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Mom In Search of Pro-Child Candidate

Post convention and pre-election, this mama is surprised that mothers have so quickly taken the center stage. Not long ago, the only time politicians spoke of us was when they were bashing welfare moms, as if they might bring down the entire country...Now mothering is equated with the experience needed to run the country.

Suddenly mothers have been launched into the limelight, all of us: working moms, hockey moms and teenage moms. I want to shift this spotlight from lipstick, wardrobes, and truth-challenged attack ads, to asking the hard question: What will our elected leaders do to ensure a safe and sustainable future for our children?

There is a cyclone of opinion surrounding the Republican VP choice of Sarah Palin. As a mother and Director of Mothers Acting Up, my job is to continue to shift the debate from personality to policy and focus on how U.S. policies are impacting children – in the U.S. and around the world. I want to focus on whether Palin is “pro-child”, believing that all children deserve food in their belly, quality health care and safe schools to attend, with mothers who have access to pre-natal health care and proper nutrition. Will she support fully funding our county’s promise to contribute 0.7% of our GNP to the Millennium Development Goals by 2015? (In 2007 the U.S. was in last place for meeting this commitment, .16%.) Will she agree to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child; we’re the only country – besides Somalia, which lacks a functioning government – that hasn’t signed the treaty. Our “security” budget is bigger than all countries combined. Will she support shifting 15% of the budget to preventative “security programs like education for all"? These are the questions I want the media, Palin and every candidate to address. Then discerning mother citizens can decide for ourselves which candidate represents the interests of children.

A nationwide USA Today poll finds 80% of respondents are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States. As a pro-child, pro-earth mama, add me to that group. With U.S. childhood poverty rates at a ten ten-year high, our legislators voted down expanding health insurance for children. While the number of billionaires doubled in 4 years, 95% of the world lives on $10 a day or less. Mohammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and father of microcredit, speaks of leaving our children a world where poverty lives only in a museum. Let's elect mothers* whose mission is to put poverty in a museum.

The war in Iraq – costing $1 trillion – has not made anyone safer, especially children, here or in Iraq. While our current president is discussing new generations of nuclear weapons, the U.S. Army has been working on innovative and pro-life alternatives to war. They consider girl’s education a vital link to our long-term security. MAU calendar portrait Lorelei Kelly, a security expert, talks about “issues that were once considered ‘women’s issues’ (read: not as important as guns and bombs) are now squarely in the middle of domestic and international debates on security.” Time to elect visionary leaders who will invest our tax dollars in human security and reject failed weapon systems.

Global climate change legislation has barely seen the light of day. Remember all the talk about how curbing climate change would hurt our economy? Turns out that investing in renewable energy means: jobs to boost our economy; cleaner air for our children; and a more sustainable future for the next generation. As the polar ice cap melts and asthma rates rise, let's elect a President and Congress committed to addressing global warming. I vote for an administration that will use children’s health and welfare as a barometer when voting for climate action bills.

This has all the makings of the most important vote of my lifetime and perhaps my children’s. I vow to respectfully engage in a fiercely passionate debate about what I hold most dear: children’s wellbeing. With those who are planning to check a different box this November, I will continue to search for common pro-child ground.

Here’s my approach and I welcome you to join me:
Get educated about the issues and select candidates who stand for children. Find scorecards at:

* Children’s Defense Fund Scorecard
* “On the Record” with the One campaign
* National Environmental Scorecard

PS: Mothers Acting Up does not take a position in the pro-choice, pro-life debate, as it is MAU’s mission to rally both sides to create a pro-child movement. I dream of the day people say they are voting for a candidate because she’s pro-child.

Talk to everyone about this election. Write a respectful email sharing your perspective with facts galore, site your sources, and send it out to your personal network. Include all friends and family, even if they might not agree.

VOTE with babes in tow. MAU is a coalition partner with the White House Project in the Take Your Daughter (and Son) to the Polls campaign. Email MAU at for Pledge cards and stickers!

This is our time mamas. Be not blinded by the paparazzi. Keep your eye on the prize: a pro-child President and Congress!

