History is already attempting to rewrite Obama’s presidency. Over his eight years in office, Obama never exuded anything less than class, intelligence and an apparently endless appetite for hope and optimism. He frequently spoke about the progress toward a more perfect union and never publically condemned the colleagues who chose to hold him back.
Our former President spent most of his second term under siege from an uncompromising, myopic and greedy political party that controlled Congress and its purse strings. Perhaps no American president has had to endure so many vicious attacks on his character and “agenda,” most of which is planted firmly in the realm of common sense.
Look Beyond the Propaganda
During his time in office, Obama attempted to:
- Sign a comprehensive infrastructure bill that would have rejuvenated America’s failing roads and other essential construction projects.
- Sign a bipartisan transportation and housing bill.
- Sign bills requiring equal pay for women and an overdue increase in the Federal minimum wage.
- Sign a law that would limit offshoring and outsourcing, to keep American jobs in America.
- Sign a law that would rehire 400,000 teachers, police officers, paramedics and firefighters.
- Sign a law reforming student loan to make it more manageable and less punitive.
- Sign a law that would have extended unemployment benefits for the most desperate Americans in times of hardship.
- Sign a law that would have guaranteed millionaires pay similar tax rates as working Americans.
- Sign a law that would have repealed subsidies for Big Oil.
If you’ve relied on television for your news — or even the major outlets with a digital presence — you’re probably familiar with tragically few of Obama’s efforts to reverse a generations-old trend toward ever-worsening inequality. He wanted to build an America that actually chose to rise to our potential instead of squandering it.
But Republicans stopped all of it from happening. They said they were halting the slippery slope toward tyranny — and they said it with a straight face.
What did we get instead? Eight years of Obama standing before the nation begging for a reasoned conversation about how to fix the middle class and create a government and nation that works for all of us, rather than only working for the rich. Eight years of Republicans saying “No.” The above is only a tiny sampling of GOP efforts to sabotage Obama — there are hundreds more examples.
None of this is to say Republicans — or even “conservative thinking” — is necessarily the problem here. The point is this: When evil wants to halt real social progress in its steps, the GOP is the tool it most frequently uses to do so. The Democratic Party might be out of touch these days, but the GOP is a deadly tumor that’s slowly killing us.
The ‘Signature’ Issue: Obamacare
No accounting of Obama’s tilting at the windmills of progress is complete without a word about The Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” It’s his signature accomplishment, after all.
And yes, it’s complicated. Portions of it aren’t quite working as intended, but the goal of the law was to insure folks who’d never previously had insurance, either because their genetic code disqualified them or because they couldn’t afford it. By these standards, Obamacare has been a remarkable success. Twenty million Americans now have health insurance who did not previously have it, despite Republican efforts in Congress to literally steal the money meant to pay for it all.
You can’t be an informed citizen and still believe the ACA is some kind of albatross around the neck of America’s economy. It’s not socialized medicine. Hell, it’s not even universal healthcare. But it did move the Overton Window in a big way. The Overton Window is that magical spectrum that houses all of the ideas mainstream America is willing to entertain at any given time. Thanks to Obama’s presidency, the Overton Window now includes the concept of universal, unconditional healthcare. Other nations took the lead, and America took a while to catch on, but now we’re there.
Whether our current administration follows the painfully obvious bread crumb trail toward the only healthcare fix that makes any kind of sense today — a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system — is the only unanswered question.
After we spend a couple more years toiling under the American Taliban we call Congress, Americans are probably going to start missing Obama in a big way. His story is a frustrating one, given where things are headed, but his actions speak far louder than bluster, outrage, vitriol and smear campaigns. If you look at his record objectively, you’ll see a man who frequently stood alone against impossible odds on your behalf and mine.
And yes, it’s a touch tragic. In his book “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama writes elegantly and sadly about the compromises implicitly expected of a would-be politician. He admits:
“I can’t assume that the money chase [of seeking reelection] didn’t alter me in some ways … Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means … [who] reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale that can afford to write a $2,000 check to a political candidate … I know that as a consequence of my fund-raising I became more like the wealthy donors I met, in the very particular sense that I spent more and more of my time above the fray, outside the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality, and frequent hardship of the other 99 percent of the population — that is, the people that I’d entered public life to serve.”
Reading these words hurts when they were written by a man who campaigned relentlessly on the idea of hope and change. It’s here that Obama’s only real failure resides, but it’s not an upworthy, sexy or outrageous topic, so we don’t talk about it. And Republicans don’t talk about it either, because they’ve made a science of taking the kind of bribes Obama spends his time here lamenting.
Instead, we get politicians like Chris Christie who use oxymoronical phrases like “feckless tyrant” to discuss Obama in front of a live TV audience. Bluster and hatred has attempted to overshadow the real story of Obama’s presidency.
