We've traveled to Iowa to spend Thanksgiving with our families. As we sat down to our first dinner the other night, our two year old daughter Rosie had us join hands and led us in a prayer. "Thank you for Mommy, Daddy, Grandpa, Grandma, for Aunt Annie and Kristin, for the food." We all looked at Rosie with smiles, laughter and love, a scene I imagine being played out in dinner tables around the country, and around the world.
It's a thankful time in our house. After living through 8 years of death, destruction and despair, the election of Barack Obama has given us great hope for the possibility of creating, in the words of the late Carl Sagan, a future that is worthy of our children. A friend in Amsterdam, one of the millions of people from Chicago to Barcelona to Beijing who cheered and celebrated on November 4, wrote to me that Obama's victory caused her to "look forward to having the US as a responsible world-leader again, caring for the enviroment, for world peace and for the future of our chidren. His speech made me cry and gave me a lot of hope that this is possible."
For too many mothers and fathers, this universal dream has been a cruel nightmare. Hundreds of thousands of children and young soldiers have been killed, badly injured or orphaned by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Darfur, the Congo and Somalia. Ten million children per year die of preventable diseases. Every child is inherting a world drowing in debt and imperiled by climate change.
Among the many reasons I became an early supporter of Barack Obama was what I heard this fellow father saying about what is at stake for all of our children. Words like, I'm running for the presidency of the United States of America so that together we can do the hard work to seek a new dawn of peace and prosperity for our children, and for the children of the world.
Imagine, for a moment, if the policies of the United States were designed to do just this. What if instead of worrying about whether policies are coming from the illusory right, left or "center" (wherever and whatever that is!), we simply adopted a approach centered on the well-being of every child on the planet.
What would a child-centered approach look like? Topping my list, the killing of any child in war would be seen as the unacceptable outrage that it is. Aerial bombardment of wedding parties in Afghanistan and villages in Iraq would cease immediately.
We would lead the world in helping every child to get the healthy food, water, medicine, and education they need to survive and thrive. Such investments in friendship and compassion -- for just a fraction of our bloated military and war budgets -- would win back the hearts and minds of people everywhere, and marginalize terrorists more than any bomb-based, enemy-producing strategy ever will.
A child-centered approach would recognize that the we must act now to protect and restore Earth and its life support systems that we are borrowing from our children. Putting children first in the United States would result in providing high quality health care, early childhood education, and child care to every child, and paid time off for mothers and fathers to tend to their new-borns (the U.S. is one of just four countries in the world without a paid maternity leave program.)
When we sit down to give thanks before our Thanksgiving feast, hands joined with Rosie and her adoring grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, we will give thanks for the seeds hope and possibility for deep change that have been planted in hearts from sea to shining sea. We will pray that we the people of the United States will do unto the children of others, as we would have their parents do unto our children. We will pray that someday soon we might be joined hand in hand with our human family, giving thanks that we came together at last to create a new dawn of peace and prosperity for our children, and for the children of the world.