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Corine Milano's picture

Joellen, Thank you so much


Thank you so much for bringing this discussion into the forefront. You have asked powerful, important questions and given us great action items to take forward—I certainly will be voting for pro-child candidates this November.


biz's picture

i read your post and loved

i read your post and loved it. when palin was chosen i too was distracted by this woman from nowhere that wasn´t speaking for me and was being heralded. i am looking for candidates that will rotect my childrens´ voices in the years to come. i firmly believe that women and children have the greatest power of changing the world. we, women and children, live on the fringes of what is deemed "important" in this world, most unfortunate as mothers generally provide skills needed to live in this world among your fellow humans. i do those "unimportant tasks" in a day like talk with my children about why we don´t beat up people that make us mad, don´t overconsume, give of yourself to this world because that is what you should do, don´t break thing s if you can´t fix them. that leads me to this link of Severin Suzuki, if you have seen this before, i hope you enjoy it again. if you have ot seen this, pass it on to all you know!
if the link doesn´t work, go to youtube and search for "the girl who silenced the united nations" that will get you her speech which was brave and beautiful. thank you for your wonderful post!
Elizabeth Annarino

Joellen's picture

Severin and living overseas

I am a huge fan of the Suzuki's. If you haven't seen Suzuki Speaks, check it out. I saw that you are living in Mexico. How is that going during this time of shift in the US?
In spirited partnership,

biz's picture

I´ll check out Suzuki

I´ll check out Suzuki speaks, thank you! Living in Mexico...right now it´s a whirlwind. Economically, Mexico was doing better than the United States about a month ago, the peso was stronger than the dollar to the surprise of many. Last week when I went to the bank the exchange rate was $1.20 to the peso. Again, we were all surprised (the ex-pat community and the Mexican community). How can the dollar regain this false sense of security and tank another currency, economics wiz I am not but I know something shady when I see it.

Overall, my Mexican friends are for Obama, they are fearful of McPalin. However, my kids go to a Waldorf school and my friends are those families, fairly progressive ideas, okay, we all have enormously progressive outlooks...perhaps not the best lithmus test for a poll. Believe me people here are keeping their attention on the States, there are intricate ties between the two countries, I think we are all on tenterhooks.

The housing slump is hitting here also. Houses are sitting on the market for extraordinarily long time frames, construction is down, workers here are nervous. No buiding, no jobs, no money. I´m not certain if prices are going down on properties here, afterall during the housing boom people paid inflated prices for homes here too, but not much is moving.

With that said prices for goods are rising, especially at the grocery store, the beloved corn tortilla has experienced a 20 cent per kilo rate hike, that is steep in the land where people are "walking corn". Mexico also enforced a gas rate hike equivalent to 5 cents per week (I believe). Still to fill up my vehicle here it is $20 USD less. I´m not advocating cheap oil though and I think Mexico realizes that gas cannot be subsidized by the government anymore. Fortunately there are buses galore to get you where you need to be, unless you are a farmer. The farmers of Mexico...politicians (globally) believe they are ignorant "campesinos". Monsanto is trying to rear it´s ugly head but in this agrarian based society, the farmer recognizes that sheep in wolf´s clothing. Of course other issues they face are depleting water tables and huge costs for electricity, which runs the pumps that feed the water to the crops.

We live out in the country and have no access to television so we´ve been insulated from the election mayhem, we choose when to view what we want on the internet. The American public should try it, avoid the ads and look for substance. Everyone I know here that is registered to vote in the States has cast their ballot with Obama and are outraged with McCain, we are hoping this year tha ex-pat absentee vote counts for more than a stick in the eye. As we say here ojalá! And now I have to return a playdate. Thank you once again for the link!

Joellen's picture


Thanks! Great to have perspective from outside my bubble. Let's keep sharing.

Jennifer Ruwart's picture


Wow. Joellen (and Elizabeth!), THANK YOU for your powerful post (s). Could anything be more important than a candidate who is pro-child? I don't think so. I plan on viewing the links provided her and coming back for a deeper discussion.

In partnership,


JMKELLAM's picture

Frame of Reference


Thank you for putting the pro-child debate is perspective. I believe I understand now where America stands and I'm horrified that we have not done more to protect our future.

I encourage everyone to follow Joellen's proposed steps and support America's future. I'm glad you also brought up sustainability because I believe that we must find and utilize sustainable energy so future generations are not stuck where we are today.

