This month is Black History Month. Throughout this period, we will be exposed to the dreams, struggles and achievements of African Americans, often highlighted by their quest for truth and justice. (We should note that Canada and the United Kingdom also have a Black History Month.) However, Black History Month is much more than a historical reflection for African Americans. It is a reminder that it is history for all of us. While I’m certainly proud of the individual achievements of my ancestors, as a legislator who represents people of every color, creed and ethnicity, this month points to an even greater reason to celebrate.
January is National Mentoring Month. This is an ideal time to think about the impact that each of us can have on one another by giving our time to offer guidance and counsel. Too often, we shy away from the chance to do this simple act of positive encouragement. When I was young, my parents had a picture of a man reaching back over a wall pulling someone else up to achieve the same goal he had done. This picture embodied this ideal perfectly. It's not enough for one to "make it" themselves. It is our responsibility to bring someone else to the same achievement.
Research shows that young people who interact with mentors on a consistent basis are less likely to abuse drugs and engage in violent behavior, and more likely to graduate from high school and continue their education through college. Furthermore, a mentor's position as a positive role model can inspire children to strive for success, and instill a sense of confidence that will allow them to achieve their full potential in school, their communities, and in their future careers.
In New Jersey, we adhere to Megan’s Law. It is named after Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who, in 1996, was raped and murdered by a neighbor, a convicted sex offender. Megan’s law is the informal name that some states use for laws requiring sex offenders to register with authorities. It is a good law, one that I support and that I believe may have deterred possible attacks by repeat sexual predators. However, I believe we can strengthen its provisions.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day on Monday, Jan. 19, I can’t help but think about the tumultuous times we seem to find ourselves in lately. We could certainly use his steady hand, implacable courage and profound faith to lead us in meeting these new challenges. They seem to be everywhere, whether it’s an issue of race relations, continued economic inequality or terrorism emanating from some misguided interpretation of religion.
Sometimes a simple test of basic knowledge gives a person insight into whether they know something that most of us would consider obvious or fundamental. If you have a high school student (or older) at home, ask your child if they know who is the vice president of the United States. Then ask them to name at least ONE of the two U.S. senators from New Jersey. Finally, ask them who their state representative is. If they answered all correctly, fabulous. One or two correct answers is a positive sign … but if your child failed completely, well then, a civics lesson just might be in order. Indeed, as a parent, you might consider taking the same test. I won't ask how you did though.
Judge Sol Wachter once famously said that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to "indict a ham sandwich." While that may seem funny to some, it is an alarming concept to think about in the context of our country's system of jurisprudence for many others. I have often heard this phrase repeated in popular culture through television, movies or in casual conversation when discussing the court system. It refers to the idea that many times prosecutors achieve indictments against someone, almost regardless of the circumstances, when they place a case before a grand jury.
The foundation of our government is ingrained in the hallowed words of our Constitution: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
For decades, the question as to whether or not there is an equitable education system in New Jersey has been a constant debate amongst policy makers for a myriad of reasons. Now, more emphasis than ever has been added to the dialogue by way of a report published last year which put the issue at the forefront once again with the question of why?
I have been writing blogs for months now, and it might be easy for readers to assume that I only write about serious subjects. After all, I feel that it’s my duty to bring attention to important topics that demand scrutiny and to seek aid for those who are mistreated.
First printed in the Burlington County Times on November 16, 2014.
Voters of all political persuasions who went to the polls on Election Day consistently noted one fundamental flaw in government — they feel they cannot trust their elected officials.