Marian Wright Edelman: Well I think that I keep saying over and over again the children don't come in pieces, they come in families. We need to break the cycle, but we need to work with families and with parents. We need to prepare parenting, we need to deal with teen pregnancy prevention, and we need to try to help children, help parents do the decent job that most of them really do want to do and don't know how. And I think some of the most agonizing decisions that anybody can make is, is when to remove a child from a family. I mean how do you balance all of that off? And certainly you should, though not having children, have children removed from families, because parents don't have the income to keep them out of a homeless shelter. And so much of what we can do I think is again by making sure that parents have those supports that enable them to do the better job that most parents want. They need to be able to make a living with a decent wage. They need to have childcare if they are working. And so are not leaving children at home alone because they can't find shelter, and therefore risking their children being put in the child welfare system. But we must try to keep them both together. Make every effort to try to build and, and invest in the extended family network until parents can get themselves back on their, on their feet. But then we must, when children are at risk, and that's always a very hard thing to make sure that you're protecting children but the main thing is to break the cycle. I mean that's going forward. How do we put into place the building blocks for success for children before they reach these stages? How do we make sure that we're identifying children who are potentially at risk in the prenatal stages, and with good family support systems at the beginning? And so I think we should do everything we can to work with parents and with children and then to see what we can do to save the children if we are not able to keep the family together. But it's a very hard set of choices but I think we must bear them both in mind. Children need their parents and need their, need one reliable adult that they can count on. And that is certainly better than what we often have as options in foster care and in other homes. So but it's a hard set of questions, and I appreciate the sensitivity and you just have to keep struggling. And we're trying to find a better balance in the law. But more importantly building in the support services that could prevent removal and then to see how we can foster reunification, but if not, how do we find the best kind of adoptive families. But these are very hard questions. But there's so much we could do if we had systems we've been talking about in place. Yes.
Eric Geisham: My name's Eric Geisham, I'm a first year MPB student at the Ford School. First of all thank you for coming. I've had a chance to listen to you a couple different times and I am just thrilled at every chance I get. A couple times you mentioned extreme poverty. And some people would argue that in the United States we only have relative poverty and that we don't actually have extreme poverty. And furthermore some people say that poor people in the United States really aren't that bad off. So I have two questions. First of all, what were the, was the threshold that you used for the extreme poverty for the 40%? And then the second question is, what can you say to kind of argue against that, that mentality that we only have relative poverty in America?
Marian Wright Edelman: Well Sheldon is here, and you've got organized poverty know these things. But we're talking about a basic way to, from $10,000 poor income, $10,000 for a family of four, half that is what we talk about as extreme poverty, $20,000 for a family of four. And it's in the book correctly. I have so many numbers running around in my head very often. And about half of that is extreme poverty. I mean I think we all know that the minimum wage hasn't been index inflation until this past year for a lot of people. And, and but we need to look more at how we can redefine what the poverty's threshold should be in America, because I think a lot of people who are living at the poverty level are not able to make ends meet and how there are big fights about whether you are including other benefits into this. But the fact is that we've got millions of people who have been working hard every day with wages that have not kept pace with inflation and who not able to afford a decent place to live, who are not able to meet the most basic needs of their families if they are working because we don't have adequate childcare support, who are not able to afford healthcare. The average family, assuming that you know their employed, the dependency costs of trying to cover your dependents is about $12,000. Well that's about what a minimum wage job pays. And most people cannot afford that. And then most of our, our states, the fair market value of, of rent exceeds the wages of many low income, minimum wage workers. And so I think we need to look hard at, at how we redefine the poverty threshold and how we provide a range of self sufficient work supports. But it's very clear that we've got food lines growing. We've got shelters growing. And shelters have become institutionalized, even though I don't think that they are places for children. But we've gotten used to it and we are now setting up schools for homeless children as, as if this is something that's going to stay with us. But within the context of America I think that we can do much better and I think that we need to continue to have these debates, and I hope that this is a debate that we will continue to have with the kind of leadership [inaudible] national poverty center here. But that is at least a debate that we are beginning to have in a more robust fashion. But what is poverty here. The fact is children are hungry increasingly in numbers of them are there, and those of us who work in soup kitchens or in homeless shelters see what is there. I watch children who have no homes, and something is not computing here. So I think we need to look at the poverty threshold, but I also think we need to put into place the kind of work supports and then talk about how we can create jobs at living wages that will allow people to be able to make the, meet the most basic necessities of their lives. But that's a conversation that must be continued.
Dean Collins: Let me make a suggestion, since we're running out of time, but just two more speakers, perhaps I could ask you both to give your questions and then do a combined response?
Marian Wright Edelman: Good.
