by Kwaku Sraha
September 26, 2013

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the March on Washington, he described a “fierce urgency of now.” He reminded a divided nation that we need one another, and that we are stronger when we march forward, together. “We cannot walk alone,” he said. “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

A half century later, Dr. King’s words still have great meaning and life.

For every preschool-age child in New Mexico, whose hope for the future lies in a quality public education system, there is an “urgency of now” for access to high-quality early childhood care and education programs. Children can’t wait until we fund the next study or argue over the next source of revenue.

Studies conclusively show that major economic and social problems in America and New Mexico – poverty, crime, teen pregnancy, high school drop-out rates, adverse health conditions, and more – can be traced to low levels of social skills such as attentiveness, persistence, and impulse control. When these social skills are taught along with cognitive skills at an early age, children are more capable and productive well into adulthood. Developing these skills is a major objective of early childhood education programs – and many studies show that high-quality programs work.

New Mexicans with low levels of education have little opportunity to live the American dream or participate fully in their communities. Without the opportunity that comes from having access to quality early care and education programs, there is no freedom to reach our full potential in the workforce and life. Without education, there is no framework for success and economic security for families trying to work their way into the middle class.

As Dr. King said 50 years ago, the true goal of education is “intelligence plus character.” This is what we must be investing in for the sake of our children and future generations.

So talk to your family, your friends, and neighbors. Partner with trusted resources in your communities, like nonprofits and advocacy organizations. Be a champion for early childhood care and education with other civic and business leaders who are stepping up in your communities.

This is very simply the right thing to do. According to J.D. Trout – “We have an obligation to give as many people as we can the opportunity to be successful, whether they are your own kids or kids that are otherwise invisible to you.”

With good, common-sense legislation, we can be one step closer to fulfilling the dream and the promise for thousands of New Mexico’s children who otherwise will not have access to this opportunity. The time is now; let us not wait any longer to invest in our children, our friend’s children, our neighbor’s children, and the children who are otherwise invisible to us. We cannot walk alone and neither can they.

Kwaku Sraha is NM Voices’ Business Manager.