And that real story is called measurable social progress. In addition to laying the groundwork for a brand-new healthcare system, Obama also managed to:
- Oversee a 5.4% drop in unemployment over the course of six years.
- Pass a $787 billion Recovery and Reinvestment package to see the middle class through the Great Recession.
- Be instrumental in the LGBT community’s fight for equal rights and the official recognition of same-sex marriage.
- Lay the groundwork for U.S. energy independence by the year 2020 and become a world leader in a 200-country climate change accord.
- Help keep immigrant families together by expanding work permit programs.
- Impose consumer protections and reform efforts on Wall Street.
- Reduce the United States’ unconscionable use of torture.
- Normalize our relationship with nearby Cuba.
- Impose stricter fuel efficiency standards on American automobile manufacturers.
- Take better care of returning veterans with a $78 billion G.I. bill.
The list goes on, and anyone who’s honest with themselves couldn’t possibly remember this man’s time in office as a failure. In fact, in the uncompromising light of these encouraging facts, even the phrase “missed opportunity” starts sounding a little quaint and hysterical.
Head Start May Protect Against Foster Care Placement
Participating in Head Start may help prevent young children from being placed in foster care, finds a national study led by a Michigan State University researcher.
Kids up to age 5 in the federal government’s preschool program were 93 percent less likely to end up in foster care than kids in the child welfare system who had no type of early care and education, said Sacha Klein, MSU assistant professor of social work.
Klein and colleagues examined multiple forms of early care and education – from daycare with a family member to more structured programs – and found Head Start was the only one to guard against foster care placement.
“The findings seem to add to what we already know about the benefits of Head Start,” Klein said. “This new evidence suggests Head Start not only helps kids develop and allows parents to go to work, but it may also help at-risk kids from ending up in the foster care system.”
Klein and colleagues studied the national survey data of nearly 2,000 families in which a child had entered the child welfare system for suspicion of abuse or neglect. Those children were either pulled from the home or were being overseen by a caseworker.
Klein said Head Start may protect against foster care because of its focus on the entire family. Services go beyond providing preschool education to include supporting parental goals such as housing stability, continued education and financial security.
There are more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, about a third of them under the age of 5, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. All children in foster care automatically qualify for free Head Start services, regardless of income level.
Klein said the findings suggest policymakers should consider making all children in the child welfare system, including those living at home, automatically eligible for Head Start. That could help prevent more kids from ending up in foster care.
While foster care can be a vital resource for protecting children from abusive and neglectful parents, it is rarely a panacea for young kids, the study notes.
“Indeed, young children who are placed in foster care often have compromised socio-emotional, language and cognitive development and poor early academic and health outcomes,” the authors write. “Trauma and deprivation experienced before removal may largely drive these developmental deficits, but foster care often fails to alleviate them and sometimes can worsen them.”
Klein’s co-authors are Lauren Fries of MSU and Mary Emmons of Children’s Institute Inc. in Los Angeles.
Rescuing Sex Trafficking Victims
Forty years ago, it wasn’t unusual to find Lois Lee, Ph.D., J.D. wandering the streets and alleys of Los Angeles at 3 a.m.; she even did so while pregnant with her son.
Dr. Lee was looking for victims of sex trafficking and those who exploited them.
Walking miles along Sunset, Santa Monica and Hollywood Boulevards, the then-24-year-old would hand out business cards with her hotline number, encouraging victims to call and letting them know what kind of help they’d find.
“These are girls, boys and transgender children that would fall between the cracks of the system,” remembers Lee. “They had nowhere to go — no one was providing a bed or a school or offering to take care of these kids.”
So, she created that place.
From 1979 to 1981, Lee housed more than 250 sex trafficking victims in her own home, all while building the Children of the Night outreach program; the privately funded nonprofit organization would become unlike any other in existence at the time, or even today, rescuing children from child prostitution and providing housing, education and treatment.
But perhaps most important, Lee gave them hope.
An Unimaginable Life
Lee was raised in Los Angeles, the eldest child in a family of three girls. It was a childhood she describes as healthy, safe and sheltered.
So when, as a graduate student at California State University, Dominguez Hills, her faculty mentor Jeanne Curran, PhD., then a professor of sociology, introduced her to the underworld of sex trafficking, it was a wake-up call.
“I wanted to make everything better because I just couldn’t imagine someone living in these types of conditions,” explains Lee, who graduated from CSU Dominguez Hills with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science in 1973 and a master’s in sociology in 1977.
It was at CSUDH that she developed the skills she’d later use to address child sex trafficking. Lee also taught courses at the campus’s Social Systems Research Center, then led by Dr. Curran. The center has since been renamed the Urban Community Research Center.
“Jeanne became a mentor for me, both on- and off-campus. She influenced my life and academic choices so much,” says Lee, a first-generation college student.
“She and CSU Dominguez Hills empowered me.”
