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The Message from the Stand for Children March

by Subashini Ganesan, Center for Advancement of Public Policy

The Stand for Children March, on June 21st, bore very little resemblance to a typical Washington, D.C. rally. No political leaders were invited to rouse the crowd; Bernice Reagan of Sweet Honey in the Rock, singing protest/movement songs, was overshadowed by popular music artists singing their latest billboard hits; there were no angry, shouting protesters, only giggling children, getting their faces painted and taking quick dips in the Reflecting Pool. And most striking, the speakers at the rally challenged the American people, and not policy makers, to make a change.

The message of this big celebration was strong and clear - the children of America need the support of their family and community to have a wholesome life and be prepared for a productive future. An estimated 250,000 people showed their commitment to this goal by participating in this march, which will go down in history as the first to be called by an African American woman, Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund.

The entire event was beautiful and breathtaking - the impressive 2000 voice children's choir, the solemn yet touching service led by 77 religious leaders, the sea of children that marched from Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial, and the myriad children's groups, like the New York City Kids and UPO Headstart Youth Programs, who showed their dedication through their uplifted spirits and colorful banners.

Marian Edelman's dynamic speech called on parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, community members and religious leaders to become more involved in supporting children. "We stand today at the Lincoln Memorial as American families and as an American community to commit ourselves to putting our children first...and we commit ourselves to insuring all our children have a healthy and a safe passage to adulthood."

The reaction to this march has been mixed. Political conservatives are accusing the organizers of exploiting children to strengthen the liberal agenda. Liberals are lamenting that Edelman did not make enough of a political statement with this march. However, both sides have chosen to ignore the broader issue that Stand for Children was addressing. In Edelman's words, "This is a day about rekindling our children's hope and renewing our faith in each other and in our great nation's future. It is about America's ideals and not about any group's ideology."

To keep the positive energy that was generated by the march from fizzling, the organizing committee has set up a Keep Standing for Children! campaign. It gives useful guidelines to help families and communities to support children in various ways. For further information on how to stand for the children who touch our lives contact Stand for Children at (800) 663-4032 or write to:

P.O. Box 75358
Washington, D.C. 20013-5358.

You can also visit their website at http://www.stand.org

WOMANSWORD, Vol. 1, July, 1996.





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