By Marian Wright Edelman
LatinaLista — Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Washington, D.C.-based Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child BehindÂ® mission is "to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities."
Marian Wright Edelman
Her name has become synonymous with children's rights and throughout her illustrious law and nonprofit career has championed time and time again the rights of those who are most vulnerable, innocent and voiceless.
As Election Day draws near, Ms. Edelman shares with Latina Lista the barometer she uses to determine which candidate has proven to be on the side of children and families, and in turn, who shares her belief that children must be a priority issue in Washington for true change to happen across the country.
During nearly two years of presidential campaigning, the candidates have made claims and promises about how they would perform if they are elected to the White House. Some of the criteria we might use to judge a candidateâ€™s fitness and temperament for leadership are difficult to quantify. But one concrete and objective way to assess how candidates measure up on crucial issues is by examining their voting records.
In this election year, when three of the four nominees for President and Vice President are sitting U.S. Senatorsâ€”Barack Obama (D-IL), John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Biden (D-DE)â€”each has a record of roll call votes cast in Congress. Every year, through its Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard, the Childrenâ€™s Defense Fund Action Council selects congressional roll call votes to illustrate how the Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voted on key issues affecting children and families.
I learned the passage, â€œBy their works ye shall know them,â€ in Sunday School a long time ago. And a look at the voting records of the candidates, as reflected in the CDF Action CouncilÂ® Scorecard, clearly reveals who among them is working for children and who isnâ€™t.
Over the last three years, the Scorecard has shown that Sens. Obama and Biden voted with the CDF Action Councilâ€™s position on major legislation an overwhelming majority of the timeâ€”better than 85 percent. In contrast, Sen. McCain consistently scored under 30 percent.
Our next president must make children a priority. During the past eight years, the needs of childrenâ€”particularly poor children and children of colorâ€”have been ignored. For example, more than half of all babies born uninsured are Latino, and more Latino children are uninsured than any other racial/ethnic group. One in 3 Latino babies is born into poverty and 1 in 4 Latino children is poor. Between 2000 and 2006, the number of poor Latino children increased by 550,000, totaling 4.1 million. Americaâ€™s children deserve a President and a Congress who will invest in health coverage for every child, who will work to eradicate child poverty and who will fight to ensure a level playing field for every child in every corner of America. And it is up to all of us to demand that our leaders commit to children as a condition of our vote.
On November 4, we will not only consider the candidacy of three U.S. Senators who are running for President and Vice President at the top of the ballot, but 28 incumbent Senators and nearly 400 House Members who are running for re-electionâ€”all with congressional voting records contained in the CDF Action Council Scorecard.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Protestant theologian who was executed for opposing Adolf Hitler's Holocaust, said that, â€œThe test of the morality of a society is how it treats its children.â€ All of our childrenâ€”especially poor, Black and Latino childrenâ€”are too young to vote and donâ€™t have the money to hire expensive lobbyists or spread around millions of dollars in campaign contributions. We need leaders who have the moral and common sense to make children a priority.
I hope the CDF Action Council Scorecard is helpful to voters as they decide whether candidates for office pass Dietrich Bonhoefferâ€™s test. Once armed with this information, they must get out and vote and count for children. Thereâ€™s just too much at stake.