Not only was it sad to hear the news yesterday morning of Pete Seeger's passing but startling to realize that it was 45 long years ago that we first met. It was in 1969, at Georgetown University, when I was a callow college freshman and he already was a legend among folk music lovers and political activists.
Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty, the United States is still not a fair playing field for millions of children afflicted by preventable poverty, hunger, homelessness, sickness, poor education and violence in the world's richest economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $15.7 trillion. Every fifth child (16.1 million) is poor, and every tenth child (7.1 million) is extremely poor. Children are the poorest age group and the younger they are the poorer they are. Every fourth infant, toddler and preschool child (5 million) is poor; 1 in 8 is extremely poor. A majority of our one- and two-year-olds are already children of color. In five years children of color who are disproportionately poor, nearly 1 in 3, will be a majority of all children in America and of our future workforce, military and consumers. But millions of them are unready for school, poorly educated and unprepared to face the future.
I hope we all take a moment, on this 50th anniversary, to recall that once upon a time, our political leaders proudly worked to end poverty -- instead of proudly campaigning on promises to erode anti-poverty programs. We must reawaken our desire to help those in need and open our eyes to the reality of life for the poor.