Liberty: Thriving and Civic Engagement among America's Youth

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Richard M. Lerner

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  • The SAGE Program on Applied Developmental Science

    Consulting Editor

    Richard M. Lerner

    The field of Applied Developmental Science has advanced the use of cutting-edge developmental systems models of human development, fostered strength-based approaches to understanding and promoting positive development across the life span, and served as a frame for collaborations among researchers and practitioners, including policymakers, seeking to enhance the life chances of diverse young people, their families, and communities. The SAGE Program on Applied Developmental Science both integrates and extends this scholarship by publishing innovative and cutting-edge contributions.

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    Foreword

    Ideas must work through the brains and arms of good and brave men, or they are no better than dreams.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Rich Lerner confesses—no, proclaims—that this wonderful and important book arose out of the depths of profound despair. In his self-disclosing Preface, Lerner recounts how, like so many of us, his world and worldview were shaken to the core by the events of September 11, 2001. Despite a lifetime committed to disciplined research, it was Rich Lerner the outraged, saddened, and numbed father who needed to write this book and for whom it serves as a citizen's anthem as hopeful as it is healing. Rescued in large measure by Al Gore's invitation to co-teach a seminar, Lerner rebounds with an urgent call for us to embrace a powerful set of ideas about the essential connections among thriving youth, civil society, and vibrant democracy. That despair bordering on clinical depression could be transformed into a work so ultimately optimistic is powerful and eloquent testimony that we, and this idea, are in the care of an author who indeed is good and brave.

    Rich Lerner dedicates this book to Al Gore as a measure of thanks for providing “inspiration and courage.” There are a few hundred people across the country who know that that is no praise required by the dictates of courtesy, celebrity, or friendship. I count myself within that fortunate circle of folks who have accompanied Al and Tipper Gore on their quest to reclaim the high ground on family policy. And it has been a journey of reclamation. Quite frankly, during the past three decades liberals and progressives have ceded considerable terrain to social conservatives and libertarians. Confronted with the choice of embracing “workfare” or spending enough to make welfare a means to provide income security as well as a pathway out of poverty, liberals and progressives walked away from work, ceding that issue and, with it the high ground, to more conservative voices. Instead of wrestling with the dilemma of a nation adamant about keeping church and state separate but unwilling to eradicate expressions of faith from all public forums, liberals and progressives drew a line in the sand and pretended it was a self-evident solution to the problem. The middle ground was left to the right.

    Much the same occurred with families. Liberals and progressives were unequal to the task of describing a view of “family” that holds men and women in equal regard, respects a woman's right to choose whether to bear a child, refuses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and is unapologetic about the importance of committed relationships and healthy marriages. Seemingly unable to braid these into a coherent vision, liberals and progressives assumed the fetal position when invited to join the debate on family values. They could have held social conservatives accountable for the practical consequences of viewing the family as a gendered sole proprietorship. Instead, the left mocked Ozzie and Harriet, celebrated Murphy Brown, and appeared indifferent to the fact that the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan's dire prognosis had morphed into prophecy, as more and more children were born into already poor single-parent single-income households.

    Al and Tipper Gore chose not to mock the American family but to embrace and even celebrate it. The annual conference they hosted grew out of their conviction that the family was the cornerstone of society. They saw in the family unit a collection of assets and strengths that made the whole greater than the sum of its parts. These same assets and strengths were being ignored and undervalued as we hurried to identify, label, and treat individual pathologies. And from this perspective, what was needed were occasions and opportunities to bring the family together—to reimagine what health care and child care and work would look like if we put whole families at the center.

    What began life as a statewide confab hosted by the senior senator from Tennessee matured into a national event hosted by the vice president and Mrs. Gore, drawing in some years the president and first lady of the United States. But what is far more interesting is the story behind the story. And this is the story of the widening circle of scholars, policy wonks, practitioners, and ordinary folks who, like swallows to Capistrano, returned to Nashville year after year. The circle grew larger. It grew stronger. Relationships blossomed. A network evolved. And slowly, ever so slowly, the liberals and progressives regained their voices, rejoined the fray, and set out to reclaim and recapture lost terrain.

    Family Re-Union 3 presented one such opportunity. Planned around the theme “Fathers and Families,” the conference provided an opportunity for intense dialogue among the usual suspects and several dozen practitioners who were first-time attendees. By the end of the session, there was broad consensus on a point of view that endures as bedrock for what we now call “the responsible fatherhood movement.” Central to that point of view was the notion that men be required, encouraged, and enabled to accept the responsibility to contribute to the social, emotional, and economic well being of their children, regardless of whether those fathers lived in the same home as the children.

