USA Today, January 13, 2011

    In Christina's memory, let's refocus on the children

    By Bruce Kluger

    Of all the tragedies that befell Tucson last
    Saturday, the one that seemed to tear most deeply
    at the heart of our nation was the murder of
    Christina-Taylor Green. Just 9 years old, Christina
    was on the student council of her elementary
    school and had hoped to meet her
    congresswoman, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at the
    outdoor gathering before a madman ended it all by
    putting a bullet in her chest. She was buried today.

    Others died in the massacre, too, of course; but in
    countless articles, blogs and tributes, Americans
    keep returning to the awfulness of Christina's fate ­
    and not just because she had been born on Sept
    11, 2001, or was once designated a national "Face of Hope." More wrenchingly,
    Christina's murder underscored our failure as a nation to deliver that which has
    been our country's greatest legacy since its founding: the promise to bestow a
    better world on our children than the one that had been left for us.

    If there was one splinter of hope that arose from this child's appalling death, it was
    the unified sense of mourning that followed ita bipartisan condemnation of the act
    itself, and a declaration by those of all political stripes that America is, and should
    be, a place that shields its children from peril.

    Which is why, I suppose, I dread the upcoming political seasonbecause despite
    our leaders' timeworn call to write legislation and enact policy not just for ourselves
    but also "for our children," much of the upcoming congressional agenda falls short
    of that promise:

    • In their call to dismantle President Obama's health care law, Republican Party
    members threaten to jeopardize the well-being of hundreds of thousands of
    children whom the plan was designed to protect, including as many as 72,000 who
    are uninsured; 90,000 who would no longer have benefits denied to them because
    of pre-existing conditions; and nearly 2 million uninsured young adults, up to age
    26, whom the new law would permit to be covered under their parents' insurance
    plans. And yet, even with these landmark protections, newly elected Speaker of the
    House John Boehner calls the plan "a monstrosity." Somehow, the health concerns
    of children got lost in the process.

    • Despite both parties' attempts to repair the country's education systemfrom the
    Obama administration's innovative Race to the Top initiative to George W. Bush's
    No Child Left Behind programmany of the Tea Party faithful resist any kind of
    government participation in the education of our youth. During the 2010 campaign,
    no fewer than 10 Tea Party candidates proposed abolishing the Department of
    Education altogether, while one of those candidates, Rand Paulnow the freshman
    senator from Kentuckynot only rolls his eyes at the department but also has
    cozied up to the Christian Home Educators of Kentucky. Its mission: "Protect
    children from mental, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by secular humanists
    in a socialist society or governmental system." Where does one even begin with

    • When the contentious immigration debate inevitably re-erupts in Congress,
    children are among those who have the most to lose. Having already derailed the
    proposed "Dream Act" in Decemberwhich would have provided a path to
    citizenship to children illegally brought into this country by requiring them to attend
    college or serve in the militaryRepublican leaders have only just begun their
    assault. Both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip Jon Kyl
    have called for hearings to consider revising the 14th Amendment, which
    guarantees citizenship to all people born on American soil. The not-so-secret
    secret mission of this effort is rid the nation of illegal immigrant families. So much for
    the America Dream.

    A friend of mine often tells me I shouldn't take these kinds of headlines so
    personallyit's all just politics, he says. And yet my mind keeps returning to
    Christina, and all the children like her in America. My own 11-year-old daughter was
    recently appointed to the student council of her middle school. In her application
    essay, she wrote, "I feel like I should be in student council because I am a
    responsible person, and I think it would be great to take part in such an amazing

    I never had the pleasure of meeting Christina-Taylor Green, but I am almost certain
    she had similar things to say about the promise and security she felt among her
    own fellow students. So the notion that such a bright lightsuch a shining example
    of what future generations of our nation might look likeshould be snuffed
    indiscriminately is as unfathomable to me as the thought of losing my own little girl.

    If there's one thing we need to ask of our leaders now, it is that they not lose that
    sickening sense of shock they first felt when the news came out of Tucson that a
    child had been among those lost in the mayhem; nor that they abandon the
    ensuing sense of moral obligation that we can and must do better by our children.

    "I want to live up to her expectations," President Obama said of Christina at a
    memorial service in Tucson Wednesday night. "I want our democracy to be as good
    as Christina imagined it."

    Let us hope that the cruel and untimely death of a small girl in Arizona might serve
    as a constant reminder of all the children we can save in her memory. That would
    be the most fitting tribute of all.

    (Photograph of Christina Taylor Green by AP.)