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The Sad State of our State and the Promise of Vision, Courage and Heart

Presented by Delaine Eastin on May 15, 2010 at the conference "Saving California Communities: Next Steps"


Good afternoon.  And thank you for the important work each and every one of you does in our great state.  Thank you for being here today.  All over California we are in danger of taking giant steps backward as penny-wise pound foolish decisions are being made across our state and our nation.


Ironically, people who lacked concrete research about the value of the great educational initiatives they implemented made many of our most important educational investments in the history of California and the United States.  They lacked research but they had something more important:  vision, courage and a sense of responsibility for future generations.  So I want to set the stage for today by looking back in history. 


On July 2, 1862, during the darkest days of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln had good reason to limit funding on things like education.  Instead, he signed the bill creating the Land Grant College System with his signature on the Morrill Act.  This was a measure his predecessor James Buchanan had vetoed in 1859.  One could speculate that Lincoln had even more reason to veto it, mired as he was in a great Civil War.  But he had the vision and the courage and the heart to dream for our future.  UC Davis, where we are meeting today, and UC Riverside along with 179 other campuses like Purdue, Cornell, Florida A &M, Auburn…all thanks to Lincoln.


In 1865, while America was reeling from the costs and losses in the Civil War, we did not hunker down and say, "We cannot afford things like investing in education."  Instead America became one of the first countries on earth to invest in compulsory public education.  State by state, we began educating all of our people.  And America prospered because of those brave choices.  We had no research.  We had courage, vision and heart. 


The GI Bill of Rights was signed into law in 1944.  It doubled the number of people attending college.  President Roosevelt was criticized for the cost, but the result was American prosperity.  He did not have research to point the way. What Roosevelt did was courageous.


Eisenhower signed a giant college student loan program in 1958.  He was in the midst of a Cold War and a Space Race and could easily have dismissed this huge loan program as an extravagance.  Instead he embraced it. The act was called the National Defense Education Act. Ike did not have lots of research.  He had heart and dreamed of more scientists, engineers and teachers going to college.


Meanwhile, out in California, our leaders were investing in k-12 and in the finest college and university system the world has ever seen.


Today I want to talk about something that is hard, yes, that is expensive, but something even more important than that giant leap for mankind that John Kennedy asked us to make when he called for a man on the moon by the end of the decade that was the 1960's.  A generation ago he was criticized, roundly criticized.  But he had vision.  Today we praise him.


I want to talk about focusing the future of California by focusing on child development and education for all of the children and adults in our state, from the youngest children in our midst to the returning students in our midst.  Yes, it is about universal preschool but it is actually much bigger than that.    It is about children from conception through adulthood. It is about the importance of education in the 21st century and the values we need to demand from our leaders if they want to represent us.


Today I want to talk about something that is hard, yes, that is expensive, but something even more important than the giant leaps for mankind made in the last several generations. 


Somehow we have lost our way in terms of our values because the California I grew up in had values that put children first. How is it that generations who suffered through far worse economic times and far more horrific wars, could still find the way to support education for their children.


In 1965, I graduated from high school during a difficult financial time.  My dad wanted us all to go to a family reunion in Kentucky.  My mom wanted to replace a seedy couch in the living room.  Both my folks wanted to replace the more than 10-year-old Studebaker.  And they wanted to send their daughter, me, to UC Davis.  You know what happened.  They did not go to Kentucky.  They did not buy a new couch.  They did not buy a new car.  Instead, they sent their daughter to Davis.  Values.  And you can make a strong case that education was not as vital in 1965 as it is in 2010.


The global economy has fundamentally changed the importance of education.  Once upon a time, all you needed was a strong back and a willingness to work hard if you wanted to get ahead.  Now we require much higher skill levels in many subject areas.  Why, then, do we seem so very timid about investing in education?


For all of the time spent on the importance of academic skills and knowledge necessary for success in the global economy, too many of our leaders seem feckless compared to their forebearers.  No Child Left Behind has actually reduced the emphasis on science, history, social science and the arts such that in many elementary and secondary schools, in certain grades, only math and reading are taught, because No Child Left Behind only requires we test science in two grades and history in two grades and the arts not at all, although a quarter of the jobs in the new economy are arts based.  So because what gets measured is what gets done, math and reading are pre-eminent. As a result many schools only teach the science and history in the years the subjects are tested.  Sad but true.  While that is not the case in Davis, it is true right across the Yolo Causeway.


