Children’s Alliance executive director Paola Maranan delivered the following remarks at our December 7th Children’s Alliance Annual Meeting, about the necessary work advocates for kids will do in 2017.
Hello, my name is Paola Maranan, and it’s my honor to serve as executive director of Children’s Alliance.
For more than 30 years, Children’s Alliance has gathered in rooms like this across Washington to reaffirm our one purpose: to put public policy on the side of kids.
We’ve used our five tools of democracy—data, storytelling, collaboration, mobilization, and lobbying—to build opportunity for Washington’s kids. And we have focused our efforts on the kids who are furthest away from that opportunity: kids of color and kids living in poverty.
We have achieved great things when we’ve stood together—as Children’s Alliance members, staff, volunteer leaders, partners, and allies—to take the concerted, collective action that these extraordinary times will demand.
We are wading chest deep into difficult and uncharted waters. At the federal level, a new administration is eager to tear out the supports that have formed the foundation of protection and opportunity we have built for Washington’s kids. From the Affordable Care Act to Medicaid to food stamps to early learning, the equity and opportunity that this state constructs rests on a foundation of federal structures and funding. And our own state-level challenge to fix a broken revenue system compromises our ability to hold kids harmless.
We need to lean in to advocacy harder than ever.
The 2017 state legislative session is a critical opportunity to collectively stand up for our values and forge state-level opportunities for kids in Washington. Organizing and advocacy must get the state in the best possible position to protect our children from the federal policy changes to come.
There is much we will have to do to build new organizing and advocacy strategies. But despite the scope of the challenges before us, most of what we fundamentally need, we have.
As a community of child advocates, we have urgency: we understand that kids can’t just ride out the effects of poverty and racism.
We have courage: we stand up for kids in places and times and ways that are not easy.
We have tenacity: we’ve shown that we know how to keep pushing until we bend the long arc of history toward justice.
And we have love: because we know that justice is what love looks like in public.
With love, courage, tenacity and urgency, we have stood strong and we have been powerful.
Powerful enough over our years together to achieve the wins for kids that we will now defend: health care for every child, unprecedented investments in early learning, millions of meals to kids each year and more.
We will need to draw on that collective strength and power now more than ever.
If this time—a time in which words and ideas that isolate and endanger vulnerable children have been deployed and embraced—if this time has challenged you, confronted you deeply about what our country is and will be—you are not alone.
That’s why we need to add one more asset to our list. We must embrace hope.
We think of hope as a feeling. But I suggest that hope is not a feeling. Hope is a decision. Hope is a deliberate act. Hope is a choice you grab hold of.
We choose hope because we stand strong when we stand together.
We choose hope because when we stand together, we claim our power.
We choose hope because when we claim our power, we hold our ground.
We choose hope because the kids who count on us can’t have it any other way.
In 2017, Children’s Alliance will offer advocates for kids many opportunities to put our love, courage, tenacity, urgency and hope to work for the vision we share for Washington’s children.