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Governor Malloy to Mayors: “We Cannot Lose our Children”

January 28, 2013

Returning to address the 81st Winter Meeting of The U.S. Conference of Mayors as Governor of Connecticut, former Conference of Mayors Trustee Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy appealed to his audience to protect children on several fronts, beginning with the reform of their schools and their safety within them.

“Everything I needed to know and learn about education I learned as a mayor,” Malloy told the mayors and business leaders in the January 19 plenary session, where he stressed the need to do “everything in our power to educate our children effectively.”

“I’m the governor of a state that has certain urban areas in which 60 percent of the students are receiving a high school diploma that actually represents value,” Malloy said. “We will not compete with other nations and we in the state of Connecticut will not compete with others states if we are simply willing to throw away up to 40 percent of our children growing up in urban environments….We cannot lose our children,” he said.

Even in low performing school districts, Malloy explained there are outstanding schools and their successes need to be captured. The problem, he added, is that “We are far more likely to recommit ourselves to our mistakes and repeat behaviors year after year than to replicate successes,” and he appealed to the audience to “break the trend of replicating mistakes and start the trend of paying for replication of successes.”

Turning to the recent mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which took the lives of 20 young children and six school employees, Malloy, who was a constant presence in the community in the aftermath of the tragedy, said, “The experiences I’ve had pale in substance and cause and reaction to that which struck 20 families who lost their children, and the spouses and family members of those six adults who died protecting those children.”

Describing the issue of assault weapons and high-capacity clips in mass killings, Malloy said, “We have got to use this experience in Newtown to make sure not only that we reignite for the moment our interest in doing something about this issue, but we do it for whatever period of time it takes for us to make real change. There are things that make so much sense to the American people, simple things that we could do” to help prevent further loss of life in Newtown and in other cities. “There is no reason that in a country where we don’t allow anyone to get on an airplane without undergoing a background check, we allow anyone to buy a gun without a background check.”

“Actually, there is a reason,” he added, referring to the profits earned by the firearms industry: “People make money.” But, he added, the American people understand now the unfairness of trading lives for profits. “This is a fight that the American people are willing to have if we provide the leadership when we go back to our cities, our states, and our companies.”

Malloy also appealed for a change in the perception of mental health treatment in the nation, explaining that the continued stigmatization of those who have undergone treatment for problems such as depression or anxiety—even when that treatment is successful—discourages those needing help from seeking it. Adding to the problem, he said, is that “We make it hard to get treatment when it’s needed.”

On the other hand, Malloy said we have effectively de'stigmatized violence. “On the day that Newtown happened there were games available that actually allowed people to go into schools in the games and shoot them up.”

“If we spent as much time and energy on de'stigmatizing mental health treatment as we do on the proliferation on these games that are de'stigmatizing violence, we as a society would make leaps forward,” Malloy said.

“There are going to be more Newtowns, there are going to be more Auroras, there are going to be more people who walk into movie houses and shoot them up, because we have failed to act in the past and we will be slow to act now,” Malloy concluded. “It will be the volume of the repeat of these incidents that ultimately will allow us as a nation to do that which we already know, and have known for a long period of time, should have been done.”