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International Year of the Child Remarks on Receiving the Final Report of the National Commission

April 21, 1980

JEAN YOUNG. Mr. President, first of all, we greet you. We're delighted to be here with you, the commissioners, the honorary commissioners, the staff, and, most importantly of all, the children. We have with us a few of the representatives of the United States, these children and young people—David Barron, Judy Andrews, Steve Dunne, Todd Grant, and Coral Watt. And these young people would like to present to you, first, their action report.


MISS WATT. Mr. President, we are very pleased to present to you the book "No Time for Mud Pies." Please don't judge this book by its cover, since it contains a lot of serious ideas and recommendations. This report summarizes the efforts of 25 young people, aged 10 to 18, serving on the Childrens' Advisory Panel to the National Commission on the International Year of the Child. The major areas covered include fear and violence, education, social problems, and a proposal for a national chamber of youth. These issues are of major concern to young people throughout the country.

MR. DUNNE. These recommendations are the result of two intense meetings and long deliberations by the Panel. We genuinely hope you will consider our report carefully and will take specific actions as a result of our report. Adults and young people really need to listen to each other and hear each other more often. We hope you will become more aware of the effect of your decisions on young people in this Nation, and that everything you do changes the world that we will inherit.

MISS ANDREWS. Mr. President, we'd like to present this book to you with concern and love.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. I appreciate this. Can I say a word?

MRS. YOUNG. Okay, in just a minute. [Laughter] We have the full Commission report we'd also like to present to you.


MRS. YOUNG. This document was done exclusively by the young people, and the Commission also did a little bit of work. [Laughter]

Childhood evokes for most of us images of joy and laughter and play of bright, healthy children surrounded by a warm and loving family. But the harsh realities of life for millions of children, not only around the world but also here in the United States, contrasts starkly with those images, as you well know.

During 1979, the International Year of the Child, the National Commission undertook to become the eyes and ears of the American people on issues affecting children. Now as we give voice to what the people said through this document, we do not profess to have found all the answers, but we know we have asked the right questions. The basic one is: Can we afford to neglect the needs of children? And the answer from everywhere came: No.

We are not calling our report a final report. There was nothing final about the Year of the Child. It was only a beginning. In these pages, we share with you some of the many marvelous efforts of individuals and groups to observe the Year of the Child. The challenge is to continue what they have begun.

We issue this challenge to you, Mr. President, as leader of our Nation and primary architect of our national policy. We also issue the challenge to each and every citizen of this great Nation to assume new responsibility for assuring the well-being of all of our children.

In making our recommendations we fully understand national budgetary concerns. But our task was not to formulate an entire national agenda, establish a timetable, or plan every step along the way. Our role has been, above all, to speak on behalf of children. This report is about what children need. Our Nation has no responsibility more important than this. After thoroughly examining this document, I hope you will feel, as we do, how urgent it is for you and Congress to set concrete goals and timetables for beginning to accomplish some of the recommendations that we have set forth. Your demonstrated commitment, through initiatives you are already supporting, persuades us that you can be successful in making important changes in the lives of all our children.

These recommendations come from Americans all over this country. We heard the people. They are out there. They are indeed prepared to support you. Mr. President, we, the National Commission, present this document with humility and with our deep, abiding commitment to children everywhere. And we would like to express personal thanks to you and Mrs. Carter, your staffs; to our deeply committed commissioners, honorary commissioners, executive director, and our staff; to the thousands of unheralded volunteers throughout the country; and a special thanks to all the children everywhere, including my own. And we would also like to give you this token of remembrance.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. There are more than 1 1/2 billion children in the world and much more than 50 million children in our own country, who have benefited greatly during this last year from the commitment and dedication and unselfishness of people like Jean Young and representatives of more than 150 nations, who've worked together to bring the world's attention to the special problems and opportunities of additional attention being given to children and their problems and the chances they have to live a better life.

People in our embassies all over the world have participated, as well, in this United States analysis of what could be done during the International Year of the Child. I know that as a parent myself, Rosalynn and I look at Amy with a great deal of love and also hope, that in the future her opportunities will be even greater than they are already in our great country.

We've got serious problems, however. We have special programs before the Congress now, some derived from this analysis and some derived from other sources—a special CHAPS program to give better health care for children, particularly preventive health care; a steady and diagnostic action, particularly for the poor children, to make sure they don't become afflicted with preventable diseases; and our youth initiative, which will provide many hundreds of thousands of jobs for young people in the future, above and beyond what we do already.

Next year, as one of the recommendations here, I intend to declare a special day or week for the recognition of the problems of the children, and we also will make sure that our Commission on the Arts and Humanities will honor the best public broadcasting programs that will emphasize the problems of the children. Livingston Biddle has already been eager to work on this, along with the Vice President's wife, Joan. And I think this effort to continue both the public awareness and the tangible benefits from the International Year of the Child studies will be of great benefit not only to children but to all citizens of our country.

In closing, let me say that I'm particularly grateful that not only adults but young people participated in this study. It keeps us humble, and it keeps our feet on the ground when we have to have our own premises and theories challenged by the young ones that we hope to serve and hope to benefit. So in closing, Jean, let me express my deep thanks to you. This committee, particularly in our country, has functioned under some very severe difficulties. When I went to the United Nations more than a year ago, to spend a day working on problems of the entire world, I was invited to go to Jean's apartment. She spent a lot of time telling me about problems with the International Year of the Child movement. And we formed a close partnership there, and ultimately we prevailed over the obstacles that presented themselves. But her tenacity and her courage, combined with that of many others, has made this event and this study a very good success.

This is not the end of our country's commitment to young people. More than a million American children suffer every year directly from abuse and neglect. More than 10 million young American children suffer from inadequate health care of a tangible and specific form. These kinds of abuses can be corrected. And I'm grateful again to be part of an effort that I believe will bring benefits to our Nation now, and for many years in the future. Thank you again. Good luck to you. You all did a good job.

NOTE: Jean C. Young, Chairman of the National Commission on the International Year of the Child, 1979, spoke at 1:38 p.m. at the ceremony in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, International Year of the Child Remarks on Receiving the Final Report of the National Commission Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249645

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