Oil painting titled 'The Holy Family" by Italian artist Garofalo.
Remarks of the Hon. Ellen Sauerbrey on Jan. 22, 2011 to the Women’s Federation for World Peace Assembly in San Jose Costa Rica.
I am honored to be here and to have the opportunity to share with such a distinguished group of women my passion about the issue of the family.
I admire WFWP for your commitment to the family and your recognition that the stable family is where citizens are produced. The family is the foundation of the social order. It is the place where the character traits necessary to build free societies and a peaceful world are forged.
President Bush said that the character of a nation “begins in the home.” During my years at the Department of State, I undertook to make the United States a leader in the promotion of the family.
Working with local government officials and NGOs, my office organized several well attended forums on the family in Latin America and Mexico. One of these forums was held in Costa Rica. So, I am thrilled to be back at a meeting hosted by WFWP and to have the opportunity to share my concerns about the breakdown of the family and the importance of women in turning this around.
Throughout recorded history, the traditional family has been the vital and fundamental unit of society. It is the cradle of life and love for each new generation, transforming helpless, dependent babies into responsible, independent adults.
The standard over the centuries for all civilizations, and supported by all the world’s religions, presumes that the family is two adults of the opposite sex, living together in a sexually faithful lifelong union, and assuming primary responsibility for each other’s welfare and for raising their children.
The Family as the Glue that Attaches Fathers to Their Children
The family is the glue that attaches fathers to their children and to the mothers of their children. Strong families contribute to the emotional, economic and physical health of men, women and children. And it is families that ensure that values and culture are transmitted down through the generations -- that impart work ethic, self-discipline, intellectual motivation, and moral character. Strong families are central to strong and stable communities. A stable, intact family promotes both individual and social well being. When the family breaks down, it results in a host of social problems for the individuals and for the community. When the institution of the family is weakened, the nation is weakened.
It is said, “When you educate a man, you educate a man. When you educate a woman, you educate a family.” Women are indeed the major transmitters of values in a family. Mothers are the comforters and the nurturers. They convey warmth and affection and security. Mothers usually spend more time with their children. They convey values through direct instruction and by example. Some studies have indicated that young children who spend a good bit of time away from their mothers in day care tend to be more aggressive and display disruptive behavior.
Men and women parent differently and children need both a Mother and a Father. You need one to be firm and one to be gentle, one to say yes and one to say no, one that does things for you and one that teaches you to do them yourself. one that kisses your hurt away and one that makes you laugh about it. But, most of all, you need TWO to love you and make you feel whole. Children need love and discipline. They need mothers and fathers.
Many women may successfully raise children alone, but there is no denying that the best environment for women and their children is the traditional two-parent family where the parents are married. In America and much of the Western world today the traditional family is under assault.
Threat to the Family from Militant Feminists
Militant feminists see marriage and the family as a form of oppression of women. The former editor of Ms. Magazine, Robin Morgan, declared that “marriage is a slavery-like practice” and “we can’t destroy the inequities between men and women until we destroy marriage.” In their Declaration on Feminism, the authors said, “Marriage has existed for the benefit of men and has been a legally sanctioned method of control over women. ..The end of the institution of marriage is the necessary condition for the liberation of women. Therefore it is important for us to encourage women to leave their husbands and not to live individually with men.” And, according to Frances Sweeney, the family “is simply an institution for the subjugation and enslavement of women and children.”
Today in America, another force is attacking the institution of the family, as gay activists want to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions. Radically redefining the family is central to the homosexual agenda.
The gay and feminist movements, along with a number of bad, government policies, have had a significant impact on American attitudes about marriage. The numbers are stark. In the United States, we are on a path toward becoming a nation of fatherless families. In the United States today, 40 percent of all children are born to single women, and they will go to sleep in a home that is missing a father. Among black children that climbs to 70 percent.
Illegitimacy is one of the most important social issues of our time, because it drives virtually all other social problems. Children growing up in fatherless homes are more likely to live in poverty, to fail and drop out of school, to become involved in drug-and- alcohol abuse and criminal activity, to have emotional and behavioral problems, and to commit suicide. They are also much more likely to engage in premarital sex and to become pregnant themselves outside of marriage.
But the problem of out-of-wedlock pregnancy goes far beyond that of the individual and the family. When there is a concentration of broken families in a community, that community will disintegrate – the moral and social fabric of the community itself breaks down. We see it in our inner cities and Latin America sees it in many villages where fathers have left their families behind, seeking employment and opportunity elsewhere.
The Link Between Fatherless Homes and Pathologies
The chief predictor of crime in a neighborhood is the percentage of homes without fathers. A community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, that community asks for and gets chaos.
When fathers are missing, boys turn to peers for that missing relationship and that leads to the development of gangs. Up to 70 percent of U.S. adolescents charged with murder are from fatherless homes. Up to 70 percent of long-term prison inmates grew up in fatherless homes. Marriage has a civilizing effect on men as well as their sons. It is clear that married men become less aggressive, more socially constructive, and convey responsibility to their sons.
