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28 June 2001


A June ritual for so many and this year it was joyfully mine: several hours sitting in the hot sun for my son's high school graduation. With a mother's mixed emotions of pride, change and separation but a sense of confidence in not only my own son but in a generation that I know so well, I begin this newsletter for the future. This class, the first of the Third Millennium to graduate high school is a defining one. Some, like my son, were old enough to vote in last November's election and continued to do so in this Spring's more local ones. Others will soon be there.

In less than a year and one-half from now, the 2002 congressional elections will be held. In less than a year from now will be the primary elections where competing candidates will see who will ultimately be the party candidate for that November. The jostling has already begun.

These "mid-term" federal elections - often forgotten with fewer voters (as if we can afford any fewer voters!) - will be a battle. An almost balanced Senate with every seat worth fighting for by the political strategists. Strong concerns for our progress, for education, environment, equity and opportunity, and global interaction. And many gubernatorial and state and local candidates up for grabs. It is incumbent upon all of us to stay and/or become involved.

From the graduation speech of Lina Swislocki at El Cerrito High School in the San Francisco Bay Area (Lina is going on to UCLA in the fall):
"What I do want to talk about is change. ... since we've been at El Cerrito ... we've changed principals {&} administrators .... We've lost and added members to our class. Hong Kong changed hands. America changed presidents. Everyone on the Gregorian calendar changed centuries and millennia.
But, perhaps most importantly, we've changed. We've gone from tiny, scared freshmen to well prepared seniors. ... We've changed our hairstyles, our clothes, our classes, our underwear, our friends, our significant others, our priorities. ...
For the last twelve years people have told us what to do, how to do it, and when to do it by. Now it is time for us to understand that what we do is our choice. We have developed the tools we will need, we have the skills to fall back on. So whether we choose to put our energies to piecing together war torn countries, or perfecting extreme scooter riding is entirely up to us.
...the world is our oyster (whatever that means) and though some of us may get pearls while others are left with only smelly fish, the important thing is that we get to open the shell. We are standing on the brink of a new life, faced with limitless opportunity. No matter where we're headed, what our plans are for next year, this is our chance to make it our own. It's our turn now to make something more of the world than what we were given. "

You who are the first graduates of our new millennium - from high school, from college, from your last life experience - are joining a strong and powerful rank of young voters and activists and while college or job workloads will be heavy, know that you are in charge. My congratulations, hopes and strong sense of confidence are with you.

Barbara Ehrenreich, the political essayist and social critic says: "There is a difference, the true seditionist would argue, between a revolution and a gesture of macho defiance. Gestures are cheap. They feel good, they blow off some rage. But revolutions, violent or otherwise, are made by people who have learned how to count very slowly to ten."

Education, motivation, service, communication, electoral knowledge, advocacy and activism - the toolkit for our democracy - is how we count to ten. It is not just one or the other but a combination of all. I urge you all to become the revolutionaries of whom Barbara Ehrenreich speaks. It is simply an extension of that we do everyday... only with a lot of consideration and thought.

And BTW - see a terrific article on graduating college seniors at Stanford who, when faced with career solicitations from corporations, took a pledge to investigate the social and environmental responsiveness of businesses who seek their employment and, if accepting a job, will ensure their employers develop or maintain that responsiveness!

For those new to this newsletter, I am the author of TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD, a new issue-oriented book for young Americans on civic and political activism. Engagement is integral to our democracy and youth and young voters - citizens and residents already - definitely have the voice, power, intelligence, sense of justice, passion and energy to give the benefit of their participation right now! My website and this newsletter provide updates on current issues along with resources for change.


A. New stuff about TEEN POWER POLITICS!!!
B. Current News & Concerns.
C. Make Yourself Heard! Opportunities for Involvement
D. Youth Activism
E. Resource Articles That I Am Reading


A grand time was had at the American Library Association Annual in San Francisco. Lots of terrific new books out and great programs connecting libraries to democracy. I was thrilled as well to see how many librarians were planning to add TPP to their summer reading lists, feeling that this a perfect time not only to prepare for formal electoral knowledge but to think about projects and activism opportunities available in this season. Check out some of the resources in TPP and on the website for more ideas!

B. CURRENT NEWS AND CONCERNS - Children, Family & Education Issues

1. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, DC and based on l999 data (most recent): 5.9 million American mothers of children under age 19 lack HEALTH INSURANCE. This is one of every six mothers in the United States caring for young or school-aged children and most members of working families!