Laura Sanders: Thank you. Thank you for being here and your good work and, and inspiration. My name is Laura Sanders and I am representing the [inaudible] Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Just in our community alone in the last ten months we've had, we, it's come to our attention that 26 of our families have been raided by immigration customs enforcement, families have been separated, children have been torn away from their parents, violent things have happened in front of these children. We have three children in foster care who have been, because their mother was taken right off the street and deported. And this is happening, we know this is the tip of the iceberg. What's coming to our attention, we know it's happening across the nation. And I'm wondering if you could comment on immigration reform that might help meet the needs of our, our particularly our Latino children who many, many who are here.
Marian Wright Edelman: The raids must stop. They are inhumane. They are cruel. They are ripping children away from their parents, they should stop. And we should be speaking up against them, and I felt the same way when we used to look to be one of our earlier studies was the children of women prisoners and you would watch the police come in and rip parents away. And children didn't understand it. And leave children there without any supervision. I mean this is traumatic, and just un-American. And we should stop them, and we should sort of raise that. And we should begin to have a thoughtful debate about immigration policy. And the first thing we can do though is to begin with legal immigrants to see that, I hope that they did include IKEA, and that we get health coverage for legal immigrant children and we are in our all healthy children's bill trying to get healthcare for everybody. But I do hope that immigration reform will be something that we continue to, that we do something about and don't continue to avoid. Because as you know, we have a paradoxical policy of encouraging as many to come in, to provide cheap labor for employees, and then we punish those who do come in for these kinds of activities. So I hope that immigration reform will be early on the agenda, that somebody, that some of our leaders, but it will come because of the pressure from citizens. So but the raids must stop. They're absolutely cruel and they're traumatizing students, children and parents and we should not permit it in America.
Laura Sanders: Thank you.
Marian Wright Edelman: Yes.
Prior to getting the PhD and coming here to teach at University of Michigan, I worked with your son Jonah with Stand For Children.
Marian Wright Edelman: Oh good.
And I just wondered if there's still plans for June 1st to be an annual day for things to happen, and wondered if there's some plans this year for something to happen?
Marian Wright Edelman: Oh Jonah and I have a big debate about, he's into state and local organizing and he is really trying to focus, he's at home tonight, so I hope I can get home tonight in Washington, on how he can build grass roots interest and they are making a real difference in filling up the city halls and county councils and really doing state initiatives to invest in successful children's programs. And I think that he doesn't think that our usual kind of demonstrations on June 1st. But you know after the 1st June Stand For Children in 1996, we did a June 1st in 1997, and that provided the 700 local Stand For Children days. That was the grass roots momentum that enabled us to draft and get an act, the Chip legislation. So I think that maybe we'll have to negotiate it as to whether we can resuscitate June 1st as a day to Stand For Children. But I suspect he is going to want to do it in states and localities, and I'm going to want to do it nationally. So maybe we'll meet somewhere in the middle as we try to bridge our either/or strategies. But I'm very proud of the grass roots stuff that he's creating. And I hope that will continue. Thank you though for what you did.
Marian Wright Edelman: Yes ma'am.
I want to [inaudible] All right U of M undergraduate student and also a foster care alumni of the system. So everything that you pretty much said I've gone through. But one of my questions is I'm graduating this year and I'm trying to work with the University and higher level institutions on actually being involved in creating increasing numbers for foster care alumni and matriculate to colleges. And I wanted to know some of your recommendations on how to actually make that happen as an undergraduate student and previous foster care alumni.
Marian Wright Edelman: Well I want to make sure I, I understood the [inaudible] of what you were trying to say in terms of you're trying to get the university to do what? I got the beginning and I got the end.
Be involved in helping foster care kids in the communities matriculate to college and higher level institutions such as University of Michigan.
Marian Wright Edelman: Well it's very important. And I've been in, and one of the things that we're focusing on in the cradle is how do we just figure out how to get the schools to, because in looking at children who are leaving foster care, how do we get the schools and how do we get the community to provide the support so that they can stay in school and do well in school and be prepared to apply for places like the University of Michigan. But right now, and I think that that's one of those sub-pieces of things as we're trying to, to, to break out the cradle and to management pieces for action, while seeing the whole, that we really have got to focus on is the support systems for children coming out of juvenile detention, and the support systems for children who have been in foster care and multiple foster care systems, and I've watched, I have 12 foster sisters and brothers after I left home. And the supports that they need in order to succeed have to be there, either from their previous foster care families and as you know many of them are in multiple placements. From other mentors in the community, and I'm so pleased about the growing voice of organized foster care young people. But we need to find ways of bridging that gap and, and making sure that they are able to graduate from school, and get the kind of tutoring they need, and are able to find a welcome set of helps in our universities so that they can get on tragectory towards success. And I'd love to have you hook up with Marilee Allen and with our foster care network so that we can try to work with you. Thank you so much.
[ Clapping ]
Dean Collins: On behalf of all of us, our thanks to Marine Wright Edelman for a wonderful afternoon of provocative thought and a call to action in such an important area. I'd like to thank all of you for joining us here this afternoon. We do have a short reception, so please stay and interact with us for a little while. There'll be drinks I guess on either side. Again thank you very much for joining us for the Ford School's 2009 Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Lecture. [Inaudible]
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