Thursday, January 22, 2015

Generations United 2015 Intergenerational State of the Union Response

“I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.”

Tuesday night, President Obama’s State of the Union Address highlighted why intergenerational cooperation, understanding, protection and support underpin our country’s strength and its future.

In addressing our changing demographics, the President rightly recognizes that our differences are “a great gift.” Young people of color will drive the future growth in our workforce, and their ability to earn good livings will strengthen Social Security and the safety net on which young and old depend.

Making Affordable High-Quality Childcare a Must-Have
We applaud the President’s plan, which calls for more investments in children and families. It will do this by creating more childcare slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child annually. Affordable high-quality childcare is a must-have because children with quality early experiences are 29 percent more likely to graduate high school. They also grow up to become adults more likely to be employed and earn 33 percent more than the average salary. Those returns on investment are a huge win for Americans, especially since children in quality early experiences are 70 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime before the age of 18. Generations United’s Seniors4Kids get this and that’s why they raise their voices on behalf of investments in children.

Pushing for States to Adopt Paid Leave Laws
In speaking to the need for paid leave, the President rightly identified some of the tough decisions working grandfamilies are faced with, explaining that “…too many parents [are forced] to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.” A bill that lets every worker earn seven days of paid sick leave helps the 58 percent of the 2.7 million grandparents responsible for grandchildren who are working. A law allowing workers to earn paid leave is just the beginning. To best support grandfamilies Congress must move policies to better coordinate and enhance services for children and youth in relative care, evaluate and collect data on kinship diversion and prevention models, and preserve existing flexible funding sources. Not only is supporting families a must-have, but as the President said: “It’s the right thing to do.”

Making Community College Free
To boost our economy, the President called on Congress to pass legislation that makes community college free to help those “young and starting out” as well as those “older and looking for a better job.” We applaud President Obama for wanting to make free community college as universal “…as high school is today.” Generations United urges policymakers to go even further and reinstate the Student Benefit, which extended Social Security child benefits that helped thousands of young adults pursue higher education. Reinstating the Student Benefit helps today’s students become the educated workforce our country’s economy needs.

Throughout his remarks, the President called on all Americans to work together towards a common ground. President Obama cited examples with the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led to advocate voting rights for African-Americans living in Alabama.

This past weekend, Generations United challenged older adults to take a young person to see Selma and have a discussion about the Voting Rights Act, one way of passing down the value of civic engagement. Policymakers should go even further and incentivize 100 percent voter turnout through state competition. They can also allow same-day registration for voting nationwide and promote participatory budgeting experiments at the federal, state and local levels.

Over and over again, the President used the tight-knit family metaphor for America. Generations United agrees that young and old should stand united as an interdependent American family. Why? Because we are stronger together.

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