Victims, Not Criminals
Late one night in 1977, Lee received a call from a woman who operated an escort service. A 17-year-old she worked with had not returned and she was unable to contact her.
Afraid, she had called Lee for guidance. Lee went to the police, who dismissed the call and refused to help. The next morning, the girl’s body was found; she had become one of the Hillside Stranglers’victims.
Frustrated by the lack of resources that were available to these girls, Lee appeared on an L.A. news broadcast, giving out her personal phone number and encouraging prostitutes with knowledge of the case to reach out to her directly. She promised confidentiality.
“I coordinated everything just as I had learned from Jeanne at CSU Dominguez Hills,” Lee recalls. “And that was really the beginning of my work.”
Lee would go on to play a critical role in the Hillside Strangler trial, testifying in the case and coordinating witnesses for the prosecution.
At just 27, Lee garnered attention when she sued the Los Angeles Police Department for prosecuting underage prostitutes while letting their customers go free.
She won the case and has gone on to file a number of other lawsuits.
“I taught vice detectives nationwide that there were children prostituting and they needed to be treated differently,” says the President’s Volunteer Action Award recipient. She strongly advocated – and still does – to have the children referred to and treated as victims, not criminals.
Education: The Key to Success
To date, Children of the Night’s president and founder is credited with rescuing more than 10,000 children from prostitution in the U.S.
The organization’s shelter, located in Van Nuys, California, offers no-cost housing for as many as 12 children ages 11 to 17. They attend classes at the on-site school, receive individualized treatment, and participate in fun outings. A nationwide toll-free hotline is also staffed 24/7.
Lee sees education as the most fundamental of the services they offer, and attendance is mandatory for all residents.
“What’s really important about the development of any society is to educate the people,” she explains. “Through education, I was able to learn about the world. Education empowers.”
While children are offered treatment to manage trauma, their past experiences are not the focus, Lee stresses. “I don’t feel sorry for the children with whom I work,” she says. “[That] incapacitates their ability to become strong and independent. I want the world for my kids. I have very high expectations of them.”
Which is not to say she isn’t deeply empathetic to what they’ve faced.
“There is no way that I can make what happened to them go away, but I can … put distance between their old lifestyle and their life now.”
Today, Lee is regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in rescuing child sex trafficking victims, raising awareness on a topic that previously wasn’t talked about. In 1981, the General Accounting Office estimated there were 600,000 children under the age of 16 working as prostitutes in the United States. Today, that number is estimated to be 100,000.
In January 2017, Children of the Night announced a new global initiative to rescue 10,000 more children worldwide from sex trafficking.
Lee is also passionate about giving back to the campus that helped turn her dream into an advocacy mission that has no doubt saved thousands of lives.
“So much of what I have done and have been able to do in my life is because of my time at CSU Dominguez Hills,” Lee says. “The faculty raised me and nourished me. They liked to take risks and they challenged traditional thinking processes. “Dominguez Hills taught me how to break down barriers.”
It’s National Coming Out Day
Today is National Coming Out Day which is a day of raising awareness and destigmatization for the LGBTQ community.
It's #NationalComingOutDay! Come out as gay. Come out as trans. Come out as supporting equality. We need your voices now.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) October 11, 2017
2. If you think you're ready to come out as LGBT then pick one person you trust and speak to them. It's not a race! #NationalComingOutDay
— Wayne Dhesi (@WayneDavid81) October 11, 2017
3. If you don't feel comfortable using a label for your identity then don't. Try explaining how you feel instead. #NationalComingOutDay
— Wayne Dhesi (@WayneDavid81) October 11, 2017
You were NEVER created to feel ashamed, unworthy, condemned or defeated. You were created to feel victorious. #NationalComingOutDay
— Daniel Brocklebank (@Dan_Brocklebank) October 11, 2017
Texting is the preferred method of communication for young people.
— Luke ♋️✨ (@LukeGrayyy) October 11, 2017
Proof you have great friends who also will throw you a party.
— ash 🍂 | 293 (@flickerofhcpe) October 11, 2017
Great Advice, don’t feel pressured to do anything or be afraid to show your true self…Write your own story!
Don't feel pressured into doing it.
You'll know when the time is right for you.
Write your own story ❤#NationalComingOutDay
— Iain (@BeaIe_) October 11, 2017
Today is #NationalComingOutDay! My message to LGBT youth: We love and accept you for who you are. Don’t be afraid to be true to yourself!
— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) October 11, 2017
Reminders on #NationalComingOutDay:
-if you can't be out, your sexuality is still valid
-if you aren't ready, your sexuality is still valid
— Mackenzi Lee (@themackenzilee) October 11, 2017
I would love it if you could be yourself. And be happy #NationalComingOutDay
— bella thorne (@bellathorne) October 11, 2017
Happy Coming Out Day!
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