What this means: the cutoffs for working mothers are so low that many of these mothers are also ineligible for publicly-subsidized coverage such as Medicaid unless their incomes are far below the poverty line. Thus there is a high risk that these mothers are not able to avail themselves of preventive or primary care and are at risk if they become seriously ill, often resulting in financial crises for their families.
Ironically although health care for the children is getting much better, the availability of funds for mothers is not. Learn here about "FamilyCare" legislation introduced in Congress to reverse this trend and lend your support if it seems right.

2. Save the Children's report, "STATE OF WORLD'S MOTHERS 2001" (available for download at or summary at with critical information on the status of mothers and children around the world, especially the quality of girls' and young women's lives today. "When mothers survive and thrive, children survive and thrive." Their findings from 94 countries:
a. Safe motherhood programs and practices and education for women are the most essential programs for well being.
b. Gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS continues to undermine efforts to improve women and girls' lives.
c. national wealth alone does not guarantee the health and well-being of mothers and children.

3. EDUCATION BILL ALERT. The current education bill in Congress (S.1 -Better Education for Students and Teachers Act - Jeffords) is proposing more "scientific" techniques to get back to the "basics"i.e., a "drill" approach to learning and less use of or time for real literature. From "No Child Left Behind": "The Reading First initiative builds ... by investing in scientifically-based reading instruction programs in the early grades. "
Many classroom teachers, librarians and others are strongly opposed to this approach, knowing from experience with a diverse group of students that the actual act of reading supports substantial learning and critical thinking for life. As well, there are many other provisions of this proposed legislation being contested by many diverse organizations, indicating that there is much within this bill that we should care and learn about before it passes without our scrutiny.

a. The actual bill and its progress is available from Thomas. The page will also give you the companion House bill. (BTW - for ANY bill, start with and put in the phrase or number and you're there!)
b. To contact your representatives: and
c. An explanatory article in Sunday's Newsday by Gerald Coles, " CULTURE WATCH Bush's 'Scientific' Vision: A Nation of Rote Readers" Coles concludes, " In the days remaining before the final bill is drafted, the concept of "scientifically based" instruction should be deleted from the legislation. This will allow funding for other programs in which educators at the local level can combine their study of reading research, knowledge of effective teaching practices and understanding of students to arrive at the best way to teach reading for each individual student. "

3. FOSTER CARE: I recently attended the journalists' symposium, "Youth in Peril" sponsored by The Foundation for American Communications (FACS) & Casey Family Programs. We all know the foster care system is incredibly complex and not working, but what needs to be said is that it CAN be fixed! Among the highlights (more to come):
a. Dr. Daniel Siegel's lecture and his book, THE DEVELOPING MIND: TOWARD A NEUROBIOLOGY OF INTERPERSONAL EXPERIENCE ((l999, Guilford): eloquent in examining the essentiality of interaction and attachment for a child's development. For many of the children in foster care or in the criminal justice system, the nurturing and interaction was never there. The good news: even, as in the case of one incredible young women participant who was in 17 different foster homes and with 14 case workers, there is ALWAYS a time to enter into that interaction.
b. From one of the young people, now 23, and out of foster care, "It is a fantasy to think that there is always a 'mentor' for those who have made it through. Those who have are the lucky and the strongest ones." We must do more than just rely on the few and support all who are in this system without their own choice.
c. More good news: The youth in or just out of the system who are making change themselves and those others who are helping to ensure that quality care becomes the norm and that effective transitional programs are available when a child is "emancipated" from the system. d. The best news: that we can all get more involved. For those of you in school, perhaps this is a good topic for a research paper into the American system! Foster care concerns our nation's mental health and resources, individual liberty, education, and most of the other issues of democracy.

Several sites to start you off:
Benton Foundation's Connect for Kids site, "Children and Foster Care"
Casey Family Programs , especially their "Youth In Transition" Pages
Children's Defense Fund, Child Welfare & Mental Health Division
The California Youth Connection, an extremely effective "advocacy/youth leadership organization for current and former foster youth," making policy and other changes in the way foster and emancipated youth are treated and considered in all aspects of their lives.