Moreover, democracy is so much more than a study of history.  Democracy actually comes from two Greek words:  demos (people) and kratos (govern).  Democracy means "government by the people".  The ancient Greeks believed that the most important part of democratic government was participation.  Indeed they believed, that more important than the government created was the transformation of the individual who participated in the political process.  The ancient Greeks thought that political participation was like participation in drama (and music) in that once you participated in politics you were changed forever. The Greeks believed that civic participation created both a better governance system and stronger individual citizens. 


In fact the Greeks invented the word idiot, which meant one who does not participate in politics.  So I am pleased that so many of my neighbors and fellow citizens here on a Saturday pondering our future together.


So I want to talk about values here in Yolo County and in California generally and about the participation of the people in this room in changing the dialogue in education. To begin with, please note that the voters roundly rejected the Governor and the legislature's ham handed attempt to get the voters to agree to highway robbery just one year ago in the May election. The voters are disgusted with the inaction in Sacramento and are particularly worried about the failure to support our children in getting an education.


Think about this.  The Governor and the legislature are going to ask you to pass a huge water bond.  The bond and related legislation does not identify a source of revenue for this bond.  Instead, this bond for $11.3 Billion will be paid for with debt meaning that its actual cost is $22.6 Billion.  And because this is a General Obligation bond coming out of the existing budget pie, one-half of the cost, $11.3 Billion comes from kindergarten through higher education.  You see k-higher education is one-half of the General Fund of California, and by funding the water bonds in this fashion, half of the cost is borne by education.  The Governor is essentially saying, "I cannot be out of money, I still have checks in my check book!"


The cost of the water bond is inflated just as if we were buying it on a credit card. Frankly, if there was ever a commodity you could charge money for, it is water. 


Moreover, the proponents of this lousy bond chirp that it will improve conservation, but it exempts agriculture from the conservation effort.  I love farmers and California agriculture, but anyone with a brain knows that you do not grow cotton or rice in a desert unless water is subsidized and conservation is neglected. Eighty percent of water use in California is dedicated to agriculture.  Of course our farmers need to conserve water.  Values.  I am talking about values. California needs pay as you go government, not this egregious borrowing and spending.  I am proud of Senator Wolk and Assemblywoman Yamada for standing tall against this ill-considered water fiasco proposed by the Governor.


To add insult to injury, have you noticed that you have not voted on prison bonds in years?  Why?  Because the last three governors have worried you wouldn't pass them and so they did not ask you.  Outrageous because in so doing the so-called leaders of California have said, prisons are more important than schools, preschools, roads, levees, water, high speed rail and stem cell research.  It is completely disgusting to me.


Remember, this Governor said he thought that the idea of preschool was "fantastic" but he refused to support it unless we identified a source of revenue to fund it.  So preschool needs to identify a source of revenue but prisons and high-speed rail and water do not….


Something that this group knows about is the importance of care and development before the age of 5 and you know that it is a very special interest that has been sadly underrepresented and under supported in America.  I will be talking about some things that will be hard to do, but that previous generations would have had the courage, the heart and the vision to support.  The difference is that we have the research to know what to do and why we should do it. Our ancestors lacked the research.  They took a chance.  For us this is not risky business.  We know exactly what we should do.


I now believe that instead of having a simple K-12 system in California and America, we should have a pre-K-12 system in California.  I believe high quality education should be available from age 3 through passage of a strong high school exit exam.  For the first two years, the system should be a high quality system with college-educated teachers with the same level of training as kindergarten through 12th grade are required to have.  I believe that while the first 2 years should be universally available, they should not be mandatory.  However, kindergarten, which is universally available, should become mandatory and full day.


I further believe that we can offset some of the cost, by doing that which the New York Times reported on this year.  That is allow students that can pass a rigorous high school exit exam, to graduate at 16 or 17 and proceed to college or to postsecondary training of another sort. 


