Usually I’m not one to get into politics too deeply, but when I heard last month on the radio that a presidential candidate said that “Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it is illegal.” The candidate went on to say that poor children should work as janitors in their schools to build confidence and pride within themselves and their schools. I had to find out who was behind this thoughtless comment. So I commenced to Google this statement and a Mr. Newt Gingrich came up.
As I started to read and learn more about him, I became weary of his perception of those living in communities that are more economically vulnerable than others because if this is how one addresses an issue in public, I’m scared to hear what he really thinks about these communities in private. I will agree that this is a real life issue that needs to be mended but I truly don’t believe it should be done in the manner Mr. Gingrich is suggesting. I don’t think his other plan of making an Apprentice reality show with Donald Trump using “very poor children” from in the New York City Public School system will make the issue any better either.
I’m glad to hear that Mr. Gingrich has noticed that there is a quality-of-life problem in those communities, but to address it in such a manner is (in my eyes) unacceptable. Children should not be put to work before their time. They need to be learning skills that will help them become honest, caring citizens that help contribute to the community. This can be done by having at least one person that cares in their lives; it might be a parent or someone that volunteers in a program that these impressionable children attend after school or on the weekend. I’ve learned that if you plant a seed within a child it will indeed grow, it just depends on the person planting the seeds to harvest later in life. A child left to their own devices will learn by example and yes, unfortunately, in most economically vulnerable communities the bad apples are the role models that are easiest to access because they are always right outside the front door and the good apples take themselves out of that community and most often never return.
The election season officially kicks off in Iowa tonight and I hope that all voters – no matter what party they support – go to the caucuses and polls wanting the same thing: positive change and unity within all communities, whether they’re rich or poor. And I hope that voters choose a candidate with a little philanthropy in his or her soul, not one who is looking just for fame and poll numbers.
Sequoia Williams is the office assistant at The Women’s Foundation.