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While pundits speculate and pontificate on the future political career of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state seems not to be concentrating on 2016—at least, not for now. Last week, Clinton announced the “Too Small to Fail” initiative, a venture of the Clinton Foundation (created by her husband, former President Bill Clinton) and Next Generation—a nonpartisan group that promotes scientific research about early childhood development. A well-polished four-minute clip on the project’s site highlights what many of us have known for some time: the most critical years for any child are the early developmental stages, between the ages of 0-5. Colorful images of healthy parents with their healthy young children playing and reading were complemented by experts briefly discussing the importance of everything from nutrition to brain development. Calling on communities, individuals, and businesses to serve as partners, the video seems more like a vision statement than a plan of action.
The focus is commendable, and the support from non-profits and corporations, alike—I am sure—will follow. From a moral standpoint, I feel we can learn a lot about a nation by how it treats its most vulnerable, which is what gives me pause. With all of our social programs, and countless organizations claiming to concentrate on child welfare issues, none have successfully addressed the increasing education, opportunity, and development gaps that exist among children in the United States. So while this organization is in its infancy stage, I have one simple question for Hillary Clinton: how are you any different? We will get a better sense of how to answer that question moving forward, but there are four things that immediately pop in my head and I will be paying close attention to:
What does this mean? In short, before a poor child reaches the age of 1, he or she has already fallen behind middle-class children in their ability to talk, understand and learn. This likelihood increases if you are a poor black child. We cannot target children without targeting their caretakers, and it will be interesting to see what solutions (if any) “Too Small to Fail” will introduce to address these disparities.
I am cautiously optimistic about “Too Small to Fail.” Only time will tell if this infant organization will develop into a fully-grown solution.
Ify Ike is a former Capitol Hill advisor and counsel, with experience on a variety of social justice issues. She is an original blogger of the faith-blog “The Bold and Fabulous,” founder of the policy and communications firm, Ike Professionals, LLC, and has assisted numerous ministries in program creation, youth outreach efforts, community service, and natural disaster relief. At least once a day, you can find her in a debate about politics or religion.