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Searching for America's Heart

RFK and the Renewal of Hope

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Peter Edelman has worked as an aide to Robert F. Kennedy, a lawyer, a children's advocate, and a policymaker. He has devoted his life to the cause of justice and to ending inequality. But in 1996, while serving in the Clinton administration as an expert on welfare policy and children, he found himself in an untenable position. The president signed a new welfare bill that ended a sixty-year federal commitment to poor children, and as justification invoked the words of RFK. For Edelman, Clinton's twisting of Kennedy's vision was deeply cynical, so in a rare gesture that sparked front-page coverage in the New York Times and the Washington Post, he resigned from the administration. The nation, he believed, had been harmed.
Drawing on Edelman's vast personal experience with the issues and many of the key figures, SEARCHING FOR AMERICA'S HEART shows that in an age of unprecedented prosperity, Americans have in many respects forsaken their fellow citizens. While we daily break economic records, we have largely given up our vision of social and economic justice, leaving behind a devastatingly large number of poor and near-poor, many of them children. Edelman shines a bright light on these forgotten Americans. Also, based in part on a firsthand look at community efforts across the country, he proposes a bold and practical program for addressing the difficult issues of entrenched poverty. Edelman focuses on novel ways of braiding together national and local civic activism, reinvigorating our commitment to children, and building hope in our most shattered communities.
Surveying the American landscape at the beginning a new presidency and a new Congress, SEARCHING FOR AMERICA'S HEART lays the foundation for a newly conceived politics, a vision true to the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 01, 2001 – Popular opinion has shifted dramatically during the second half of the 20th century regarding efforts to address poverty. Lawyer and political activist Edelman chronicles the moderate rise and dramatic fall of concern for the poor in this blend of policy history, autobiography and call to political action. The first third of the book finds Edelman going to work for Robert Kennedy, and tells the story of the 1960s' war on poverty, especially welfare reform legislation intended to help the poor, through the eyes of a staffer in the thick of the fight. The middle third focuses on the conservative redefinition of "welfare reform," popularized by Ronald Reagan, to mean cutting back on assistance to the poor, culminating in Bill Clinton's welfare reform legislation that led to Edelman's resignation from the administration, where he served as an expert on welfare policy and its impact on children. To Edelman, Clinton's "goal was re-election at all costs," and he bitterly castigates Clinton's ability to elevate "shadow over substance in a way that has hurt poor children" and his general tendency to "make things worse for the politically powerless." The final third is a "where do we go from here" assessment of what needs to be done to rediscover an understanding of poverty as a condition to be ameliorated rather than stigmatized. Like Kennedy, Edelman thinks the key is improving the lives of children, and he communicates his vision through stories of people and places rather than specific policy proposals. Like all progressives, Edelman is an optimist; his experience leaves him searching for America's heart rather than concluding that it does not exist, and readers who have held on to their liberal convictions will find Edelman's take refreshing. 4-city author tour.
Searching for America's Heart
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  • $17.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Politics & Current Events
  • Published: Jan 22, 2001
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Seller: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Print Length: 272 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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