President Obama's State of the Union address marked an important moment for America's families. Much of what he proposed -- from investing in early education to raising the minimum wage to enacting immigration reform to protecting our environment -- aims to strengthen families and our communities. The president is advocating for investments in a future that protects and supports all of us, from precious newborns to our beloved elders, noting "...America moves forward only when we do so together; and... improving this union remains the task of us all."
In essence, the president is asking America to see itself as a family united in common goals; a family that wants the best for every member. The president's call to make high-quality education available to every child, youth and young adult in America is a strong start toward improving the future for family members of all ages.
One of the advantages of a federal system is that many issues are addressed at a local level by the people directly affected by those issues. At the same time, because of increased geographical mobility, everyone is indirectly affected by the governance of other locales, states, counties, and school districts. Your town may have an excellent school system, but your grandchildren are going to school in a different state. Someone else's grandchildren, educated someplace else, will be the police officers and firefighters of your town, the doctors and nurses in your local hospital. If their education was sub-par, it could affect the quality of your life.
Wherever our children live now or in the future, they must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to be able to contribute to their families and the economy. That means the nation, as a whole, must invest now in education and training -- from quality early education through advanced higher education -- because those investments will surely determine America's future. As the president reminded us in his address, "Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning the better he or she does down the road."
In his speech on February 12, President Obama looked further into the future than other leaders have in recent years. He has proposed changes in education that will improve the chances of everyone born in this country, wherever they choose to live. "...this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations... our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others." Thus, the president proposes "working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America."
The president extends this long-term perspective to every level of the educational system and to scientific and technical research. After all, the drug that saves a life in Iowa may have been invented by a scientist doing research in Maryland. In turn, that scientist's discovery could have generated jobs in a factory in Montana and paid dividends to a retiree in New Hampshire. Bottom line: we all depend on each other, no matter where we live.
Living long also supports perspective; through their considerable experience, older adults recognize the need to look long-term. As older adults, ourselves, we support the president in the effort to make high-quality education available to every child, youth and young adult in America. Over the next 20 years or so, that availability will affect every aspect of our country's future -- its economy, its security, and the maintenance of an informed and responsible electorate.
That's what we want to see for our American family. How about you?
Bateson and Lombardi serve as national co-chairs of Generations United's Seniors4Kids