    In many respects, the practical judgment, real-world experience, and ethnic diversity of practitioners seemed to embolden formerly silent liberals and progressives to find their voices, break the silence, and speak publicly and unflinchingly about personal and parental responsibility. Concerns about political correctness yielded to powerful evidence that children needed both parents. And in that space political support could be found across traditional ideological divides for helping young fathers to hone the skills and earn the resources needed to fulfill their parental role—once they accepted responsibility by acknowledging paternity.

    In the decade that has followed Family Re-Union 3, we find liberals and progressives and social conservatives sharing personal responsibility as a common point of departure for a relatively invective-free conversation about how best to encourage and support responsible fatherhood.

    Lerner authored a similar breakthrough with Family Re-Union 11 in October 2002. By the end of the two-day conference, Lerner had accomplished the goal he and the planning committee had announced on day one—to explode the long-held myth that healthy adolescent development requires separation from family. And he did so, in the presence and with the enthusiastic consent of the major thought leaders and practitioners in the youth development field. This was no small feat.

    Candor requires disclosure that the “Family and Youth” theme of Family Re-Union 11 reflected the reality that Rich Lerner's suggestions prevailed and mine did not. Lerner does not know that. Or he is simply too gracious to let on. Earlier that year, I urged attention to rural families. I still do. But once the planning started, like so many others I was captured completely by the field-altering potential of having so many of the luminaries in the youth development field in one place, at one time, addressing an issue so many of them seemed to have avoided for so long: families. And also like many others, I did not grasp immediately how the planning, content, and execution of this Family Re-Union would become an experiential immersion in Lerner's “Big Three” features of effective youth programs: positive adult-youth relationships, skill building; and meaningful opportunities for youth participation and leadership.

    Like everyone else in attendance, I was mesmerized by the authenticity, sophistication, and raw power of the youth presenters. As I listened to and learned from these young people, I was grateful to Lerner for his uncompromising faith in the generations to come. And I do mean faith. Lerner's fiftysome books and 300 articles establish him as one of the world's preeminent researchers on life-span development. He is a scientist. He thrives on facts, evidence, and proof. In this work, however, Lerner the scientist is unmasked as citizen. However much he values research, Lerner reveres liberty and justice even more.

    In a recent meeting, Rich and I took turns arguing for a more muscular approach to family policy and social justice, one that would recoup lost ideological and political ground by connecting to the core values of the American people. To do so, we argued, would mean reminding Americans that even the most economically secure among us are just one, two, or three generations removed from working poor families. And to stay the course, we have to believe that Americans will respond to the fundamental fairness of an agenda that seeks to ensure that today's working poor can become beacons of hope and agents of change for their children and grandchildren. After one exchange, Rich passed me this handwritten note:

    Ralph—The point I was trying to make is that you can't have a democracy, you can't have social justice or fundamental fairness, when you partition or allocate “hopeful futures” on the basis of race, class, language. … When we enact such partitions, we produce the child and family problems we claim we want to prevent [and/or] diminish.

    I plan to keep that note. It will serve as my bookmark when I return, as I know I will, to Liberty: Thriving and Civic Engagement Among America's Youth. Every now and then, we all need to be reminded that even profound despair will succumb to the talismanic and transformative forces we unleash when we strive to secure a “hopeful future” for every child.

    RalphSmith

    Preface

    Perhaps like many Americans on September 11, 2001, I was first overcome with numbing shock. Then screaming outrage took over, as I was appalled and sickened by the evil and cruelty that had befallen America. I could not help but imagine the agonizing last moments of the passengers and crews aboard the four planes that crashed, the desperation of the people dying in the towers of the World Trade Center and in the Pentagon, the coursing stabs of pain that pierced the bodies and souls of family members who knew their loved ones were dead, the numbing dread of my fellow citizens who realized the gravity of what was occurring, and the incomprehending fear of young children who could not fully understand, but only feel terror.

