A July 20 convention breakfast for early childhood educators featured remarks from Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who blew the whistle on politicians who put dollars over safety and switched the Fint, Mich., water supply—spiking lead exposure across the community and jeopardizing children's health and development.
Hanna-Attisha's work has sparked national attention. She has endured public attacks and remained a courageous voice on behalf of young children whose futures were threatened when Flint emergency managers, seeking only to cut costs, moved the public water supply to the Flint River. The doctor told the breakfast audience it was raw, undemocratic politics at its worst, and young children are paying the price from the threat of lead exposure—a crisis that is by no means limited to her city.
"Kids across the country are suffering," Hanna-Attisha told the crowd. Lead is a "potent irreversable neurotoxin, and if we do nothing, we will see these effects in our classrooms."
The pediatrician made it clear, however, that she was not there to serve hopelessness and despair to the audience. She spent most of her time addressing the social components that, along with safe water, can mean strong beginnings for children. Those supports include outstanding prenatal care, high-quality child care, strong and universal early education, excellent home-visit programs, and federal support for states working to expand services to young children and families.
Also needed, she said, are professional wages that reflect the vital work performed by early childhood educators and caregivers."Science is telling us that 0-5 is the most critical time, and early education is the most potent medication I can prescribe."
At the breakfast, Sandra Cappelli, this year's Everyday Hero for early educators, presented Hanna-Attisha with a 2016 "Superhero Award" for defending kids' health.
[Mike Rose/photo by Mike Campbell]