Friday, October 24, 2014

Leadership

Radio Commentary

Leadership and service aren’t limited to public roles, according to author Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

In fact, she argued that the strongest leadership and most effective service can come from the way individuals handle themselves, day to day, in their normal interactions with others.

In a book for her children, she wrote: “Be a quiet servant-leader and example. You have a role to exercise ... every minute of the day.”

She explained how in the most common of circumstances we can seize the opportunity to resist what is negative and set an example for what can be positive.

She wrote:  “Have you ever noticed how one example — good or bad — can prompt others to follow?

“How one illegally parked car can give permission for others to do likewise?

“How one racial joke can fuel another?

“How one sour person can dampen a meeting?”

Edelman writes that the opposite is also true. “One positive person can set the tone in an office or school. Just doing the right and decent thing can set the pace for others to follow.”

We could all benefit by being one of those people who models positive behavior.
  
Edelman writes: “America is in urgent need of a band of moral guerrillas who simply decide to do what is right, regardless of the immediate consequences.”

This is wonderful advice for young and old alike.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cyber-bullying

Radio Commentary

A very serious threat to the well-being of children is one that many parents still know too little about: cyber-bullying. Its effects can be devastating.

We have all read news reports of young suicide victims, bullied into believing life was no longer worth living because of relentless attacks over the Internet.

One can only imagine the ripple effect these tragedies have had on the victims’ families, and their communities, and even on the perpetrators.

Most young people who take part in cyber-bullying do it as a joke, and don’t pause to consider the impacts. Throughout human history, young people have shown they can be mean to each other, but the Internet has provided them with the tools to be truly cruel.

Many parents are simply not up to speed when it comes to social network sites or the online places their own children visit. New sites seem to emerge each day.

Add in the presence of text messages and video messages, and it all means that parenting in the age of cyber-crimes is more challenging than ever.

It might seem like a good idea to give a young child a cell phone with Internet access, but parents should consider the trade-offs they are making when they do so.

Yes, children will be able to stay in touch; but the risk is real, especially with young children whose judgment and decision-making skills are not yet fully developed.

Our office is working in partnership with District Attorney Joyce Dudley to address and reduce incidents of cyber-bullying. Parents need to be active partners in these efforts as well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Voting remains our shared responsibility

News column

As the world situation becomes ever more worrisome, we are reminded once again what sets us apart as one of the greatest powers on earth — our democratic system of governance and our freedoms. Neither comes without a price — and that price is the responsibility to vote. We all know voting is our right. We sometimes forget it is our duty as well, as citizens in a democracy.

Throughout history people have sacrificed their lives for the freedom to vote, and throughout our shrinking world they continue to do so in an effort to elect leaders and influence policies. Yet many in our communities continue to take that right for granted, or relinquish it all together. Statistics from the last California primary show that only 18 percent of registered voters took part in this important civic responsibility.

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, or by absentee ballot in the weeks leading up to that date, citizens will once again have the chance to make their choice among candidates for federal, state, and judicial offices, as well as school district, special district, and city offices. The ballot will also contain important state and local measures. Once again, apathy or lack of participation will be the greatest threats to the outcome.

I view elections and initiatives through the lens of what is best for children. Because they can’t vote, it is up to us to determine how best to ensure a strong, healthy promising future for this next generation.
  
Many of the candidates have very clear-cut positions on children’s issues and programs. Plus, several ballot measures and propositions will have direct impact on the children of this state and our community. Several school board seats are also up for election, with direct influence on local school districts.

Parents and adults who advocate for young people can make sure, by their vote, that government will make children a priority in policy matters. As Thomas Jefferson said, “In a democracy, agreement is not essential, but participation is.”

What kind of a nation would we become and what kind of government would we have if people no longer participated?

As we cast our votes for candidates and initiatives, we will be setting priorities for this decade and beyond.

As an educator, I am a strong supporter of school districts’ efforts to support and serve the children and young people in their charge. In this election, several school bonds will appear on the ballot, including Carpinteria, College, Montecito, Santa Maria-Bonita, and Santa Barbara City College. Some of the state propositions will also have a direct or indirect effect on school districts. I urge you to get the details of the measures that will affect your family, and cast an educated vote on the various measures.

Santa Barbara County Clerk Recorder Joseph Holland maintains an informative voting website at sbcvote.com. The California League of Women Voters also provides current voting guides at votersedge.org.

I urge all members of our community to learn the positions of various candidates and the details of the various measures, and to use that knowledge to take part in this important aspect of our democracy. Exercise your right to vote and encourage others to do so as well. It’s the price we pay for our freedoms.



Firearms at home

Radio Commentary

More than 22 million U.S. children live in homes with firearms.
  
In 43 percent of those homes, the guns are not locked up or fitted with trigger locks, according to a national survey.
  
The study, reported in the "American Journal of Public Health," analyzed gun storage practices in six thousand nine hundred households with children.

The study found that nine percent of homes keep firearms unlocked, and loaded. Those homes represent 1.7 million children.
  
Another 4 percent of the homes have guns that are unlocked and have ammunition nearby.
  
That means that about 2.6 million homes had firearms stored in a way most accessible to children.

Researchers found that many parents know guns should be locked up but there is a disconnect between knowledge and action.
  
They may think the top shelf of a closet or a sock drawer is secure. But children are notoriously curious and may find them anyway.
  
Experts say parents should look at their own firearm storage and ask pointed questions about weapons at their friends' homes as well.

This is one area where it’s not possible to be too cautious. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Balanced eating

Radio Commentary


Many experts feel that far too much attention is placed on the body shape. This can translate into eating disorders for young teenage women.

It is also true that being seriously overweight can cause long-term health problems that should be avoided.

Parents can help children maintain a healthy balance. If they aren’t hungry at mealtime, don’t insist they clean their plates.

Parents should also observe how their children signal true hunger.

Sometimes young people will ask for food or say they are hungry when they are merely bored, lonely, or frustrated.

Try to determine whether the child is truly hungry. If not, help him find other ways to address boredom or frustration.

It’s also important to encourage physical activity. Discourage long hours spent in front of the TV or computer. Enjoy activities with your children. They are more likely to take part if you play along with them.

Also, be a good role model. Eat healthy foods and avoid inactivity. Children with overweight parents are twice as likely to become overweight as well.

Remember, though, to strike a balance in paying attention to weight. Too much focus can backfire and cause an eating disorder.

As always, moderation is the key.