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Youth Today Speaks with Young Voters at Polls Across US

On Election Day, in the final hours of a historic presidential race, Youth Today reporters spread out to polling stations across the nation and asked young voters what issues mattered most to them. To find out how they voted, check out the continuing updates to this real-time story at youthtoday.jjie3.wpengine.com.

Food is Fundamental, Only Don’t Ask Newt Gingrich

On January 21 Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina Primary. But he did it, in part, by using racist rhetoric, characterizing President Obama as "the best food stamp president in American history." Since then, he has continued to drive this distortion hoping it will somehow resonate with voters. It's not likely to work, because most Americans understand that food is fundamental. Presidents do not put people onto the food stamp rolls. People, predominately people with children to feed, become eligible for food stamps.

The food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, is a critical safety net for families living in poverty. SNAP eligibility rules require that participants be at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

Recent studies show that 49 percent of all SNAP participants are children (age 18 or younger), with almost two-thirds of SNAP children living in single-parent households. In total, 76 percent of SNAP benefits go towards households with children, 16 percent go to households with disabled persons, and 9 percent go to households with senior citizens.

Newt Gingrich’s attempt to paint Obama as the president who oversaw the largest increase of SNAP participation is inaccurate. It was President Bush, not President Obama who has that distinction.  This stands to reason, as it was during President Bush’s administration that our country’s economy plummeted.  Newt Gingrich’ race-baiting tactic is repugnant, of course, and he is just flat-out wrong.  As Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) so eloquently voiced on the floor of The U.S. House recently, “Hunger is color-blind. Of recipients whose race we know, 22 percent of SNAP recipients are African-American. And 34 percent are white. Hunger knows no race, or religion, or age or political party.”

Hunger in America is real.  Programs such as SNAP, WIC, free- and reduced- school lunches, and summer feeding programs exists because there is a need.  These are not fraud-ridden systems somehow sucking the life out of our budgets as some politicians would like you to believe.  According to a recent USDA analysis, SNAP reached a payment accuracy of 96.19 percent in 2012 (the highest ever achieved by the program).  Trafficking rates — the number of benefits exchanged for cash — are at 1 percent, according to 2008 statistics, the most recent available. There is always room for improvement, but the integrity of the SNAP program is solid.

As evidenced by no subsequent primary wins, America is not buying Newt Gingrich’s assault on children, families, disabled, or our senior citizens.

In a recent NPR interview, correspondent David Welna spoke to Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions from Alabama, and Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu from Louisiana. Per capita, Sessions' Alabama is one of the top food stamp recipients in the nation; so is Louisiana.  Sen. Sessions said, “I think it's a policy of the administration, just get money out of the door to try to stimulate the economy, and not look closely at who's getting it and why they're getting it.”  Sen. Mary Landrieu said, “It is blaming the victim, and it's making a mockery of some of the most important, I think, social safety net programs in the country.”  Welna asked about government freeloaders?  Sen. Landrieu responded by suggesting Congress should “take away the special tax loopholes for the rich."

Candidate Gingrich would never advocate for that. Take away tax loopholes for the wealthy? Blasphemous indeed. Hungry children, being hungry, families living from paycheck to paycheck, having a language barrier that limits your ability to navigate our system, being part of the working poor, struggling to find a job, or experiencing financial fear, all these are beyond the realm of reality for Newt Gingrich.

No, he can more easily identify with his patrons such as Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul who donated 5 million dollars to Gingrich through a super PAC. Then his wife Miriam, quickly followed with a 6 million dollar donation. This was just before the South Carolina primary and we know who won the South Carolina primary.

Georgia Juvenile Court Judge Elected to Lead the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

 

Judge Peggy H. Walker
Douglas County, Ga. Juvenile Court Judge Peggy H. Walker

Longtime Georgia Juvenile Court Judge Peggy H. Walker was elected to the Executive Committee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) earlier this week at their 74th national conference in New York City. Spanning the next five years, Judge Walker will serve as NCJFCJ secretary, treasurer, president-elect, president and immediate past-president, respectively.

