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Kevin Jennings

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Quiet Please: Grown-Ups Are Talking

Posted: 07/19/2012 5:01 pm

Often what passes for political debate in America reminds me of two kids shouting at each other "I know you are but what am I?" across the playground -- except that playground happens to be Washington, D.C. While the nation faces an economic downturn the likes of which we have not seen since the Great Depression, a warming planet where climate change threatens to make large swaths of the Earth uninhabitable, and schools and roadways that are literally crumbling, sometimes our political leaders seem to put partisan point-making head of dealing with the real challenges we face.

It would be funny if it weren't so dangerous.

That's why the op-ed by two former White House Domestic Policy Chiefs -- John Bridgeland (who served President George W. Bush) and Melody Barnes (who served President Barack Obama) -- is such a welcome breath of fresh air. As they write: "Important ideological differences divide Republicans and Democrats on many issues, but there is one tenet of American life that should prompt bipartisan action: ensuring that all people -- regardless of class, race, ethnicity, gender or ZIP code -- have opportunities to rise as far as talent and hard work can take them."

Finally, some grown ups are setting aside partisan bickering and talking about one of the critical issues of our time.

Every American takes pride in our nation's reputation as the Land of Opportunity. But more and more Americans are very troubled that this seems to be more a myth than a reality in the twenty-first century. As Barnes and Bridgeland point out, "only 4 percent of children born to parents at the bottom of the income ladder make it to the top," a factoid that shows how vast the gap between our opportunity rhetoric and our national reality has become.

If our national motto is 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Trying," it seems like the latter is a lot more likely than the former if you're born poor.

Meanwhile in D.C., party leaders play "gotcha" while average Americans struggle. When Barnes and Bridgeland write "no political party has a monopoly on ideas to close the opportunity gap," I want to scream YES!

Let's stop flinging mud, and start finding solutions to the growing opportunity gap in America. That's what Be The Change's Opportunity Nation campaign is designed to do, and I'm proud that we have two very grown up D.C. leaders who have gotten on board. Now, if we can get the children in D.C. to play nice in the sandbox, maybe we can start making some real progress for our country.

 
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