When I raised the issue of traditional family values last year,
Bill Clinton and many in the media called it a cynical political
ploy that was intended to divide the nation.
Clinton recently recanted. "I read his whole speech, the Murphy
Brown speech," said the president. "I thought there were a lot of
good things in that speech. . . . It is certainly true that this
country would be better off if our babies were born into two-parent
families." Now some may call this merely a cynical political ploy
by President Clinton intended to wrap himself in the mantle of
traditional values. But I welcome the president to the debate, and
I encourage him to continue speaking out on the issue, as he began
doing last month in Memphis. "Too many kids," the president said
there, "are growing up without family supports - without the
structure and values and support they need." Amen.
Our families are hurting. Government programs aren't the cure.
As a matter of fact, welfare dependency - and the economic
incentives it provides for children to have children - helps to
perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty. But family breakdown is no
longer confined mainly to the underclass. It affects all races and
social classes. Clinton apparently realizes the trashing the
American family has taken. He now talks openly about the sad
statistics of unwed mothers in this country. Those statistics are
shocking indeed. Nationwide, the percentage of out-of-wedlock
births has reached 30 percent, rising to 70 percent in our larger
urban areas. In 1991 more than 1.2 million births were out of
wedlock, compared with only 240,000 three decades earlier.
The figures are rising for blacks and whites, rich and poor
alike. Commenting on the most recent set of numbers from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issud in September,
demographer Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute
noted that "the stereotype of the unwed mother as a black teen-ager
is completely outdated. Less than one-eighth of the illegitimate
babies of 1991 were born to African-American teen-agers - fewer in
fact than were born to white women in their 30s."
Now that Clinton has entered the fray, discussing moral issues
and values in public, the opportunity for rational discussion of
family breakdown improves. It's a discussion we badly need, both
for our country and for our children, many of whom live in abject
poverty, material and spiritual, with little hope for the future.
Every time the issue of the family structure has been raised,
it has caused controversy and eventually silence. Sen. Daniel P.
Moynihan was called a racist in 1965, when he pointed out the
rising rate of black households headed by single mothers and
predicted social chaos from the rising number of children growing
up without fathers. …