Once upon a time, "Save the Children" meant late-night infomercials featuring Sally Struthers and periodic cutaways to starving children in Africa whom we could save "for just pennies a day."
Unfortunately, the children -- all over the world, and right in our own backyard -- are still starving. But saving them, at least over the past few days, has taken on a strange new meaning.
Perhaps like many of you, I have received e-mails with this very subject line -- "Save the Children," but they are not from the artist formerly known as Gloria Bunker Stivic, but about shielding America's innocent youth from...our President.
When America's kids go back to school next week the greatest concern we should have is H1N1 -- not the President of the United States addressing our young people as so many have done before, yet to far less scrutiny and with much less fanfare. And before we go hurdling into "the lesson plans," let's remember that parents are and forever will remain their children's greatest and most influential teachers all the days of their lives. No one and nothing can change that, unless parents actively relinquish the role.
Whether you are for or against the President's fully transparent, pre-released address and accompanying, optional food-for-thought exercises left to the discretion of children's schools and administrators, children's classroom teachers, and, most important, the parents, do something truly worthy of your time and energy: talk to your kids.
To borrow a phrase from the Bible, "Teach your children, speak to them when you sit in your homes, when you walk with them along their way, when you tuck them in at night, when they awake in the morning and prepare for a new day."
If you cannot distinguish between the President of the United States offering words of encouragement and responsibility to our nation's young people in a democratic society in which people are just as free to agree with their leaders and with each other as they are to disagree, and a dictator forcing every single man, woman, and child to hear and adhere to his decrees on state-run television, then make all the more certain to use this opportunity to talk to your children, to teach them your views, share your experiences and your thoughts, to clarify your expectations of and for them as they learn and grow. That, perhaps, may be the greatest object lesson of democracy in action than what any one president ever has to say.
And if you believe that your children, who will not even be close to voting age when, and if, President Barack Obama seeks a second term in office yet will, by dint of this one presidential address, instantly possess the power to persuade you and others currently of the age of majority to change your minds and political affiliations, perhaps you've got a future politician on your hands. No need for that high school career counselor down the road. It's a win-win!
When so many of our nation's youth spend a great deal of their time playing XBox and PlayStation games with names like "Assassin's Creed" and "Killzone," perhaps "saving the children" from that and so many other far more pressing and dangerous social ills may be much more important than saving them from President Obama's scheduled words for next week.
Bring back Sally Struthers!