By Stacy Beller Stryer, M.D.
We are asking a lot of President Obama. We are asking him to end the wars around the globe, help societies in need, bring jobs and prosperity back to the United States, provide healthcare for all Americans, improve our children’s education, and so on. In his inaugural address, President Obama agreed to tackle many of these issues. We must remember, however, that he is not Superman. He has told us many times, including yesterday, that he cannot make these changes alone but needs the help of all Americans. As he said, “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world …”
Why am I, a pediatrician, discussing an inaugural speech on a website about healthcare? Because, as the President said, each and every one of us has the responsibility of contributing as much as possible to our society and to the world-at-large. As a pediatrician, one of my responsibilities is to guide mothers and fathers toward being the best parents possible. As a parent, each of you has the responsibility of doing the best job you can in raising your children, even before they are born. This means eating well, and refraining from smoking and drinking during pregnancy. It also means providing for them in as many was as possible. This includes, not only giving them appropriate clothing and food, but also stimulating their minds and hearts. It means treating them with respect, acting as positive role models, and teaching them right from wrong – why smoking and having sex as a teen is wrong, why doing well in school is important, and why all people should be treated equal, whether they are black or white, straight or gay, fat or thin. It means boosting your children’s self confidence and letting them know how much you love them. It means becoming involved in activities which help the environment, community, and those in need. And when children become teens, parents must also change their ways – they must learn to recognize when teens need space and when it is time for them to develop their independence.
President Obama is certainly asking a lot of us. But I know we can rise to the occasion. By being good parents and role models, we will not only have fulfilled our duties and responsibilities, but we will also have prepared the next generation to do the same. Here’s to President Obama – and to each and every parent in America.