I met former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last spring at the San Jose State University Event Center, as part of the “Unique Lives & Experiences” lecture series that my wife, Christine, helps run as an associate producer. We exchanged some brief words during a photo-op with my wife and son, Zach. As we posed together I couldn’t help but wonder if I was standing next to POTUS 45, the woman who has the best chance to break the gender glass ceiling.
While watching “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on Sunday I was struck by an assertion made by political analyst Mark Halperin. In the context of answering a question about the 2016 election, Halperin said: “But right now, she (Clinton) is so far and away the most likely next president of the United States.” Halperin clarified his prediction with a “most likely,” adding that “if she performs, if she shows authenticity, more than anything else, if she shows people who she really is and has a second chance to introduce herself; I think it would be very hard to beat her if she performs.”
No doubt authenticity is a critical trait for political success. And yet, I wonder whether Clinton can be as authentic as that moment she shed genuine tears in 2008, before the New Hampshire primary. Or in 1996, when she wrote the book “It Takes A Village” and these words: “Imagine a country in which nearly all children between the ages of three and five attend preschool in sparkling classrooms, with teachers recruited and trained as child care professionals. Imagine a country that conceives of child care as a program to ‘welcome’ children into the larger community and ‘awaken’ their potential for learning and growing.”
I am an ardent supporter of high quality early childhood education for all. Since early 2013, County Board of Education trustees Mah, Green and I have been engaged with a broad collection of community leaders in what has now become a Strong Start committee. County Office of Education officials such—Superintendent Jon Gundry; Dr. Mary Ann Dewan, chief schools officer; Dr. Lisa Kaufman, director of early learning; and Don Bolce, director of special projects—are also integrally involved in supporting the work of the effort.
Strong Start committee members believe the work we do to develop learning from birth to age 5 will change the game in addressing local economic development, making the middle class more accessible, eliminating the achievement gap, increasing college enrollment and lowering crime/incarceration rates. Neuroscience research in the last few decades has shown conclusively that brain development before children enter school is vital to school and life success.
President Obama’s proposed 2016 budget champions universal preschool. The “preschool for all” initiative will attempt to expand high quality pre-K programs for poor and moderate-income families. There is a growing, bipartisan consensus that an investment in early learning is the most cost-effective way to reduce inequality.
I will give my unequivocal support to Clinton for President of the United States if she shows authenticity and advances early education initiatives.
Test one: Will Clinton support President Obama’s 2016 budget as it relates to early learning in meaningful and authentic ways? She certainly believes in the cause based on her writings of nearly two decades.
Test two: When Clinton does declare for the presidency, will she prescribe a dosage of two years of early learning as an essential part of the national budget in her stump speeches? Will she highlight the return on investment for early learning that other countries have benefited from while leap-frogging American students in achievement?
Test three: Will Clinton equate early learning to our national and economic security, as well as a robust middle class?
If Clinton gets the mandate in November 2016 to lead, along with a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate, we can make her words from 1996 a reality and change the trajectory of America.
Concurrently, in the run-up to the election we must work in the present to further advance the lives of Santa Clara County’s children. As the ancient Greek Proverb says, “A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.”