When Head Start was created in 1965 as a part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, American society was in the beginning of a period of unrest and polarization not seen since the Civil War. And watching this election, it has felt like we are moving very close to that point again - the only thing that’s clear is that there is still not much that we can all agree on.
Many in our country have fallen into a spiral of adversarial, uniformed punditry and even greater numbers have become completely disengaged from the civic process altogether; whether it be through disillusionment or complacency. Regardless of where these attitudes come from, not one of them offers anything constructive, especially when it comes to governing our nation and the futures of our most vulnerable children.
One may say we are in a political standstill; that no matter who is elected President and no matter how galvanized we are, the divisions in Washington and across the nation are so deeply ingrained that even incremental progress seems impossible. When it comes to Head Start, we should be satisfied with what we have been able to accomplish so far. Others may say that progress is possible only if the other party comes to their senses – and that sentiment seemingly continues on and on and on.
But we in Head Start know that so much more is possible and all of those excuses are short sighted. Progress needs to start with leaders who are willing to move beyond gridlock, build consensus, and seek compromise. We won’t have leaders who take that action, however, if we do not have voters who are willing to move beyond complacency and to take action themselves.
Imagine what our country would have looked like if we had rested upon the laurels of a booming post WWII economy and hadn’t pushed ourselves to do more, to be better. Imagine if on that late spring day in 1965, in the Rose Garden, President Johnson had never spoken of enacting “one of the most constructive, and one of the most sensible, and also one of the most exciting programs that this Nation has ever undertaken.” Imagine where those 33 million children would be today if America had never taken the initiative.
We must vote to change the status quo—to further realize the hope of the War on Poverty and ensure that all vulnerable children and families have a window of opportunity to succeed in school and in life.
After all, when it comes to Head Start, there is no sharp division between the Republicans and the Democrats and this election is not just about Hillary Clinton v Donald Trump. This election is more importantly about voting to choose who is going to make a difference for our communities - in the US Congress, on school boards, and city councils for example.
In 2015, there were over 4.7 million children in poverty under age five. Of those, only 41% of three and four year olds had access to Head Start. And only 4% of children under three had access to Early Head Start. We can do better. Washington can do better. Our nation can do better.
To say that every vote matters would be an understatement. Rather, every bit of dedication and every moment of inspiration matters. November 8th is only the first step in a needed movement - a movement to ensure that America is investing in all of our children. Let’s get started. With Election Day finally upon us, we call on each and every one of you to get out and vote – then go find 10 more friends to vote too! If not for you, let’s do it for the future of our children.