"Yet, we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom and to make our own nation more secure."
We will spend what is necessary. President Bush's words of Sept. 7, 2003, are still echoing in my head.
If only the same could be said of the work that needs to be done here at home. Let me explain a few things. I am an Air Force brat. I support the military. My father did two tours in Vietnam, was decorated for valor and came home still accepting that we must sometimes fight for what we believe in.
I am also a child advocate. For 11 years I have been educating on the pitfalls of poverty, teen motherhood, infant death and the importance of early childhood education. I have argued for increasing the budget for Head Start, for money to provide health insurance to the children of this country, for increases in state budgets to allow more child protection service workers to be hired, and much more.
I can't even count the number of times concerned citizens, professional advocates, and worried parents have been told, "We understand, we would love to help, but we just do not have the money."
What a different world we would live in if our leaders in Washington were ever to say:
"We will spend what is necessary to provide health insurance to all children in America."
"We will spend what is necessary to provide quality child care for working parents."
"We will spend what is necessary to provide dental care for the elderly."
"We will spend what is necessary to provide the work supports that low-income working families need to succeed."
If we could hear, "We will spend what is necessary for the children of this country," not just in a campaign speech that is soon forgotten, but on the floor of the House and the Senate when appropriating dollars for programs that affect our children, what a different world this would be.
If the political will and money are there to save Iraq, why can't we save America? In the towns and villages across this country, children are going to bed hungry, falling behind in school because they are missing class due to untreated tooth decay and perpetuating a cycle of poverty that brings a family to its knees. Can we spend what is necessary to create change?
A new report from the American Community Survey has estimated that 13.1 percent of Utah's children live in poverty, up from the 8.8 percent in 2001. For concerned citizens this translates to 94,000 of our children who are living lives we would not want for our own children.
Data from the 2003 Measures of Child-Well Being indicates that almost 10,000 children were abused or neglected in 2002 in Utah. Almost 50,000 of Utah's children have no health insurance.
You see, our children are fighting a war on terror, too. The terror that comes from walking to school through a war zone of gang activity and drug pushers. The terror that comes from being hungry and not knowing where the next meal is coming from. The terror of waking up in pain without the means to make it stop. Their terror is real.
Will we do what is necessary? Will we spend what is necessary to make it stop?
When will we hear, "Yes, we will achieve this essential victory in the war on poverty, to promote positive futures for our youth, and to make our own nation's children secure in the knowledge that they will grow up healthy, educated and free of abuse"?
What a different world it would be if the political will was there to spend what is necessary, not just for the children of Iraq but for the children of America as well.
Terry Haven is the Kids Count coordinator for Utah Children, a nonprofit organization that advocates for children. She lives in Salt Lake City.
© Copyright 2003, The Salt Lake Tribune