The research is clear.  America needs to change its education system if it is to compete globally in the years to come. 


Let me begin with why I believe California must start schooling earlier.


The contributions of our researchers over the last several years and the contribution of hundreds and thousands of preschool providers, while appreciated in France, Italy and many of our competitor nations, are not well appreciated in the United States.  A recent poll of Americans conducted by the Pearson Foundation found that Americans' perceptions about the inequality that exists between low-income children and their more affluent peers are quite uninformed.  "Seventy three percent of Americans wrongly believe that if children enter kindergarten unprepared, they will catch up in elementary school." (Jumpstart poll 2009 quoted in


Let me set the stage.

The facts about California's young children and their families:

1 of 5 children ages 0-5 live in poverty.

  • 1 of 2 children ages 0-5 live with working parents.
  • Eight of ten working mothers with preschool children use some form of non-parental childcare arrangement.
  • One in four young children have four or more risk factors that jeopardize their chances for success in school and in life. Some of those risk factors are:
    • Incomes below the poverty line,
    • Parents who lack a high school education,
    • Households where no parent has full time employment,
    • Living with a single parent or without parents,
    • Families receiving welfare assistance, and/or
    • Families who lack health insurance.

There is a special need for child care and development programs for populations with special needs, such as sick care, emergency care, care for children with disabilities, and care during nontraditional hours or off-hour care.


In January (January 2-8,2010), the Economist magazine noted this, "…there is evidence that America and Britain, the countries that combine high female employment with reluctance t involve the state in child care, serve their children especially poorly.  A report by Unicef in 2007 on children in rich countries found that America and Britain had some of the lowest scores for 'well-being'." (p. 51)


One of the little known facts in America is that there was a landmark social experiment in America during the Second World War.  America had over 3100 federal and state funded child care centers that served perhaps as many as 1.6 million children in all 48 states.  Why?  Because record numbers of women were in the workforce during WWII.  A far higher percentage of women with preschoolers are working today.  By the way, California was the only state where publicly funded centers continued after the war according to historian Shirley Ann Wilson Moore.  The federal support was withdrawn in March of 1946.


It is ironic that the United States is today one of only a few industrialized nations in the world without a high quality, comprehensive system of childcare and child development.  Somehow we knew during WWII that when women went into the workforce, we should provide care for their children.  It is ironic that today with a higher percentage of women in the workforce there is opposition to this idea.


What are the benefits of early education for three and four-year old children?


What we know about early childhood and its effects on adulthood are truly remarkable.  Unlike our ancestors in 1865 who guessed that compulsory public education would be a good experiment, we know as a certainty that early childhood experiences shape the adult.  But I want to talk first about that period of time before preschool to begin with. 


When a child is born the brain cells are not connected.  These brain cells called neurons need to be connected.  The better job we do making those connections, those synapses, the greater the opportunity for that child to learn and to develop.  By age 3 the brain has formed as many as 1,000 trillion of these synapses…and for some of those connections, if they are not made by age 3 or 4 or 5, they will NEVER be made.


IT IS SAFE TO SAY, WITHOUT RESERVATION, according to the National Research Council, "From the time of conception to the first day of kindergarten, development proceeds at a pace exceeding that of any other stage of life."


The way in which the adult brain functions can be profoundly affected by early experiences.


I love the book the Scientist in the Crib by Alison Gopnik, Andrew Meltzoff and Patricia Kuhl.  They point out that babies and children have powerful learning mechanisms that allow them to spontaneously revise, reshape and restructure their knowledge.  The authors put it this way, "The human baby's computational system is really a network, held together by language and love, instead of by optic fiber." 


Because the brain is sensitive and influenced by events in the outside world we must make certain that each child’s brain is strengthened in the most positive and constructive ways, by making certain that children are healthy and given healthy stimulus including preschool.


I am sorry to say that most Americans do not understand this fact.


Among other things that American did not know in 2009, again from the Jumpstart poll, was that:

          1. 63% of the population did not know that poverty is the best predictor of whether or not a child will achieve in school

2. 53% of the population is unaware that nearly one-half of children from low-income communities start first grade up to two years behind their peers.


