by Bob Simmons.  I can’t believe we’re closing in on three years since I started as executive director of Council for Children’s Rights. It seems like yesterday and a lifetime, and I’m grateful for both. To borrow a 1961 phrase from the Peace Corps: It’s the toughest job I’ll ever love.

Bob Simmons

Bob Simmons

At the Council, we recognize that our unique role in our community – assuring that our children’s human and legal rights are recognized and protected – comes with a daily duty  to stand up, to speak out, and to act to ensure that all children are safe, healthy, and well-educated.  I’m pleased with the work we are doing, but there is always more to do.

The New Year is now here, the time when folks make resolutions. As we look ahead, we continue to let one resolution guide us: put children first. In every decision we make, in every challenge we face, whenever and wherever we’re called to stand with children and to make their voices heard, we resolve to put their well-being ahead of all else.

Most folks say we should put children first, but too often they allow competing interests to distract them from that commitment. That’s when the Council holds them accountable and reminds them that we must work together because too many children continue to be caught in events beyond their control and too many continue to fall through the cracks of under-resourced and broken systems. Though we might not always agree on how best to do it, when we all put children first real progress can be made.

Over the more than 30 years since I first started volunteering with the Council, much has changed, but the Council’s commitment has remained steadfastly the same, and every day I’m reminded that we’re the fortunate heirs of a great legacy of putting children first.

Some days, usually when the work is the most daunting and a boost is most needed, one of you gives us a special reminder that we do not stand alone. Not long ago, that reminder came in a note from Dr. Edie Irons, a friend, long-time supporter, and widow of Dr. Bruce Irons. I knew Bruce too briefly 30 years ago as the principal at Metro School where he was a visionary education leader.

Bruce always put children first. He met them where they were to help them learn. He heard their voices and he stood by them. On his watch, children at Metro weren’t punished when their needs resulted in behavior triggered by frustration. The difficult moments were also not treated as failures by the staff : They were learning opportunities for everybody. As a result, both the children under his care and the staff under his guidance flourished to unexpected levels.

In our work each day we stand on the shoulders of giants like Bruce, Dolly Tate, Larry King, and Judges Bill Jones and Jim Lanning, who showed us how to make our community a safer and more just place where all of our children can live and learn.

Like Edie, a community leader in her own work, you also stand with us. You’re the real heroes who make the voices of children heard, who help them reclaim their childhoods, who put their feet firmly on a better path to a brighter future.

Thank you for believing with us that putting children first is more than our responsibility – that putting children first is our honor, our privilege, our duty, and our hope for the future.

Bob Simmons is the executive director of Council for Children’s Rights.

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