Friday, June 6th, 2014
Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is also the Chair of the Democratic National Committee. She has been working to help implement he President’s new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on carbon emissions, in order to reduce child asthma that has resulted from carbon pollution.
As the mother of three children, there is nothing more important to me than ensuring that we leave the next generation a world that is safe and prosperous. Making sure that our children have clean air to breathe is an essential part of that mission.
This week, the Environmental Protection Agency took an important step in the right direction. Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the EPA released new guidelines that will, for the first time ever, limit carbon emissions from existing factories. While the EPA has regulated dangerous toxins like arsenic, mercury, and lead for years, they still allowed power plants to release as much carbon pollution as they wanted. That was not responsible, and it was not smart.
Illnesses like asthma that affect millions of children are aggravated by air pollution, and in the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled. For any mother who knows how helpless it feels to see her child struggling to breathe during an asthma attack, it is encouraging to know action is being taken to help alleviate this health crisis. The rules will help us avoid up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.
Hundreds of scientists have made clear that climate change is no longer a distant threat but an imminent and dangerous reality. These tough new rules will regulate the sources of carbon emissions that not only pollute the air we breathe, but contribute to climate change. If there is something we can do to prevent our children from getting sick, to reduce the number of times they end up in a doctor’s office or emergency room, and to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change in their lifetimes, then we have a moral obligation to do it.
There is no question that now is the time to act.
The common sense changes will put us on the right track towards a cleaner and brighter future for generations to come. However, if we are serious about leaving our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged, we must recognize these new EPA rules are just the beginning. We must do more.
Addressing the biggest challenges we face as a nation, and as a planet, requires bold solutions. And yes, bold solutions can be difficult; they require tough choices, and there will always be those that oppose progress and the change that comes with it. But as a Member of Congress, and more importantly, as a mother, I am committed to doing what is necessary and what is right for our children. As President Obama said, we must work together towards “a future where we can look our kids in the eye and tell them we did our part to leave them a safer, more stable world.”
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Thursday, October 17th, 2013
Like any parent you’ve probably felt that way now and then—I know those twinges come more and more often as my kids get older. But I can’t imagine anyone who has yearned more desperately to stop the clock than Leslie Gordon and Scott Berns and their teenage son Sam, who are the focus of the wrenching but wonderful new documentary “Life According to Sam,” which premiers Monday, October 21 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO (check local listings). Sam has progeria, an incurable genetic disease that speeds the body’s natural aging processes. By the time kids with progeria are 9, they resemble elderly people, with hair loss, muscle loss, brittle bones and the least visible but most dangerous symptom: the blood vessels of an 80-year-old. Virtually all of these children suffer heart attacks and strokes; on average they do not live past age 14.
Progeria is one of the rarest diseases; only 250 children worldwide have it. So drug manufacturers aren’t exactly racing to find a cure. That’s why soon after Sam’s diagnosis in 1998, Leslie and Scott, both doctors, founded the Progeria Research Foundation along with Leslie’s sister Audrey Gordon. (I first met Scott through the March of Dimes, where he is a senior vice president and I am a board member.) PRF quickly raised over $1 million and 4 years later had found the gene for progeria. The film chronicles the family’s race to study a drug therapy for the condition in a trial at Boston Children’s Hospital, even as they also slow down to savor the time they have together.
“I didn’t put myself in front of you to have you feel bad for me,” Sam says early on in the film. “I put myself in front of you to let you know that you don’t need to feel bad for me. This is my life. Progeria is part of it. It’s not a major part of it. It’s a part of it.” The family’s ability to keep up with everyday life in the face of this disease is remarkable. Sam goes on a ride at an amusement park and cracks two ribs, but he also goes to school, plays sports and enjoys rock concerts. He is fragile but extraordinarily strong.
People “take time for granted,” says Leslie midway through “Life According to Sam.” Anyone, but especially other parents, will be awed by the family’s courage and amazed that they could spare one single moment of their time together to share their experience. “Everyday what I’m thinking of is how to save the kids and how to save Sam’s life,” says Leslie.
You will find yourself rooting passionately for Sam and his family and all the other kids in the trial, who come from around the world because the PRF is their best hope. (Parents who loved “Miss You Can Do It,” from the same executive producer, Sheila Nevins, can expect to be similarly wowed by “Life According to Sam.”)
Sam allows himself to be documented in excruciating detail in his quest for a cure. His deed is a gift to the children with progeria who will continue to come after him and whose families already line up outside Leslie’s door, looking for a cure. But by putting themselves in front of the camera, Sam and his parents give a gift to all of us, a reminder of how fast the days pass. Watch it as a reminder of how very much we should value our fleeting moments together. But most of all, watch it to meet Sam, and to celebrate each passing birthday with him.
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