I visited the French preschools as a guest of the French America Foundation back in 1999.  What I found there was nothing less than phenomenal.  When a Frenchwoman goes to see a doctor because she was pregnant, the doctor notifies the French government to ensure that she begins to receive a stipend to secure adequate nutrition and medical care until the child is born.  The mother goes on a paid maternity leave. 


When she returns to work, if she does not have other arrangements the French government has support for her to receive care.  From three months until the child is 3 years of age, that care is usually through a day care center or crèche where care is provided on a sliding scale.  From the time the child is potty trained until they are entering elementary school, they attend l’ecole maternelle, a full day program of child development where from 8:30-4:30 children are in a developmental setting that is free to the parent. Wrap around services between 7-8:30 and 4:30-6 can be purchased by parents.  Meals are wonderful, healthy, delivered with care in a leisurely setting.


Our nation has invested more on brain research in the last couple of decades, and although still modest the research is overwhelmingly pointing in one direction: 

Early childhood education plays a critical role in a child’s future success.

  • Rand Report (1998) shows that children who have had the benefit of preschool have
    • Better academic and social skills,
    • A reduced likelihood of being retained, dropping out, or becoming juvenile delinquents,
    • A greater likelihood of attending college,
    • And avoiding long periods of unemployment, welfare or jail.
  • The University of North Carolina study (1999 the Abecedarian Project) shows high quality in child development programs can still be measured at the end of the second grade and again after age 12. It is associated with positive early learning skills, including a larger vocabulary, better pre-reading and pre-math skills in the early years (Howes, 1999) and much higher IQ and overall achievement in later years.
  • Evaluations of early education programs demonstrate that children who participate in such programs:
    • Perform better on reading and mathematics achievement tests,
    • Are more likely to stay academically near their grade level and make normal academic progress throughout elementary school,
    • Are less likely to be held back a grade or require special education services in elementary school,
    • Show greater learning retention, initiative, creativity, and social competency, and
    • Are more enthusiastic about school and are more likely to have good attendance records

(Howes, 1999).

The public is with us.  They supported Proposition 10 in California, which while it did not get us to Universal Preschool; it did much to expand the preschool options and well as early health and safety measures for children in the first 5 years of life.  And when the Governor and a weak legislature tried to steal the money, the public rejected the money grab resoundingly.  I truly believe that people who lack the courage to raise taxes should not be allowed to steal those taxes as this Governor tried to do with Proposition 1D.


The public understands what those in government have overlooked.  We have mountains of research that tell us from zero to 5 is where the lines of achievement success or failure are drawn.  But if we are to foster the kind of high quality program that our competitor nations have, we must do what they have done and make preschool an overall much more high quality system, preferably available for all day.


I have nothing against the Governor’s after school program, except that we would not need such a massive program after school if we had Universal Preschool, full day mandatory kindergarten and much more support for health and safety of children under the age of 6.  


Meanwhile, I am sick to realize that the Governor eliminated our Extended Day program, putting hundreds of thousands of kids under the age of 13 into unsafe latchkey environments.  Taking away our COLA is unfortunate but putting thousands of children at risk when they are not in school is unconscionable.


I am sick that the Governor has shortened the school year to 175 days.  At 180 days, most American states still have the shortest school year in the First World and shorter than much of the Second World.  In Europe the school year is 200 days long.  In Asia, most school years are 220-260 days.  In short, we are short-changing our children.  Our children are being shorted serious school time that our competitor nations are giving their children. 


Class size reduction in kindergarten to third grade is being decimated across California.  Now kindergarten to third grade with join the 4th through 12th grade in having the largest class size in the United States.


We must support First Five and quality preschool for all. We can insure that there is adequate teacher training and technical assistance not only on such topics as early literacy and numeracy, but also on insuring there is adequate training for teachers to develop skills in relationship building with young children, and in assisting teachers in the fostering of curiosity, self-direction, conflict resolution, small motor skill development and persistence in learning situations.

We cannot be afraid of raising out sights.  It has happened in K-12 education and in higher education over the last century and it needs to happen in preschools.