For me one of the most shocking statistics is our newborn death rate. The U.S. has the second worst rate out of 125 nations in the modern world. If you have a minute, read this article:

In friendship,

Jenna Kellam

Joellen's picture

Mothers Index

Thanks for sharing this index. Really important information for us to have in our "just the facts ma'am" bag.
In spirited partnership,

biz's picture

I read the article. The

I read the article. The facts are staggering and shameful for a so called "first world". I have to wonder how many of the deaths were due to lack of healthcare and lack of insurance. In the United States I paid, out of pocket for my third child´s birth in 2005. The cost was $5000 for pre-natal and delivery in a birth center. This was a no-stress, non-complicated birth, what could have happened if there had been complications? (And just so you know, I believe my children and I received better care from the less expensive midwife than an expensive doctor/hospital scenario.)

Because I am in Mexico, I see how affordable (by the US dollar anyway) healthcare is. When I return to the states and have the occasion to visit the doctor, I am baffled by: a.) insurance is grossly expensive for this family of small business ownership b.) how expensive a doctor visit is at out of pocket expense. If indeed the United States deems the nation to be so developed, why aren´t we addressing this issue? Quality healthcare should be available to all, not just those that can afford it.Thank you for the link, I´m afraid to look at yet another failure of the United States but am hopeful I can speak for a change!


Wendy's picture

Putting Children's Issues on the Ballot

Thanks for your insightful posts, and acknowledgment, that the current war the US is in, is also hurting the children of Iraq. The sad reality that many Iraqi children have died because of this war, is devastating.

It's time we had a President that looks at the big picture, and aims to create sustainable peace, and looks out for precious children across the globe.

Peace and Love,


Joellen's picture

A job for us

That's our job. We are going to make them look out for precious children! In four years it WILL look different. At least, that's how I feel today. We just have to unite around this fundamental belief and make it so.
In spirited partnership,

Dave Alexander's picture

Quality of Life

Great post. I have often wondered how the label "pro-life" got applied to people who are really pro-birth, but spend far too little time addressing the issues that affect the quality of the life that they fought so hard to have born. I am pro-child, pro-adolescent, pro-young adult, pro-adult, pro-older, and pro-elder. To me makes sacred the cycle of life and the quality of the journey.

As you clearly see, it begins with children. Until we get it right for them, it seems highly unlikely that we will get it right for anyone else. If we cannot make it awesome for the most vulnerable, highest potential of our species, the rest will be mired.

Thanks for the awesome focus.

In Friendship, Dave...

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi

Joellen's picture


Thank YOU!

I made a list recently of all my pro- items and I'm at 19. Would be great to start an online list.

Here's a wonderful piece that I came across today from Rev. Jim Wallis at Sojourners.

In spirited partnership,

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass.....
it's about learning to dance in the rain."
– Peggy Barrett

Dave Alexander's picture

Pro-Life for a Whole Life

Hello Joellen,

I just read the piece by Wallis, I hope he is correct. I hope that we are recognizing that taking a "womb to tomb" perspective is essential to creating a pro-life, for a whole life, world. Thanks for the referral.

So too, thanks to this thread for introducing me to Severn Cullis-Suzuki, her video was amazing. "If you do not know how to fix it, stop breaking it" has always been my message too. During the debates on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a massive controversy across America in the late 80s, no one would take the position of "Stop making waste until we figure out what to do with it!" It is always the same, we give way to short-term pressures and profits at the expense of long-term sustainability and improvement.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of hearing a fellow named William McDonough speak on sustainability. He began with something like, "Why are we pursuing sustainability when we should be creating continuous improvement? Do you want a 'sustainable' marriage? Of course not." McDonough is the co-author of the Hannover Principles offered to the world as a set of core-values for sustainable, or even contributory, product development. For me, however, they are one version of core-value thinking that could create a healthy and healthful relationship between humanity and everything else that is our Gaean Mother.

When asked by someone in the audience what he would do with 50 acres of devastated forest in upstate New York, he replied, "I would sit in its center and visualize what it was like 200 years ago. I would then begin the healing process that would restore it to that condition 200 years from now."

ProItem: Stop breaking it until we know how to fix it
ProItem: Stop making more until we can responsibly manage what we have
ProItem: Be the change you wish to see in the world
ProItem: Practice what we teach in kindergarten

In Friendship, Dave...

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi

Joellen's picture

I love McDonough and the ProItems

Read McDonough's book "From Cradle to Cradle" in the bathtub because it was synthetic paper that could be recycled into more books. His visionary thinking is just what the world is calling for. When I heard him speak in Boulder, he shared that we don't have to keep striving for feeling less bad, we can actually create systems and cycles that make us proud, that are good for the earth and people too. Sign me up.

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