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Brilliant First Lady Michelle Obama by Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. A


t a time when there is so much doubt about the future and apprehension about the global economy, it is refreshing and reassuring to millions of people across America and throughout the world to witness the steadfast- ness of leadership that daily exudes from the First Lady of the United States of America.


LaVaughn Robinson Obama has evolved into one of the most admired First Ladies in the history of America.


It is said that what the economy needs more than anything else today is to regain a sense of eco- nomic “confidence” by both pro- ducers and consumers. But when it comes to how the majority of people feel about First Lady Michelle Obama, there is no lack of confidence and there is no hes- itation to salute her dedication to family, nation and to the uplift of humanity.


As we are about to


enter into the heated national political debates and campaigns of the 2012 national election year,


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be under intense pressures to maneu- ver through what may be one of the most difficult periods of time to maintain resilience and hope. I am encouraged and optimistic, however, that President Obama will be re-elected if millions of us do what we are supposed to do and that is go out and vote in record numbers 12 months from now. The pivotal role of women who will vote and the critical role of the youth vote will help to deter- mine the outcome of 2012 elections. Herein is where Mrs. Michelle Obama can be and will be an invaluable asset to President Obama's re-election campaign. Recently, the First Lady spoke to grass- roots campaign workers at the Obama 2012 National Headquarters in Chicago. It was report- ed that she was enthusiastically received by the campaign workers not only for her charm and motivational spirit, but also for Mrs. Obama's grasp of the challenges ahead of campaign. As a result of her spending time with the workers in the Chicago campaign office, the staff and volunteers were thoroughly reinvigorated. David Axelrod, President Obama's key political strategist, affirmed, “Her mission is to energize folks and give them encouragement to go out and to the work.”


According to U.S. News & World Report, the First Lady “has attended dozens of events with and for veterans and earlier this month announced a program at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington to get 100,000 vets hired by American firms.” Michelle Obama con- tinues to be a strong advocate for the support of veterans and their families across the nation. She also is helping to champion passage of the President's American Jobs Act to put millions of Americans back to work.


While the U.S.


Congress is taking too long to act or vote on many of the provisions of the American Jobs Act, the clear articulation of support for the Jobs Act by the First Lady helps to arouse a groundswell of national support for Congress to act on this impor- tant pending legislation. “Women for Obama” is an initiative by President Obama’s re-election campaign.


Michelle The Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.


purpose of this initiative is to galvanize millions of female voters to be active in the 2012 elections on behalf of President Obama. The honorary chair of “Women for Obama” is First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2008, President Obama received a plu- rality of votes from the majority of women voters. A CNN exit poll showed that Obama received more than 56% of the female in 2008. Alarge percent- age of independent swing voters are also women and the calculus of victory in 2012 will hinge on the largest turnout of female voters and young voters in every state.


At a youth get-out-the-vote (GOTV) rally last month at


Ohio State University both the President and the First Lady emphasized the importance of the youth vote in helping to continue to change America for the better. The crowd of college stu- dents gave a thunderous affirmative response to a question posed by Michelle Obama about the readiness of students and young voters to rise to the occasion again with a large voter turnout. She asked, “Can we do this?” The crowd shouted back with a tremendous roar, “Yes we can!”


The


Obama 2012 Re-election Campaign made the right move in establishing “Greater Together: Young Americans” initiative that is focused on registering and mobilizing millions of young vot- ers to support President Obama.


The National


Youth-Vote Director for Obama 2012 Re-election Campaign is Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, a young dynamic leader, who is proving to be another important asset to the President's re-election efforts. The point here is the First Lady is leading the way and young leaders and activists are being inspired every day to defy the negative pundits who are underestimating the growing national support for President Obama.


First Lady Michelle Obama is brilliant, deter- mined, caring, effective and very resourceful. All of us should be responding by lending a helping hand, giving of our time, energy and money, and to make our own contributions to push forward for more progress to ensure the re-election of President Barack Obama. Let's determine the future by how we act today.


Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN).


12 Chicago Defender • ChicagoDefender.com • November 30-December 6, 2011


Cuts in education: A failing choice by Marian Wright Edelman A


ristotle got it right when he said, “All who have meditated on the art of gov- erning mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the educa- tion of youth.” Once upon a time America pro- fessed to believe in a strong public education system-at least for some children. And we still talk about public education as the great equaliz- er and pathway out of poverty but continue to fall far short in assuring millions of poor children, especially those of color, upward mobility. As if children and families were not suffering enough during this economic downturn, many states are choosing to balance budgets on the backs of children and to shift more costs away from government onto children and families who have fewer means to bear them. That is a shameful trend in public educa- tion today. Even when students are in school, they're getting less than they used to. Of the 46 states


These education cuts come at a time when American education is in dire straits. The United States ranks 24th among 30 developed countries in overall educational achievement for 15-year- olds. A study of education systems in 60 coun- tries ranks the United States 31st in math achievement and 23rd in science achievement for 15-year-olds. More than 60 percent of all fourth, eighth, and 12th grade public school stu- dents in every racial and income group are read- ing or doing math below grade level. Nearly 80 percent or more of Black and Hispanic students in these grades are reading or doing math below grade level. A recent report by the Education Trust notes more than one in five high school graduates don’t meet the min- imum standard required for Army enlistment as measured by the


Armed Forces Marian Wright Edelman


that publish data in a manner allowing historical comparisons, 37 are providing less funding per student to local school districts this school year than they provided last year, and 30 are provid- ing less funding than they did four years ago. Seventeen states have cut per-student funding more than 10 percent from pre-recession levels, and four-South Carolina, Arizona, California, and Hawaii-have reduced per student funding for K-12 schools more than 20 percent. These cuts have major effects on critical learning opportunities. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found funding cuts in Georgia will mean shortening the pre-kinder- garten school year from 180 to 160 days for 86,000 four-year-olds. Since the start of the recession, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, and other states have cut funding from early education programs to help close budget shortfalls. New Jersey cut funding for afterschool programs. In a 2009 survey of California parents, 41 percent reported their child’s school was cutting sum- mer programs. Cuts limiting student learning time are likely to intensify in the coming year. An American Association of School Administrators survey reports 17 percent of respondents were considering shortening the school week to four days for the 2011-2012 school year and 40 percent were considering eliminating summer school programs. Summer learning loss is a major contributor to the achievement gap between poor and nonpoor children. Districts across the country are begin- ning to cut extracurricular activities and to charge fees for supplies like biology safety gog- gles or printer ink.


Qualification Test (AFQT). Among applicants of color, the ineligibility rates are even higher: 29 percent of Hispanics and 39 percent of


African Americans are ineligible based on their AFQT scores.


Children should be getting more quality instructional time, not less, to prepare to com- pete in the rapidly globalizing economy. Instead they're being held back and provided less school days and hours by stopgap solutions to budget problems they didn’t cause. Too many adults seem to lack a moral, common, and fiscal sense context for making decisions about what to cut and what to invest in. The Children's Defense Fund's first publication in 1974 was on Children Out of School in America. We documented two million children not enrolled in school, includ- ing hundreds of thousands of children with dis- abilities. As we went door to door interviewing thousands of families in 30 census tracts for that initial study, we never thought to ask the ques- tion, “Is your child home today because her school is closed to help balance your district's budget?”


At the Children’s Defense Fund we believe education is a basic human right and an essential tool for evening the odds for all children and promoting upward mobility for children left behind. Education gives you the tools to improve not only your own life but the lives of others and to leave the world better than you found it. How can we expect our children to cre- ate a better America if we don’t give them a good education? Cuts being proposed in Washington and in the states and localities around the country may be saving a few dollars on a balance sheet today-but they will cost us dearly tomorrow as a nation. How shortsighted we are. Where are our priorities? What are our values?


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