We need full day kindergarten.  We need smaller class size in elementary school.  We need a longer school year. We need teachers who feel honored and supported. Sending out thousands of lay-off notices has the opposite effect.


Two generations ago, non-college graduates taught K-12 education.  My grandmother and two aunts of mine taught school right out of high school.  This was in Kentucky but occurred as late as the 1930’s.  Gradually we made the national norm that elementary, middle and high school teachers themselves needed more education. We must do so for preschool.


In the highest performing states and countries, all teachers, including preschool teachers, feel valued.  These teachers report they have adequate resources and support to be effective.  The highest performing states and nations have a low turnover of teachers.   America is losing a third of its teachers every 5 years.  Teacher retention should be of utmost importance.


Even as I am speaking of increasing the standards and salary for preschool teachers, I am not talking about teaching 4 year olds the periodic table of the elements.  Preschool teachers have important work to do but we must be careful not to start teaching rigorous academic subject matter to preschoolers.  This is a time of wonder and discovery, this is learning at its most joyful and we must focus on social and emotional growth, physical development and cognitive nurturing.  One size does not fit all and so we must allow for different models and different approaches, but preschool teachers must be more advanced in their own education in the decades to come.  


By the way, the typical French preschool teacher has the same level of training, credentials and pay as a French elementary school teacher. That will take us several years to accomplish so we should begin at once.


Fortunately we have hope.  We have a President who gets it.  California is receiving $220.3 million out of the $2 Billion appropriated for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CDBG) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to be spent over two years.  Increasing subsidized child development services will be receiving the lion’s share ($182.7M) while $37.6 million goes to quality activities.  Granted it is far less than we spend in a week in Afghanistan and Iraq but charity begins at home I was taught.  Our kids are worth it from where I sit.


California did not receive Race to the Top money because the program required maintenance of effort by states that received it.  That is why California did not get the federal dollars, and that is why we are unlikely to get Race to the Top money in the future.


Research tells us is that 70% of the children who are below grade level in the 4th grade could be identified in Kindergarten.  Put somewhat differently, a child of middle income family status who has been to preschool has 4 times the vocabulary beginning the first grade as his counterpart from a working class family that did not send its child to preschool. 


This should be a wake-up call to greatly strengthen preschool AND greater increase communication and cooperation between preschool and kindergarten.  Of course, we should be building more preschools on elementary school campuses.  When that is not possible, preschoolers should visit kindergartens long before the first day of kindergarten.  Communication between preschool teachers and kindergarten teachers should be increased and joint trainings and staff development like this should be common practice.


Our elementary schools need to be strengthened and class size should be reduced.


Our middle schools need to delve deeper into history, science and the arts.  We must stop having a curriculum that is, in the words of the TIMSS study, "a mile wide and an inch deep".


Our high schools should be brilliant, exciting places preparing students for the information age.


Our community colleges should be enlarged and strengthened. Our great public universities need to again guarantee affordable, high quality education for all who seek a college education.  We should invest in a larger percentage of students going to college. America has now dropped to 23rd of 24 in the percentage of college students completing their degrees.


We must find better ways to not only communicate with parents, but to create educational opportunities for parents to learn how to support their children educationally but also in terms of health and social services that they may not understand how to access. 


I am sad to report that when the budget of our state was far healthier than it is today, too many in California’s political leadership, including governors of both parties, rejected our call for strengthening our education system as if we are out of our minds.  If a generation coming out of Depression and war could create a fantastic education system in California in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.


Yes, it will be difficult to do.

Yes, it will be expensive. 

Yes, it is necessary.


What are the benefits to society if we provide great care and protection, education and health care for all children? 

·        Our state would have increased tax revenues, resulting from increased employment and earning by program participants.  We know from the OECD that America is far less likely to move the children of working class families into the middle class than 9 nations that have universal preschool, longer school years and higher expectations for all children.

·        In the long run, California would have decreased budget outlays, including reductions in Medicaid, Food Stamps, criminal justice outlays and general assistance (including reduced administrative costs, as well as payments to recipients).

