As the country turns its attention from the election to fiscal cliff, The Center for the Next Generation is drawing attention to another cliff, one that the country's children are being pushed toward.
With more children living in poverty today than have in the last 50 years, a rise in the childhood chronic illnesses, and a lag in education behind other developed countries, the nonprofit and nonpartisan group hopes to start a dialogue about the future of America's children with its first national campaign, "Too Small to Fail."
The campaign kicks off with a 30-second spot that makes an analogy between allowing a child to be put in physical danger and allowing him to live in a country where his chances of leading a life better than his parents are growing slimmer. In this case, the image used is a young boy drowning, struggling for breath as he sinks deeper and deeper into the water. The ad copy reads, "Can't watch one child in danger? You do it every day. Stop Watching."
In an effort to show these issues as nonpartisan, the commercials were produced by a top Republican and top Democratic consultant: Mark McKinnon, who worked on Bush's presidential campaign, and Jim Margolis, who worked on Obama's campaign. The ads will run on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, where The Center for the Next Generation spent $250,000 on media.
The ad is jarring enough that the networks had a tough time approving it, worrying that they would need to put some kind of notice on the ad that the boy was not harmed. It's meant to be uncomfortable, said Matt James, president of The Center for the Next Generation, which was established in 2011 to shape dialogue around sustainable energy and improving opportunities for children. Many groups that work on kids and family issues have used a soft, "let's hold hands" approach and it hasn't worked, he said, so they wanted something that would catch people off guard.
According to an exit poll conducted by The Center and Lake Research last Tuesday, 81% of Americans agree that America's children are falling behind the rest of the world in education and will struggle to compete in the global market.
And yet, the issues were barely touched upon this election, overshadowed by more immediate issues or, in some cases, more frivolous ones. Mr. James said that only 2% of debate questions this election were dedicated to kids and family issues. And this summer even Ann Romney's horse, Rafalka, received 10 times more coverage than kids and family issues.
But the hope for "Too Small to Fail" is to start a long dialogue -- with businesses, policymakers, and parents -- about the challenges that face kids today: education, social mobility, health and chronic illnesses, and the 24/7 media.
"So in 2014 and 2016 kids and family issues are at the top of the agenda instead of being eclipsed by whatever the next version Ann Romney's horse is ," said Mr. James.