I was eating lunch on Capitol Hill in Longworth preparing to visit staffers of Representative Anthony Brown when a group of veterans sat down at our table. They were fighting for better services and systems. They asked why we were visiting. As I bit into my pizza that had government domino style cheese and barely any sauce, I said, “We’re here advocating for children, families and ourselves for all children to have access to high quality early learning programs, higher wages and support in higher ed as we pursue degrees. We really need the Family Child Care Working Act passed.”
“There is a disparity in access and wages. Not to mention a child’s brain grows and develops by the time they hit 5. So, access to high quality and care will and does help change trajectories. I am a living example.” An older stern man sitting across from me said, “I think children need discipline and a man at home. A father who’ll discipline em’. That’s the problem. Children lack discipline. Plus it needs to be handled on the state level not federal.”
These are exactly the conversations I enjoy having. I stared at him and pulled out my Head Start picture and shared how my father was incarcerated and in and out of jail coupled with my mother being in and out of the hospital. I had a sister who ensured I made it to school on time. Plus, I had awesome teachers at Head Start. Children can’t vote. Championing for children and families is what my colleagues and I do. I couldn’t vote back in 1990 or even before as I was not conceptualized BUT people did do the right thing by children and as a result, I had access to high quality early learning through Head Start. I got a “head start”. Now I have a masters and work to pay that kind of educational power forward so other trajectories can be changed as well. So others have a chance: children, educators and families.
Children and families must come first and as a result, we will have ROI’s unheard of for our country.
He did not say anything but wished us well. I wished them well too. Another military officer waited until he was up the hallway and out of sight and leaned in. She said, “I believe it starts in the nursery”. I looked at her and said, “Yea, that’s what I mean by preschool children: meaning birth through 8 and even beyond that through college and even beyond that!”
She said softly, “I used to watch Fred Rogers religiously.”
I smiled and said, “Me too.”
We all have a little Fred in us. Watch below to see Fred’s advocacy and testimony on Capitol Hill back in the day. Taking it back to 1969. https://youtu.be/fKy7ljRr0AA
Jill Telford is an American artist, author, storyteller, educator and creator of children’s books.
More of her work can be found: http://amazon.com/author/jilltelford