Monday, November 07, 2016

It Takes A Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton (Book Review #55 of 2016)


It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Our Children Teach Us

Hillary Clinton is the Last Conservative.

Take a look at these quotes and tell me who of the many candidates for President in 2016 wrote them:

"There are limits to what (government) can do. We reject the utopian view that government can or should protect people from the consequences of personal decisions or that it can legislate complete peace, harmony, and brotherhood."

"Those of us who believe in the free market system should worry about what we are in danger of becoming: a throwaway society sustained on a diet of unrealizable fantasies, a society in which people—especially children—define self-worth in terms of what they have today and can buy tomorrow."

"(E)very society requires a critical mass of families that fit the traditional ideal, both to meet the needs of most children and to serve as a model for other adults who are raising children in difficult settings."

"(P)rayer allows us to let go of our children and to let them find their own ways, with faith to guide and sustain them against the cruelties and indifference of the world. 'Of all the needs…a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied, if there is going to be a hope of wholeness, is the unshaking need for an unshakable God.' Amen."

"In our (family) bedtime reading and prayer ritual (we) read children’s versions of Bible stories."

"I strongly favor promoting choice among public schools...I also support letting public schools determine how they can best be managed, including allowing them to contract out services to private firms. The idea is that they should be freed from regulations that stifle...
Cutting the red tape and regulations has freed teachers to work together."

"Students may participate in individual or group prayer during the school day...Schools that generally open their facilities to extracurricular student groups should also make them available to student religious organizations on the same terms. Students should be free to express their beliefs about religion in school assignments and their work should be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance."

"It is realistic, not racist, to be cautious when walking through a high-crime neighborhood, or to want to avoid a corner where a drive-by shooting has taken place. Such judgments become biased only when they are motivated by negative stereotypes rather than common sense. Loving oneself is not a matter of narcissism or egocentrism; it means respecting yourself and feeling affirmed in your identity."

"Children are born with the capacity for faith, hope, and love, and with a deep intuition into God’s creative, intelligent, and unifying force. The inclination toward spirituality does not need to be planted in children, but it does need to be nurtured and encouraged to bloom. Our spiritual life as a family was spirited and constant. We talked with God, walked with God, ate, studied, and argued with God. Each night, we knelt by our beds to pray before we went to sleep. We said grace at dinner, thanking God for all the blessings bestowed. God was always present to us, a much-esteemed, much-addressed member of the family. If more parents introduced their children to faith and prayer at home, whether or not they participated in organized religious activity, I am sure there would be fewer calls for prayer in schools."

"Religion is not just about one’s relationship with God, but about what values flow out of that relationship, how we follow them in our daily lives and especially in our treatment of our neighbors next door and all over the world. Preaching is a distant second to practicing when it comes to instilling values like compassion, courage, faith, fellowship, forgiveness, love, peace, hope, wisdom, prayer, and humility."

"The instability of American households poses great risks to the healthy development of children...while many adults claim to have benefited from divorce and single parenthood, most children have not...A parent’s remarriage often does not seem to better the odds, the rise in divorce and out-of-wedlock births has contributed heavily to the tragic increase in the number of American children in poverty, currently one in five...My strong feelings about divorce and its effects on children have caused me to bite my tongue more than a few times during my own marriage and to think instead about what I could do to be a better (spouse)...The disappearance of fathers from children’s daily lives, because of out-of-wedlock births and divorce, has other, less tangible consequences. Girls are more likely to respond with depression and inhibited behavior, whereas boys are more likely to drop out of school and to have academic or behavioral problems."

"(L)ike many parents, I feel there is much to worry about when it comes to raising children in America today.Everywhere we look, children are under assault: from violence and neglect, from the breakup of families, from the temptations of alcohol, tobacco, sex, and drug abuse, from greed, materialism, and spiritual emptiness."

"Some experts also suggest that the loosening of sexual mores and the pervasive use of sex in advertising, including the exploitation of children in grown-up ads, have combined to sabotage the fundamental taboo against incest."

"I don’t believe (adolescents) are ready for sex or its potential consequences—parenthood, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases—and I think we need to do everything in our power to discourage sexual activity and encourage abstinence. Young people can learn to value the intimacy of friendships with the opposite sex as well as their own, can enjoy being in groups as well as couples."

