We are celebrating our country’s freedom this week. It is a unique and wonderful privilege to share such freedoms that we have in the United States. It also brings a set of rights and responsibilities that we can celebrate as a nation while reflecting on the anniversary of our independence. We all look forward to this day of celebration with family, fireworks and all the fanfare of the annual holiday.
A dictionary definition of freedom is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint: “we do have some freedom of choice.”
When I think of the environments and lifestyle of so many of our children in America, I feel we can legitimately ask the question, “are they truly free? Do they have the right to act, speak or think as they want? Are their choices limited by some of their circumstances?”
I have often written about the ACEs research that has had such significant impact all over the world. We understand that Adverse Child Experiences have impact to brain development, health and capacity all throughout life. The higher the ACE scores, the greater the impact to one’s quality of life. In Philadelphia, some of the ACEs researchers have added extra ACE scores that contribute to being a predictor of the future health of our children.
Those ACEs questions were inclusive of issues like poverty, bullying, violence and general lack of safety. I think these additions are essential to an understanding of the issues that have effect to the safety and well-being of Philadelphia’s urban children. I am convinced that these are relevant questions to any inner-city environment that ought to be asked, researched and evaluated.
But I want to go back to my original question. Are these children truly free? Children who are trapped in the walls of violence, poverty, racism and high threat are incapable of having the power to act, speak or think as they want. Rather, they are confined to their respective environments and must submit to community and family rules and legacies that either eliminate or ignore many of the choices that other children may have. This is truly not a state of freedom but rather a level of powerlessness and consequential fatalism. Simply put, they have little or no hope of escaping these confined environments.
As proud as I am of our freedoms I still recognize that we have a great deal of work to do in continuing to provide true freedom and opportunities to all our children. We are a country that supports every person having certain inalienable rights as a citizen and human beings. We are responsible to offer our children opportunities to truly be free. This is something that should be a renewed commitment that we can all share and advocate for. It is who we are as a country and what we celebrate on every 4th of July.