·        As a result of our investment in children, we would experience reduced expenditures for education, health, and other services. (Rand Report, 1998)

·        Most of all, it will help each individual child to enter school ready to learn AND it will help our society. 


Why am I talking of increased education now, when the budget is tight?  Because of societal changes (welfare reform), there is a great need for additional childcare for working parents.

Because the growing racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity of our children suggests a greater need to insure all children enter school ready to learn and stay in school to be employed in the Information Age. (In San Francisco, there are 4000 kindergartners who speak 50 languages.  Across California, 50% of kindergartners speak a language other than English at home.) 


Because California lags behind most other states in student educational achievement and academic success, because the social and emotional development of our children is as important as their linguistic and cognitive development, and because investment in education is essential if California is to regain its national role as an educational leader.


Ironically, I have been talking about making investments in our children based on sound, well-documented research, the kind of research that previous Presidents, Congresses, Governors and Legislatures did not have when they invested in land grant colleges, compulsory public education, the GI Bill of Rights, and college loans.  They did what was right was a matter of instinct.  They followed their democratic (small d) values whether they were Democrats or Republicans.  Now it is time to do what is right for the next generation, yes, because research tells us it is the right thing to do.


Most of all, we should do this because to send a message to our children that we love them enough to invest in them, and that as the heirs of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Kennedy, we are willing to do work that is hard and expensive, because it is the right thing to do.


My goals for children in California have not changed much, but my impatience is growing.  I am proud to have been an honorary co-chair of Proposition 10.  I supported Rob Reiner’s initiative because too many people in the legislature were simply ignoring children prior to the age of 6.  That is why I applauded the state’s Master Plan for Education in 2002, which called for Universal Preschool.  Sadly, it was never adopted. That is why I was pleased that the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence called for statewide preschool for all 3- to 4-year olds in poverty.  Sadly, he shelved the report as the budget got tight and even tried to steal First Five money.


And don’t look now.  This Governor and Senator Cox are at it again again, despite the 2-1 rejection of his attempted theft of First Five money last year.  My message to the Governor and the Legislature is, if you do not have the courage to raise taxes, then do not try to steal those taxes when others have the courage to do so.  This legislature has rejected tobacco taxes on 16 occasions.  How cowardly that they would then try to poach off of First Five.  It is an outrage and a foolish waste of taxpayer money to put this on the ballot for a second time in a year, when it was defeated by such a huge margin the first time.


But for heavens sake, how many more research studies and reports do we need before we put some money where our mouths are. For me, the major elements remain the same.  Every dollar invested in the early years of life is just that, an investment.


Of course children should have pre-natal care.  It is especially hypocritical for anyone calling himself or herself "pro-life" who does not believe in prenatal care for mother and child.  Otherwise you are merely pro-conception, and life is downhill after that. 


Of course, new mothers and fathers should have, not only maternity and paternity leave with a promise of employment upon return, but the United States and/or the California government should make the leave a paid leave, as most of our European and first world counterpart countries do.  According to the Economist, "At least 145 countries provide paid sick leave.  America allows only unpaid absence for serious family illness.  America’s public spending on family support is low by OECD standards."In fact we are one of only four nations on earth that do not offer a paid maternity leave.  The others:  Swaziland, Papua New Guinea and Liberia.


Of course, all children, of all income levels, in all communities should have an equal opportunity to receive the necessary preparation to be ready to learn in the primary grades.   And while I think it should be a voluntary program, it should be universally available and of the highest quality.  America and California should work to develop developmental systems from age 18 months and we simply must focus on high standards, and, just like in Europe, it will use both public and private providers if they achieve the high standards.  This system will provide a stimulating environment, positive learning experiences and an emphasis on social and emotional development as well as linguistic and cognitive development.  Lastly, California must put this fully in place within a decade.


Of course, Kindergarten should be closely aligned with preschool.  In fact, kindergarten should be mandatory and full day.  And there should be more elementary schools with preschools on site.


Of course, there should be healthy lunches that include locally grown, seasonal vegetables in Califronia.


Of course, art and music, physical education and digital education must all be available for all of our children.