For the best part of thirty years we have been conducting a vast experiment with the family, and now the results are in: the decline of the two-parent, married-couple family has resulted in poverty, ill-health, educational failure, unhappiness, anti-social behavior, isolation and social exclusion for thousands of women, men and children. We are creating what Reverend Moon described this morning as a “World without Values”.
There is no more important challenge for women than turning this around. It is women who must provide the leadership in reconstructing the family.
First, women must themselves understand and promote the importance of marriage and families, for their own well being and the well being of their children.
It is women who must teach their children the importance of self-respect, honor and personal responsibility; to teach them that there are right and wrong choices and that we are all responsible for the choices we make.
Leaders must be clear in their message, and that message needs to be…having babies irresponsibly is simply wrong! Failing to support children one has fathered is simply wrong! Having a child outside of marriage virtually guarantees a teenage girl and her children a life of poverty, low education, low expectations and low achievement.
Our children must be taught clearly that the best choice for a happy and successful future is abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage.
We must not be afraid to teach our children that old-fashioned morals are not old-fashioned. These morals and values provide the best physical, emotional and economic opportunity for a successful life.
When our daughters and the daughters of our friends announce they intend to live with their boyfriends, we must express our rejection of that decision. Being judgmental is not narrow minded. Stigmatizing out-of-wedlock birth was once very effective. When such births became socially accepted, illegitimacy numbers soared.
We women must stop being politically correct and ignoring the corruption of moral and cultural standards. Women must protest the degradation of moral standards and the cultural bias against the family and family values in music, art, .movies and TV. Women need to control what comes into their house on the internet and on television. We must criticize, not glamorize movie stars and other public figures who flout pregnancy outside of marriage.
Mothers introduce young children to prayer and to build a relationship with God. Mothers encourage their children to participate in regular worship at religious institutions. Religious institutions are a natural source of legitimate, moral teaching.
Need to Oversee the Role of Government
Women leaders also need to recognize the role of government policy in supporting or undermining the traditional family and must work to change those policies that are destructive. You need to organize in groups to demand that government leaders promote those measures designed to protect, defend and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
One of the most significant government policies is taxation. Women must demand sensible tax policy, whereby it is not necessary for both parents to be in the labor force in order to provide an adequate family income. In the United States fifty years ago, the average family paid 2 percent of its income to the federal government. The total tax burden today averages over 38 percent. Many women’s salaries do little more than pay this increased tax burden
When I was a child, most young mothers were working in the home, nurturing preschool children in their most formative years. Today, two thirds of young mothers are out in the workforce. And the tax code places an unfair penalty on the mother who still chooses to stay home to raise her children. Working parents are hard pressed to give children the attention they need. When both mother and father have to work to make ends meet, it creates great stress on the family.
Finally, I want to give you a challenge as women leaders of WFWP. There are intense international pressures undermining the family.
In 2003, while serving President George W. Bush, as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, I became concerned that the United Nations was failing to uphold its own proclamations on the family. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state”.
Yet, today there are committees within the United Nations pushing an agenda that counters traditional, moral and social norms regarding the family, marriage, motherhood and religion. Specifically, U.N. committees that monitor implementation of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, discourage motherhood and advise governments of countries to decrease their emphasis on marriage and the nuclear family.
Mothers are encouraged to enter the workforce and leave their children in the care of strangers. These U.N. committees also advocate policies that will undermine parental authority, increase sexual activity, provide full access to abortion, and normalize out-of-wedlock births.
On the other hand, it is hard to find in current U.N. reports any positive language recognizing the traditional two-parent family or the importance of fathers.
As Assistant Secretary of State, I was very concerned that these U.N. committees were issuing reports urging countries to take actions destructive to the family. I assigned an intern to monitor the work of these committees.
Specifically, we found that women’s roles as wives, mothers, and caregivers are demeaned, while there is a passion to legitimize the roles of prostitutes by referring to them as “sex workers” and to legalize prostitution. Measures called for would undermine parental authority and elevate government care above the care of a mother.
Time does not allow me to give you examples of these country reports, but I challenge WFWP, as a U.N. NGO with consultative status to become an active watchdog. Read these reports! Join with other pro-family organizations and exercise your influence within the U.N. to be a strong voice for the traditional family.
Country representatives of WFWP-- you should know what is being recommended to your own government.
We celebrate the fact that women leaders in the 21st Century can be doctors, lawyers, owners, business owners, and legislators but we must not lose sight that the most important role and the one that only she can fill is that of “Mother.”
Pastor Moon described the greatest power as that of influencing others. Indeed the greatest power women leaders have is the power to influence the next generation.
The family is the cradle of the nation --- and it is women who rock the cradle.
Thank you. And God bless the work that you do.
The Honorable Ellen Sauerbrey is a former Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration and is the former Minority Leader of the Maryland House of Delegates (1986-1994).