1. Save the Children's "Take Action" section for ideas for the world's children (including the U.S.). 2. Inspire yourselves and others to read and review books! Ideas from librarians on a listserv I love (YALSA Book).
a. The TeenPeople book club, at
b. - someone review TPP!!! I'd love it!
c. Teen Ink (creative writing and review or CDs, books, movies and colleges).
d. Teen Voices
e. Think about writing reviews for your local school, library or community paper.
f. Start your own review site.

3. The Drug Wars. Seventeen Magazine in their May issue has great links on education and activism concerning the war on drugs ( - May issue).
Read their article and check out their descriptions of sites simply listed here: (Office of National Drug Control Policy) facts and stats (Drug Reform Coordination Network): Links more than 10,000 activists (Families Against Mandatory Minimums: people with low-level involvement in drug crimes but high jail sentences. (Coalition for HEA Reform): campaigning to change the section of the 1999 Higher Education Act that denies federal financial aid to students with drug offenses on their records. (Students for a Sensible Drug Policy): promoting discussion of alternative solutions to drug problems and to involve teens in the political process. (Campaign for an Effective Crime Policy): reports on areas of crime such as juvenile violence, drug courts, and the relationship between imprisonment and crime rates.


1. As we speak about the power of the written word and the availability of resources for learning, here are two recent articles by youth making serious change on their issues and letting others know about it through their words!
a. April Choate's in Connect for Kids: A Williamette University student, a former foster care child, she has worked with others to bring the issues of adoption and foster care to her entire campus and community.
b.'s article "Censorship High" by a Southern California high school senior ( on his school's web-filtering system and why it doesn't work for anyone, students and teachers alike. Check out also the Letters to the Editor.

2. At a "book signing" in my hometown, creative booksellers arranged for me to be with three incredible high school students from three diverse schools in the area who each are working for change. I loved being with them, hope to do more "signings" in this manner... after all, am I not writing about the incredible intelligence, perceptivity, power and success of youth????? .
Something we should all work on in each of our communities: getting together these activists and issues, across geographic and school lines. Each gains from what the other is doing. Think of the power of youth periodic forums for exchange of ideas and coalition building!

3. From the Envirocitizen email alert list:
"In April, a committee of the Maine State legislature reviewed legislation that would have prevented students from voting in their college towns. ... This bill followed a trend of officials from Maine towns ... harassing students atthe polls and preventing them from voting on Election Day. But students at Bowdoin College were ready to fight this time around! They sent 150 letters in support of the bill's defeat to the co-chairpeople of the committee and collected 175 signatures for a petition sent to Representative Schneider of Durham, the sponsor of the legislation. They then marched on the state house to protest the legislation during a committee work session. The students won acknowledgment from the committee reviewing the bill, which was subsequently defeated with a unanimous vote after only minutes of discussion."
College students, check carefully the differing voter registration rules if in another state and ensure that your rights are not diminished.


a. I try to check in on a lot of publications - not as regularly as I would like. "The Weekly Standard" is conservative and thoughtful, with respected contributors and considered views that do not always stay with one political stance.
b. Barbara Ehrenreich's NICKEL AND DIMED (Metropolitan Books), an account of the two years the author spent working around the country as a waitress, Wal-Mart clerk, and maid to see if others (and she) could live in this country with the jobs always available but that no one really wants or will pay for. Read's book review
c. Email news summaries from Grist Magazine The Daily Grist (or you can sign up for the Weekly Grist), "offers environmental news summaries from around the globe, served up with a touch of humor."
d. The League of Conservation Voters serves as a watchdog on our administration and Congress on environmental issues, keeping them "accountable" to the public for their actions. Their most recent online report "Bush and the Environment: A Citizen's Guide to the First 100 Days" is designed to give the public an objective tool by which to measure the Bush administration's environmental commitment and approach. Whether you agree or not, use this well-researched report as your basic guide.
e. E-News, The National Environmental Wire for Students, full of great student activism and other stories, including great environmental data at

Check out TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD and its companion website, TPP was written as a guide and a tool for activism. If ever that tool was needed, it is now.

Again, please let me know of a concern or activity you would like me to tell others about. And send this on to others and suggest that they e-mail me if they would like to be added to this list (or if they wish to be removed).

Thanks for taking the time to read this! If you received this twice, please let me know as I refine my list.

Sara Jane Boyers
Press/Twenty-First Century Book ISBN: 0-7613-1391-5, paper $9.95/ISBN
0-7613-1307-9 hardcover, $25.90
© 2001 Sara Jane Boyers