Friday, October 06, 2006

Patty Wetterling to Deliver Democratic Radio Address

Posted by Craig Westover | 7:30 PM |  

The DCCC has issued a release of Patty Wetterling’s Democratic response to President Bush’s weekly radio address. It is embargoed until 11:06 EST tomorrow.

The address calls for holding House leadership responsible for the Foley affair as well it should. To be honest, it is less harsh a call than I expected, and less harsh than I think it could have legitimately been. And if anyone has the credibility and the ability to deliver the message sincerely, it is Patty Wetterling.

Wetterling makes the justifiable call for a full investigation including “unfettered access to email, records and correspondence.” She notes that we have instituted safeguards for children at schools and nationwide alert systems. “But we need to do more to return the peace of mind we’ve lost” says her remarks.

It’s tough to draw a point from this without seeming to make excuses. The later is not my intent. But as you listen (or read) on Saturday, stop and think about how Wetterling is responding, think of reaction to the Foley affair independent of her remarks, think about the emotional reaction to events -- that reaction has been, like Wetterling’s, that we must do more.

How is that different from reaction to 9/11? The need to “do more” has led to government surveillance and practices that some call necessary and others see as violations of fundamental individual rights. What does Wetterling’s “unfettered access” mean? Unfettered by legal maneuvers intended to protect the rights of the accused? What is the “more” we need to do to protect children? Does the “more” take us into the gray areas of violating the rights of some to protect the lives of others?

Wetterling doesn’t say. Unstated is the question, “can we do more to protect children without the same kind of fundamental rights violations that are being used (and condemned) to prevent another 9/11?”

That’s not a statement of judgment; it is a question, a question that captures the difference between being a president responsible for action and responsible for the consequences of acting (or not acting) and a voice on the outside making the vague demand to keep us safe.

Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie “A Few Good Men” was an asshole, but no one in the climatic courtroom scene disputed his contention that we want his kind on the wall between us and our enemies; we also want his kind on the wall between us and those that would prey on our children. We need his kind on those walls.

Without sarcasm, Wetterling on Saturday is an every parent speaking for all us with a concern for children. It is fitting that on Saturday, we leave it at that. On Saturday, she is more mom than politician, we more parents than partisans.

But in the campaign ahead, the Patty Wetterling that would serve in Congress assumes the mantle of a would-be leader and must, like the president she criticizes, make the call on just what she would bring to that wall. She must accept the responsibility of her action or non-action. A leader must be capable of more than criticism.

Patty Wetterling
National Radio Address

“Our Children Need Strong Voices in Washington”

Good morning, my name is Patty Wetterling.

I am a mother, teacher and child advocate from Minnesota . On October 22, seventeen years ago, my son Jacob was abducted. Jacob is still missing. As I talk to you today I am as concerned as ever about the safety of all of our children.

This week, we all watched in shock and with deep sadness as violence hit our schools and the security of classrooms was violated – and we watched in anger as yet another scandal broke in Washington .

In Colorado , Pennsylvania , here in Minnesota and across the country, we need to be able to tell our children that they are safe when we kiss them goodbye or put them on a school bus in the morning. Our schools must be a safe place for every child.

Seventeen years ago, I committed my self and my work to strengthening penalties for those who harm children and to stopping the sexual exploitation of children. The terrible reality of child sexual abuse is that it almost always involves someone that the child knows. As was the case with Congressman Foley.

Foley sent obvious predatory signals, received loud and clear by members of the congressional leadership, who swept them under the rug to protect their political power.

If a teacher did this and the principal was told but did nothing, once the community found out, that principal would be fired.

If this happened in a church and the minister received information and he did nothing, he’d be fired.

Congressional leaders shouldn’t be held to a lower standard than what we expect of our community leaders.

Too often, even well-intentioned people stand by when there is a suspicion of child abuse because they don’t know what to do and they hope that the problem will just stop or go away. Too often, there is more concern over protecting an institution than protecting our children. That is precisely what happened here.

Secrecy is the common ingredient in all child sexual abuse. When we have reason to believe someone is sexually abusing a child, we must act. When a child has the courage to come forward, we must not become part of the secret. We must make the protection of our children the highest priority.

Our nation’s children and their parents don’t deserve to endure fear in our schools and it is wrong to make children endure fear within the halls of Congress.

We need to get our priorities straight when it comes to protecting children. Prevention is more than educating children to protect themselves – it is fundamental change that requires investment in promoting the healthy development of our children and doing all we can to protect them and prevent harm.

My prayers are with all the families who are suffering because of the tragedies of the past week. I admire the courage of the victims who, in speaking up, inspire us all to do more. My family joins me in offering a prayer today for their continued strength, and for the support of their communities to see them through this dark time, as our community has done since Jacob was taken from us.

We need a new direction in Congress because our children need strong voices. We need to stop the sexual exploitation of children across the country, and in Washington we must hold accountable all those complicit in allowing this victimization to happen.

I have called for an independent investigation and the immediate expulsion of any member of Congress involved in covering up the actions of their colleague.

For seventeen years, I have fought for tough penalties for those who harm children. Members of Congress are not and should not be above the law. We need a full and complete investigation with unfettered access to emails, records and correspondence and subpoena power over members, leadership and staff.

We need to restore integrity to Congress, integrity that was further damaged by Congressional leadership’s silence. We need a new direction to restore the trust we’ve lost.

We’ve instituted safeguards at schools and nationwide alert systems, but we need to do more return the peace of mind that we’ve lost.

We cannot change the way Washington operates until we change the people we send there.

We need to ensure that members of Congress understand the reality of sexual exploitation of children in America . This is not a problem that can be swept under the rug. This is not about “overly friendly” relationships between adults and children this is about ways children are too often viewed as sexual objects. And this is not about partisan politics. Protecting our children is not a Democratic or Republican issue – it is an American issue that we are all concerned about.

This is about the safety of children – mine and yours. How we address this appalling situation impacts every child, every parent, and every institution in this country. Adults must be accountable for the well being of our children. Parents, please take the time to talk to your children about personal safety. We can and we must do better.

My prayers continue to be with every child and every family involved in this tragic situation, that their faith will sustain them in this difficult time.

I’m Patty Wetterling, and I thank you for listening.