Children express hope, interest over issues around the world
''Certainly there's a lot of hope here,'' said Rep. George Miller (D., Calif.) before the first meeting of his new Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families, held recently, ''because you children are speaking, not just to your own problems, but to the problems of other children around the country and around the world.''
The testimony he spoke of came from some 75 children from 20 states, sponsored by Save the Children, who brought what Rep. Miller called a ''modest agenda'' to Washington - air pollution, nuclear war, unemployment, child abuse, crime, nuclear waste disposal, poverty.
Along with this chilling list, the children brought their solutions. From Dorothy Royle, a sixth-grader with long red braids from Henryville, Pa.: ''I think what we need is a massive exchange program between the United States and Russia so we can get to know each other and understand each other. Besides, no country would declare war on another country where its children were living,'' she said.
From Tiffini Jones, a dark-haired girl from the coal-mining area of Kona, Ky. , where unemployment is running 51 percent: ''I think the company should split shifts and share the work,'' she said in a mountain twang. ''The children of today must have a future.''
From Reed Claxton, an 11-year-old boy from West Covina, Calif.: ''We need more Christian love instead of bombs. Just think of how much we could help people if we didn't have to spend the money on bombs.''
''I think all of you should go home and run for Congress,'' said Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D, Colo.), a member of the committee. ''But I wonder if you're just bright kids, and if maybe most kids don't worry about things like this. How many of you think these issues are the ones most kids worry about?'' Hands flew up.
''We can't help thinking about these things,'' explained Miss Royle, ''because most of us watch the news every night and wonder, Why is there war in El Salvador? and stuff like that.''
The redhead, who says she wants to be a ''lawyer, a teacher, an actress, a Congresswoman, or a writer of children's books'' when she grows up, said she enjoyed having a chance to explain her solution to war to the Congressmen. ''I think they asked good questions, and really listened to what we had to say,'' she reported.
But some children, like Kelly Christensen and Lori Tedtaotao from Guam, turned shy in front of the packed hearing room. ''We came to represent Guam and discuss nuclear waste dumping in the Pacific Ocean,'' said Miss Christensen outside the hearing room. Inside, she declined to speak when the committee chairman handed her the microphone.
Another child - a black girl with a headful of braids from Pennsylvania - made her speech with the Congressman's arm wrapped securely around her. ''Sixty-five percent of the workers are laid off in my town,'' she said, shyly, ''and child abuse is increasing. If we didn't have free lunches and free breakfasts, we wouldn't eat,'' she said, holding onto the Congressman's neck.
Others, like 10-year-old Ken Nash of Bowie, Md., came only to observe. ''I think it was good,'' he said, summing up the morning of hearings, ''because it was children telling Congress that people really need them. People who don't need Congress are up here all the time. This gave the other people a chance to talk.''