"As a lawyer, I handled my share of divorce cases and tried my hardest to keep the parties out of court by working to help them solve their disagreements.I am ambivalent about no-fault divorce with no waiting period when children are involved. We should consider returning to mandatory 'cooling off' periods, with education and counseling for partners...I admire the way the Parent Education Program in Columbus, Ohio, treats divorce as a public health issue."

"At the core of this book is...my conviction that parents are the most important influences on the lives of their children...Parents bear the first and primary responsibility for their sons and daughters—to feed them, to sing them to sleep, to teach them to ride and daily decisions that determine whom they have the potential to become."

"But our ability to address these and other challenges is imperiled by a federal debt that has grown by $3 trillion in the last five years, placing a birth tax of $28,000 on the tiny shoulders of each child born today."

"I do not pretend to know how to nurture and protect every American child so that each one fully reaches his or her God-given potential."

"Heartening efforts are under way to help more couples preserve their marriages. Grassroots campaigns that urge men to take more responsibility for family well-being are cropping up around the country. Promise Keepers, a nondenominational ministry, has filled football stadiums with men seeking guidance and encouragement."

"My brothers and I went faithfully to Sunday school and were usually back at church at least once more during the week for youth group meetings, athletic competitions, potluck suppers, or play rehearsals. Sunday school teachers taught us that prejudice was wrong in the sight of God and explained that the reason God made so many different kinds of people was to enjoy their diverse beauties and gifts, like a garden’s various fruits and flowers. Those simple but powerful lessons were reinforced by our youth minister..."

"Casual attitudes toward marijuana and minors’ access to cigarettes raise the likelihood that teenagers will make a sad progression from cigarettes to marijuana to more serious drug use and earlier sexual activity...Those who regularly attend religious services, however, use drugs less frequently than teens who attend rarely or never."

"(We) try to sit down to at least one meal a day together, usually dinner. After grace, which we take turns saying, there is no better time to catch up on what we have been doing all day, what we are excited about, and what troubles us...I admire the way Mormons set aside one night a week for family activities."

"I had never thought of gratitude as a habit or discipline before, and I discovered that it was immensely helpful to do so. When I found myself in a difficult situation, I began to make a mental list of all that I was grateful for—being alive and healthy for another day, loving and being loved by family and friends, experiencing the awesome privilege of working on behalf of my country and its citizens."
---
I can imagine a lot of liberals scratching their head over voting for a prayer-loving, church-going, divorce-hating school choice advocate who emphasizes traditional family values over government intervention. Someone who preaches the ills of television and marijuana as gateways to sex and loose morals for children while praising Promise Keepers. I can imagine a lot of #NeverTrump voters pondering whether John Kasich wrote the above, or saying "Yes, this sounds more like someone I can vote for." This is/was Hillary. It is hard for a free-market Christian conservative like myself to imagine someone stating the above being elected to the Presidency after today (2016) without great anger from the Left. This is why I can write that Hillary is the Last Conservative. This is what you get if you don't read books by people you're voting on.

Hillary writes about what she is most passionate about, children and health care:
"Each of us plays a part in every child’s life: It takes a village to raise a child...The village can no longer be defined as a place on a map, or a list of people or organizations, but its essence remains the same: it is the network of values and relationships that support and affect our lives...Our challenge is to arrive at a consensus of values...I’m often asked what I would like to see happen above all else in our country and in our world. There are so many things to pray for, so many things to work for. But certainly my answer would be a world in which all children are loved and cared for—first by the families into which they are born, and then by all of us who are linked to them and to one another."

The 2006 edition of the 1996 book features an afterword as it was re-released in anticipation of her 2008 campaign. She points out some of the policies she advocated for as First Lady eventually became law: 1997's SCHIP, which provides expanded Medicaid insurance to children, is still a vital piece of health care in every state, and gets renewed every time its statute of limitations runs out. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 made it easier to adopt foster children, boosting foster adoptions 64 percent nationwide. "We could set a goal of reducing our foster care and adoption rolls by 100,000 children each year for the next five years by moving children either back home or into adoptive families, whichever is in their best interests."
"I worked with Senator Chafee and Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia on the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, which provides young people aging out of foster care with support services, including access to health care, educational opportunities, job training, housing assistance, and counseling." (Highlighting the above on her CV alone would have helped her with Christian conservatives in 2016, but I don't remember her mentioning these in debates.)