Today in America, most low-wage workers never move into the middle class.  According to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the economies of France, Italy, Britain, Germany, Denmark, Finland and Sweden provide more mobility for low-wage workers than the United States.  Again from the Economist, "Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland and Hungary provide up to three years of paid leave for mothers.  Germany has introduced a "parent's salary" of Elterngeld, to encourage mothers to stay at home….Other countries put more emphasis on preschool education.  New Zealand and the Nordic countries are particularly keen on getting women back to work and children into kindergartens.  Britain, German, Japan, Switzerland and above all, the Netherlands are keen on mothers working part-time."


Our only hope for social competence and for economic success and for the prevalence of democratic values is to improve the education of our children--all of our children.  And we must begin thinking this way soon.


Neil Postman wrote, "Children are the message we send to a time we will never see."  Our ill-schooled forbears, seemed to understand this.  They were generous and visionary with the future. 


I have lived long enough now to conclude with this observation:

There is nothing wrong with our children.  I am, however, worried about some of the grownups. 


We are at a crossroads in America where people with a straight face are proposing tax cuts in lieu of preschools, building high speed rail with money that should be invested in education, cutting support for teachers in classrooms while complaining about how many police we need on the street, shifting resources from voter approved tax initiatives to fund a bloated, incompetent prison system.


I am not talking rocket science here. 

I am talking common sense.

Educate them or incarcerate them. 

Love them or they will not love our nation and its values. 

The founders of this country and great leaders for more than 200 years knew that we must be about "securing these blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity".

When thinking about our posterity it seems self evident to me that investing in education from Universal preschool to graduate school should be as obvious as saving Yosemite or digging the Panama Canal or building the Golden Gate Bridge or the supporting the Manhattan Project or the Marshall Plan or going to the moon….


Some believe it to be more important than any single thing our country could embark upon at this moment. 

Some believe it is the next big idea. 

Count me in as one of those who believes.


Our present Governor said he thought the idea of Universal Preschool was "fantastic"but he did not support an initiative that identified a means to pay for it.  He did not want to raise taxes.  But he will try to steal those taxes from others who have the courage to go to the voters to raise such taxes.


Subsequently he said a sexy, high-speed rail was important for California and he put it on the ballot without identifying a means to pay for it other than the general fund of California.  Now he wants an expensive water system but he has not identified a means to pay for it.  I think Universal preschool is more important than either of those expenditures and that we could make the people using the rail or the water pay for the use of the train and the water so we can free up money for preschool. 


In the end the budget of a state or a nation is a statement of values. 


I say our nation's values used to be to put children first and those should be our values again.


I want to remind you what Dwight David Eisenhower said in 1953 but just as true today:


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.


This world in arms is not spending money alone.


It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…

This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace."


Eisenhower was correct.  This is a time when grave choices must be made and we must demand that our leaders in Sacramento and in Washington make the hard choice for a just and lasting peace. 



The journalist Richard Cohen once observed, "Those with nothing to gain…have nothing to lose."


The poet Nietzsche, said it said even more eloquently, "He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how". It was that line of Nietzsche’s that Victor Frankel quoted when asked how he survived the Nazi concentration camp in the Holocaust.  "He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how".


Our students are looking for the "why" and we hold the key.  Remember, the young people were very involved in 2008 election.  Participation was up dramatically.  That should not be so surprising.  Our college students are closer to the age of our founders than most college presidents are. 


Think about the Founders for a minute.  In 1776, most had already been active in politics for a few years.  Washington was a senior leader at the ripe age of 44.  Jefferson was all of 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.  Madison was just 25, Hamilton was 21 and Monroe was but 18.  Young people can and do make a difference in 2010 as well as 1776. 


Archimedes, in the ancient Greek democracy was asked, when he explained his new invention the lever, "Just how powerful is this thing?"


Archimedes, said, "Let me tell you how powerful it is.  Give me a place to stand, a lever and a fulcrum, and I will move the world." 


I believe that education is our lever and I hope you do too.  We simply must give our children the lever, the why of education, much as it was given to those of us in this room by previous generations who led with courage, vision and heart.


We even have the research to tell us why.



This site provided with the assistance of the Davis Community Network.