The following editorial appeared in today's Philadelphia Inquirer:
It's almost like a plot twist out of "The West Wing." The White House whiz kids, as crises hiss all around them, devise a savvy political strategy that has the added value of being the right thing to do.
In fact, President Bush took a page from history when he asked American children to donate $1 each to help Afghan children. The president made the announcement during a news conference last week, calling the effort "America's Fund for Afghan Children."
"We are asking every child in America to earn or give a dollar that will be used to provide food and medical help for the children of Afghanistan," he said. "... This is an opportunity to help others, while teaching our own children a valuable lesson about service and character."
He's right. The idea, if carried out properly, benefits Americans and Afghans and the war against terrorism. For U.S. youngsters, earning and donating $1 builds on the bake sales, car washes and other fund-raising children have undertaken on their own to raise money for victims and survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks. Many schools and youth groups are organizing fund-raisers since the president's call.
For Afghanistan's children - one in four of whom don't live to age 5 - the money will go for food, water, shelter and medical care. Those needs were great before the U.S. military action and are even more dire now.
And for the world watching the U.S. response to the terrorists, the fund is a powerful statement that Afghanistan's citizens are not the enemy. U.S. children helping Afghan children also demonstrates a side of America - one of charity and caring - that those outside of this country often don't see. (There usually are no charity fund drives in the blow-'em-up movies that so influence the United States' image abroad.)
President Bush's advisers must make sure the money is collected efficiently and dispersed effectively. The American Red Cross is designated to administer the fund, with advice from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The White House should make sure the Red Cross is not stretched too thin with its other post-Sept. 11 work.
The Afghan children's fund is based on the original March of Dimes appeal, established in 1938. President Franklin Roosevelt, who suffered from polio, asked Americans to contribute 10 cents to help end the disease. The first full day after his appeal, $17.50 arrived. Four months later, with the American economy floundering from the Great Depression, the public had given $268,000.
Now, it's a dollar instead of a dime. And the goal is ending another scourge - terrorism.
Contributions can be sent to America's Fund for Afghan Children, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20509-1600.