The book isn't all conservative, Hillary makes a mild argument for her beliefs on government intervention, particularly in the areas of health care and children's welfare. As America has progressed, she writes, so has the expectations about what government is supposed to do and the social safety net that society demands. By improving the well-being of children, we pay homage to the Pilgrims who came before us.

"Are the children sustained by government-subsidized day care or fed by government-supported school breakfasts and lunches a 'threat to our economic freedom' or guilty of 'waste, fraud, and abuse'? Do programs to immunize or educate them 'sap their initiative'?"

She advocates for wage equality and paid medical leave time for parents, highlighting companies that offer generous benefits as models for legislation. She rails against "for-profit" health care and demands that insurance companies not discriminate against children with pre-existing conditions, a centerpiece of something later dubbed "Obamacare." She cites examples of insurance companies kicking women out of hospitals shortly after birth, leading to bad consequences and knee-jerk legislation.

She rails against Charles Murray's The Bell Curve and rejects writing off any member of society as either unteachable or irredeemable, including the prisoners working at the Arkansas' Governor's Mansion the family "became very friendly" with. She advocates helping people's emotional intelligence and praies education reform that incorporates empathy and character-based education. She criticizes those who advocate cutting state's Medicaid programs, pointing out the importance of early detection, prevention, and education of young pregnant women that Medicaid can help with, using travels to Indonesia and Africa as her examples.
"When I visited the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research in Bangladesh, funded in part with American aid, I met a doctor from Louisiana who was there to learn about low-cost techniques he could use back home to treat some of his state’s more than 240,000 uninsured children."

She advocates a health reform like that of England where doctors and nurses make house calls during the early weeks. She cites examples of uneducated women in Arkansas who do not realize the importance of talking to their babies, and others who call the ER when they need help for basic questions.

"Can you imagine a hot line in every community? Local hospitals could pool their resources to sponsor one. Many hours of anxiety and millions of dollars in costs could be avoided if mothers and fathers had someone to call to talk through a baby’s problem instead of showing up at the (emergency room)."

On crime, she advocates for getting assault weapons off the street, adding police officers, and pushing community policing. The former two were now-controversial centerpieces of her husband's crime bills. But, overall, she encourages stronger family values and adult male role models as a hopeful solution to the growing problems of childhood development. In that sense, she sounds a bit like a Candidate Obama many years later, including some of his pragmatism:

"(W)e must be careful to avoid demonizing those who disagree with us, or acting as if we have a monopoly on truth."

This amusing anecdote in response to a Clinton education program:
"One teacher told me that a local church had protested when she moved the chairs in her classroom into a circle for discussion purposes, citing the insidious influence of Goals 2000 because 'everyone knows that’s how witches’ covens meet.' The incident would be laughable except that her principal ordered her to put the chairs back in their neat rows."

Ah, whatever happened to Goals 2000?
By the year 2000:
2. The high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent.
4. United States students will be first in the world in science and mathematics achievement.

While I know what became of some of Clinton's policy proposals, I do not know what has become of the moral and spiritual principles she espouses in this book. While she gave hints of It Takes a Village in her campaign, the constant nods toward abortion rights -- something absent from this book-- and a rejection of any talk of a "critical mass" of "traditional families" setting an "example" for the rest of the country suggest she's made a profound shift. I finished this book just before the third debate with Trump, in which I felt she was given an opening to reach out to centrist undecideds who were grasping for something, anything by which they might still vote for her by touting her history of advocating for easier adoptions and health care for children. Instead, she spoke of making certain the Supreme Court would uphold abortion rights forever. That was unfortunate. Many Christian conservatives benefit from S-CHIP and insurance for their children's pre-existing conditions without knowing her long history in it. Perhaps she takes that knowledge for granted. There was one moment on the 2016 campaign trail where she talked about going to a multi-racial church and felt truly moved by the unity she saw there. That was deep in the primary and didn't seem to help her against Bernie Sanders. If she had resurrected that in the general campaign, it may have connected Hillary 2016 to Hillary 1996 pretty well. Instead, 1996 seems an awfully long away away from 2016.

I give this book 3 stars out of 5. I recommend reading it as HRC is likely our next President. I have read all of her other books, and several biographies about her, and you should too.

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