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His approach is always subtle; his banter is casual and absent any pressure to respond. But when renowned pediatrician and children’s advocate Dr. Irwin Redlener casually asks his young patients, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the lights invariably come on, eye contact occurs, and the child emerges from deep inside a protective shell. “Children are essentially dreamers … undaunted by adversity or reality-based barriers to success,” Dr. Redlener writes in The Future of Us: What the Dreams of Children Mean for Twenty-First-Century America.
Inadequate education, barriers to health care and crushing poverty make it overwhelmingly difficult for many children to realize their dreams.
Finding ways to alter these trajectories is serious, grown-up business, Dr. Redlener emphasizes, and it’s time for us to act.
In The Future of Us, Dr. Redlener draws upon his four decades of professional experiences to examine our nation’s health care safety nets and special programs that are designed to protect and nurture our most vulnerable kids, but that too often fail to do so.
The book follows Dr. Redlener’s long, colorful career, from his work as a pediatrician in the Arkansas delta, to treating child abuse in a Miami hospital, to helping children in the aftermaths of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. He has served on the board of USA for Africa, cofounded the Children’s Health Fund with Paul Simon (and persuaded Joan Baez to play a benefit concert) and dined with Fidel Castro. He once sat across the table from Michael Jackson, and he has traveled with presidential candidates. But his most powerful source of motivation remains the children who face terrible adversities yet dream of becoming paleontologists, artists and marine biologists. Their stories are his springboard for discussing larger policy issues that hinder us from effectively eradicating childhood poverty and overcoming barriers to accessible health care. Persistent deprivation and the avoidable problems that accompany poverty ensnare millions of children and impact the health, prosperity and creativity of the adults they become. Dr.Redlener argues that we must drastically change our approach to meeting the needs of children ? for their sake and to ensure America’s resiliency and influence in an increasingly complex world.
It is Dr. Redlener’s hope that readers will emerge optimistic about our future, with a deeper understanding of how investing in children today will increase our chances of a successful tomorrow. Fighting for our nation’s children is far from a lost cause, and nothing could be more important.
Author Irwin Redlener, M.D., is a pediatrician and founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, which works to understand and improve the nation's capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. In 2020, Dr. Redlener created the Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative at Columbia. He is a public health analyst for NBC and MSNBC, and recently partnered with Cher in CherCares, a new program that assists communities struggling with COVID-19.
Dr. Redlener is also President Emeritus and Co-Founder of the Children’s Health Fund, a philanthropic initiative that he created with singer/songwriter Paul Simon and Karen Redlener to develop health care programs in 25 of the nation’s most medically underserved urban and rural communities. He currently serves as a special advisor on emergency preparedness to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and regularly communicates with leadership in U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, as well as Homeland Security.
He is also the author of Americans at Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do Now. For more information, please
The Future of Us: What the Dreams of Children Mean for Twenty-First-Century America