 

Founded in 1937, the Reno-based NCJFCJ is the nation’s longest running judicial membership committee with a roster of nearly 2,000 judges and related professionals. The council aims to provide judges, courts and related agencies with the necessary knowledge and skills to improve the lives of families and children affected by the juvenile justice system and domestic violence.

“The common thread among the NCJFCJ leadership is hard work and the courage to overcome adversity as we work to improve the lives of children and families,” said the newly elected Judge Walker. “Georgia is already focused on child well being. Having national leaders enhances the state’s efforts; it gives the judiciary greater credibility and allows us to engage government agencies and foundations that work with our children and families.”

A few major NCJFCJ initiatives include:

Her election continues a notable history of Georgia juvenile court judges chosen to join the NCJFCJ’s Executive Committee. Most recently Judge Michael Key, juvenile court judge in Troup County, Ga., ended his term as NCJFCJ president July 26, 2011.

“Like Judge Michael Key, Judge Peggy Walker has been a tireless advocate for children,” Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein, Supreme Court of Georgia, stated in a press release. “I am proud and honored that the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has chosen her to join the Executive Committee and become the Council’s president in 2014.”

Since 1998, Judge Walker has served as juvenile court judge in Douglas County, Ga., and a member of NCJFCJ’s Board of Trustees since 2005. She has also served as president of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges, chair of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and a board member for the Georgia Court Appointed Special Advocates.

MOM on a Mission: The Role Model

The President, my ball coach, The Lone Ranger, and my fifth grade teacher. These are the answers I got when I asked a few people who their role models were when they were kids. It led me to think about the role models of today's youth. More importantly, who are my son's role models?The obvious choices relate to his interests; Josh Beckett, Cliff Lee and LeBron James. I think he would also answer that his sixth grade teacher was a great role model. He not only inspired my son's interest in world travel, but truly nurtured his interest in social studies. I am grateful for people such as these, who inspire and motivate my son's interests, but frankly, they are not the people who really model his role in life.

It is not greatness that makes a good role model. In fact, I contend that failure makes for the best role model.

Before you decide that MOM has lost her mind, give me a second to elaborate. It does not take great courage to help others and behave admirably in the face of professional, personal and financial success. It does, however, take huge courage and emotional fortitude to rise up in the face of adversity and defeat. I believe the people most able to model these behaviors are our parents.

Recently, I lost my job. Yes, it is just a few days ‘til Christmas and, of course, there is the pressure of monthly bills as well. I am lucky to have a gainfully employed husband but, like most households these days, our lifestyle is built on two incomes.

Aside from the panic, sadness and self doubt that you can imagine, these circumstances have also ignited a flame of introspection. Am I living a life that models skills I want my son to master?Fear, self pity, anger, and defeat are not on the hit list of skills I want going into his coping "tool box". That leaves me asking myself "what do I want him to take away from this life event?"  The obvious comes to mind… get a good education so you will have a better chance for a good job, spend wisely and save aggressively. These are both wise and worthy ideals to live by. I have a good education, great work experience and excellent work performance. Sometimes @#$% happens!

As a family, we live a comfortable life, but far from extravagant and excessive. These lessons seem weak at best. I think the better lessons to learn are "life is hard and sometimes unfair. It owes you nothing but offers endless possibilities." Lastly, and possibly most importantly, "the status quo brings us nothing new. It is only through change that we can achieve more, learn more and grow more". Sometimes, it takes a good old fashioned crisis to evoke a little change.

So, here's to a little crisis to make me a better role model. I will be someone who lives life on a level my son can relate to, a person who experiences adversity and disappointment and a soldier who marches on, through daily trials and tribulations, to a better day. Those are the images I want burnished in my son's mind when he thinks of someone he wants to be like. Someone who inspires him to LIVE life and LOVE life, good and bad, knowing that at the end of the day, there will be another day right behind it. A day to laugh and cry, suffer and succeed, trip and triumph. Most of all, there will be another day to dream.