Mondale speaks at policy forum

Robyn Repya

Former Vice President Walter Mondale said if his bill providing programs for children and low-income families had been passed in 1971, it would have made a big difference for several generations.

Mondale visited the University Monday for a lecture focusing on political challenges affecting the well-being of children. He, along with a panel of experts, debated the importance of research and obstacles that impede advancing the interests of children.

In his lecture, Mondale discussed the bill, which would have provided day care, educational, nutritional and social services. President Richard Nixon vetoed it in 1971. Mondale said he would never forget that veto message.

“President Nixon had just vetoed my bill to give all children in our country a chance to grow up to be healthy, productive adults,” he said.

The Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs hosted the event, the fifth lecture in a series of the institute’s Fifty Years project, which has brought Mondale to campus to lecture about public service issues. A different panel of experts is selected for each lecture discussion topic.

Diane Mintz, director of Recreation Plus – a program created by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board – said she agreed with Mondale’s support for programs that benefit children, despite political obstacles.

“We need to continue our work for children and family,” she said.

Mintz said programs also need to focus on the role parents and teachers play in raising a healthy child.

She said she agreed particularly with comments made by panelist Dr. Patricia Harvey, superintendent of St. Paul schools, who said park and recreational activities are important for children.

Harvey also said a large number of children in poverty are left out of important programs.

For example, approximately 900 families are on the waiting list for a St. Paul before- and after-school activities program. Children in poverty have a slim chance of getting in one of these programs, Harvey said.

Other panelists discussed the impact of education on children in the United States.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said government should focus on teacher competency.

He said, the gaps in policies affecting children and families has only become more apparent with time.

Miller said several new teachers in his district are neither qualified nor certified. He said children have a much better chance if their teachers are adequately prepared for the job.

“I would just like to give poor children with dysfunctional families, in bad neighborhoods, a chance at a decent teacher,” Miller said.