’s Issues Essay, Research Paper
Helping Parents Balance Work and Family
Today more than ever, parents need support in their efforts to balance their responsibilities at home and at work. From quality child care and after-school programs to long-term care assistance, the First Lady has supported initiatives that help Americans with the most important of all duties, the care of their families.
Mrs. Clinton has worked tirelessly to make child care better, safer, and more affordable for America’s working families and to ensure that children enter school ready to learn. She chaired the White House Conference on Child Care, which led to the Administration’s proposal for substantial new investments in child care. In addition, Mrs. Clinton has championed significant new investments in programs where children can learn and be safe in the after-school hours. Recognizing that many Americans find themselves responsible for the care of their elderly or disabled relatives, Mrs. Clinton has also worked on behalf of initiatives to meet the long-term care needs of families.
Mrs. Clinton supported the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which has enabled millions of Americans to take job-protected leave following the birth or adoption of child, or for the care of a sick relative. Today the First Lady advocates for expanding the law to cover millions of additional workers and for providing tax relief for parents who stay home with their newborn or newly adopted children.
Addressing the Needs of Children and Youth
While parents have the primary responsibility for raising their children, we all have a role in helping our nation’s young people to achieve their full potential. Mrs. Clinton has used her voice as First Lady to remind Americans of our responsibility for helping all our children, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
As the Administration’s most prominent advocate on foster care and adoption, Mrs. Clinton has worked on behalf of the over 500,000 children who live in foster care because of abuse or neglect. She has promoted the adoption of children living in foster care and worked for passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, landmark legislation which reformed our nation’s child welfare system by putting considerations of children’s health and safety first.
Mrs. Clinton has also taken a special interest in educating Americans about the importance of children’s earliest experiences to their future development. In 1997, she hosted the White House Conference on Early Childhood Development and Learning: What New Research on the Brain Tells Us About Our Youngest Children. She has worked for Head Start expansion and quality improvements and successfully advocated for increased funding for programs serving young children. In 1997, the First Lady launched the Prescription for Reading Partnership in which pediatricians and other health professionals “prescribe” reading to new parents as an activity that will enhance children’s development.
Mrs. Clinton has also directed her attention to our nation’s youth, encouraging the development of positive opportunities for young people and ways to help them avoid substance abuse, teen pregnancy and delinquency. She helped to launch the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and hosted the 1998 White House Conference on School Safety: Causes and Prevention of Youth Violence and participated in the recent White House Strategy Meeting on Children, Violence and Responsibility. The First Lady was also instrumental in the development of the AmeriCorps National Service Program through which young people may perform a year of full-time service in exchange for scholarships or student loan forgiveness
Strengthening America’s Public Schools
The availability of quality public education is key to ensuring that all children have the opportunity to succeed. In the new economy where earning potential depends on educational achievement, ensuring our children are meeting world-class standards is critical to their future and the future of the nation.
As First Lady, Mrs. Clinton has encouraged education reform initiatives designed to improve the quality of the public education our children receive, including teacher quality, increasing academic standards and accountability, and efforts to ensure that children are mastering the basics. She has been a supporter of public charter schools and a strong advocate for early childhood education to ensure children enter school ready to learn.
Improving Health Care for all Americans
Every American deserves access to affordable, quality health care. Toward this end, Mrs. Clinton has championed a broad array of health initiatives, from reform of our health care delivery system to prevention programs that help Americans lead longer, healthier lives.
As chair of the President’s Task Force on Health Care Reform, the First Lady advocated health care coverage for all Americans. She has worked to strengthen Medicaid and Medicare and to promote childhood immunizations. She helped to create and promote the new Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides health insurance for the millions of children who are currently uninsured. In addition, Mrs. Clinton has worked to address specific health problems, including pediatric AIDS, childhood asthma, breast cancer, and colon cancer.
Advancing Women’s Economic Security and Empowerment
Today more women than ever work outside the home and contribute to the economic security of their families. Yet, women can face significant challenges in the workplace — they are more likely to rely on minimum wage work; they too often are paid less than men for the same work; they may have difficulty gaining access to credit to start small businesses; and, while they live longer than men, they reach retirement with smaller pensions and other assets.
As First Lady, Mrs. Clinton has championed efforts to help ensure the economic security of women and their families. For example, she has advocated access to microcredit — small loans made to non-traditional borrowers — to enable thousands of American women to start their own small businesses. Mrs. Clinton also has supported the Administration’s efforts to increase the minimum wage, promote equal pay laws, and fund legal services for low-income families. She has worked to ensure that bankruptcy reform does not adversely impact women and families, particularly in terms of child support collection. In the Social Security debate she has focused her attention on ensuring that the features of Social Security that are important to women are preserved and strengthened.
Advancing Democracy, Civil Society, and Women’s Full Participation Around the World
The President, with the support and advice of the Secretary of State, often asks the First Lady to undertake overseas missions to promote American values and interests around the world. Since 1993, Mrs. Clinton has visited more than 60 countries as a means to achieve this objective.
As America’s foremost ambassador, Mrs. Clinton has taken the message of human rights, social development and empowerment of women around the globe. During her trips abroad, she has advocated for equality in education for girls and boys, meeting the critical health needs of women and children, access to economic opportunity through small loans to start up businesses (microcredit), and ensuring women an active role in the political life of their societies. She and Secretary Albright have advanced these issues as essential to the conduct of America’s foreign policy.
The First Lady has also promoted the role of civil society and religious tolerance, particularly in emerging democracies and countries with religious minorities. Mrs. Clinton has led efforts in the Western Hemisphere to improve the well being of children by inaugurating campaigns to eliminate measles, reduce maternal mortality and advance education reform. She also leads the “Vital Voices” initiative, which empowers women to make progress in their economic, political and judicial systems through public-private partnerships.
In taking her message across the globe the First Lady works closely with U.S. government agencies, particularly USAID and the Department of State, as well as with the United Nations, the World Bank, non-governmental organizations, and U.S. foundations and businesses. Examples of Mrs. Clinton’s work include her human rights address to the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, her keynote address at the World Bank’s Summit on Safe Motherhood, and working with the World Health Organization on an initiative to halt the spread of tuberculosis.