I recently heard a Native American leader say to some of his tribe, "We were once a proud and independent people. How is it we have become so dependent? We must restore our pride and self-reliance, our spirit of independence." Federal anti-poverty programs have mired multiple generations of Native American and other families in dependency. We have taken away many of the incentives to work, to save, to get an education, to make one’s own way in the world.
Children from dependent homes are much more likely to drop out of high school or obtain no post-secondary education or training. They often enter the job market with few marketable skills. If they find work, they’re often entry-level positions. They may not make a living wage. Their health will probably be worse than their middle class peers. Their chance of incarceration will be significantly higher. Children from dependent homes are much more likely to become adults in dependent homes.
Fatherlessness, poor parental support in education, poor nutrition, lower educational achievement, limited resources, lack of good role models, higher crime rates, etc., will cause a majority of these children to repeat the multi-generational cycle of poverty.
Winning the War Against Dependence will take much more than throwing some welfare recipients off the dole. It will not be enough for us to say sternly to these children, “You better study and get a job because we will not support you.” The only way to reverse this self-perpetuating dependency is by working assiduously with the rising generation to teach them how to become self-reliant. This will be intensive and expensive, but it must be done. No top-down government program will win this fight. It must proceed one child at a time, and be directed by local leaders and entities such as schools, community organizations, and churches. There is no shortcut.
Latinos In Action is exemplary of the kind of approach which will give many children a chance to attain the American Dream. Its director, Jose Enriquez, recently staged a leadership conference bringing 1,500 Latino students to the U of U where they mixed with college students, got the feel of college life, and heard speaker after speaker encourage them to work hard and succeed. This program organizes older students to mentor and encourage younger ones to study and do well in school while providing great role models for them. Looking over this sea of eager, smiling faces gave me great hope. So far, this program has produced a perfect high school graduation rate and 85% enroll in college. Other programs are making similar inroads.
We can't look to Washington to win this war. We need to act boldly and decisively to save the rising generation from poverty, ignorance, and dependence--one child at a time. I beg you to join me in this war. We need your help.