We should look at churches and faith-based organizations in the community as part of the solution. Kids joining the Boy Scouts and being involved in a church’s youth group aren’t just nice things for them to do. One day it might have a real impact on their standard of living and ultimately our national economy.
And let’s protect our nation’s safety net programs. Not as a way of life, but as a way to help those who have failed to stand up and try again, and of course to help those who cannot help themselves. But these programs must be reformed to enhance family stability, financial opportunity, education and a culture of work.
But perhaps the most effective thing we in government can do about societal breakdown is acknowledge the impact it is having. Ask any of the amazing teachers we are blessed to have here in America. I have four of them in my own family. They are on the frontlines of this problem. They will be the first to tell you that every single day, kids bring their home experience in to the classrooms. Every day, they see firsthand how kids living in dysfunctional homes are going to really struggle to make it. As a people, we cannot build a vibrant and broad-based middle class if we do not solve this problem.
My parents immigrated here with few skills, limited education and no money. They worked in the service industry. In almost any other nation on earth, those jobs would barely provide a daily living much less a better future. But in America, my parents made enough money to buy their own home and a car. They felt so confident in the future that in their 40’s they had two children, me in 1971 and my sister in 1973.
We didn’t have everything we wanted, but we had more than we needed. And most importantly we had a strong family, living in a safe and stable home. Our parents loved each other, made sure we knew they loved us, and encouraged us to dream. They made it very clear that, because we were Americans, we could go as far as our talent and hard work would take us.
Note (1) the connection he makes between value-shaping organizations like faith-based groups and future economic opportunity, (2) the need to keep the safety net strong yet reformed to promote work and upward mobility, and (3) how the family influences the educational environment. Not very many conservatives use the words he’s employing here today. He sounds more like a late 1990s cultural conservative, an heir of the Berger-Neuhaus To Empower People tradition (and I mean that as a compliment).