    By the evening of September 11, and for several weeks that followed, I am certain I was—if not clinically depressed—at the borderline of this condition. My entire professional career has been devoted to the study of children and adolescents, and for a decade and a half, to trying to figure out ways to promote, through the marriage of research and application, the positive development of young people. I wanted my life contribution to increase the probability, if only by a miniscule percentage, that every child and adolescent could look forward to a future marked by hope, by the opportunity to pursue his or her goals, and by the freedom to actualize his or her potentials. Now I felt that not only was there no certainty of a positive future for anyone in the world, but, what seemed more likely in the dark depths of that moment, that there would be no future at all. I despaired that my own three children, and all the tens of millions of children around the world, would have their futures completely robbed by a relatively few fanatics who, because of pathological hatred or delusional beliefs that sanctity could emerge through slaughtering innocents, would destroy civil society, if not the very planet itself. In these moments I felt my entire life had turned out to be meaningless. With no hope of a future, there was also no rational reason for me to continue to seek to enhance the probability of positive development for the world's youth. With no future, there would be no development at all.

    A call from Al Gore, or actually from one of his staff members, brought me out of this despair.

    After the 2000 national election, Mr. Gore decided that, among the several things he wanted to do, he wished to develop and teach a course on Family Centered Community Building at two universities in Tennessee: Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, and Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), the alma mater of his father, Al Gore, Sr., in Murfesboro. The idea for the course grew out of a series of annual conferences that Al and Tipper Gore had been convening for about a decade in Nashville, meetings they labeled “Family Re-Union.” The purpose of these annual meetings was to discuss among the diverse communities and sectors of American society the important issues facing contemporary families. For example, how can parents balance the challenges of rearing their own children while, at the same time, caring for their own, now aged parents? What must a family do to assure that a child in the first three years of life has the resources and stimulation needed for healthy physical and psychological development and for later school and career achievement? How do people balance or integrate the world of work and the world of family in ways that benefit all family members?

    The Gores had acquired a great deal of information of scholarly and applied importance during the decade that they had convened these meetings, and, more important, these meetings had resulted in several important outcomes: the Family Re-Union Conferences resulted in policy changes and new legislation, for example, that enabled families with sick children to take leave from their jobs during times of medical emergency; they changed business practices in ways that created more family-friendly workplaces through, for example, more flexible working hours and better and enhanced support for high-quality child care; and they created new partnerships among parents, schools, faith leaders, employers, police, social service providers, and young people. These partnerships identified the strengths that existed in communities and integrated them to support families in their efforts to raise healthy, productive young people. These and the other outcomes of the Family Re-Union Conferences created a deep understanding in the Gores of the importance of community building in the United States, especially community building that strengthened the capacity of families to rear their children successfully.

    At the beginning of 2001, Mr. Gore decided that he would like to organize a college course around these learnings, and I was asked to be one of the faculty members who would assist in organizing and teaching the course at Fisk and at MTSU. We taught in the spring of 2001 a one-semester version of the course, and then, over the summer of 2001, worked to enhance and expand the course into an academic year-long, two-semester course.

    Mr. Gore launched the two-semester version of the course in the beginning of September 2001. And then came September 11.

    The call from Mr. Gore's assistant came at the end of September. I was reminded that the portion of the syllabus that I taught with Mr. Gore (which was on youth and families) was scheduled for early October, that I should make my plane reservations to Nashville, and let Mr. Gore know if there were any new handouts, overheads, or other materials that I wanted to suggest for our joint lecture.

    Up until the time of this call, I had thought that I might never fly on a plane again, especially out of Logan Airport in Boston. I was finding it difficult to imagine having enthusiasm for my work sufficient to travel to my classes at Tufts University to lecture about positive youth development, much less travel on a plane to Nashville to do this. During the conversation with Mr. Gore's assistant, I was in fact wondering if and how I could tell her I was too afraid, too paralyzed emotionally, to travel. However, I just indicated throughout the conversation that I understood the details of the task that was being described.

    Then, as the business portion of the phone call was ending, Mr. Gore's assistant added something personal. She said that the vice president wanted me to know that he not only really appreciated my collaboration with him in this course up to now but that, particularly at this point in our nation's history, it was especially important that he and I talk about positive youth development. Although on this occasion we would be speaking only to the students at Fisk and at MTSU, it was crucial that they and other young people know that there is reason for them to hope. There are ways to build a positive future, even in the midst of a war of singular historical dimensions besetting the nation, and our country is in fact especially suited to build this future in such an era.

    As I put down the phone receiver I felt completely changed. Given the unique historical situation I knew surrounded Mr. Gore as a consequence of the events involved in the 2000 presidential election, as well as the family stresses he had experienced that year (for example, the passing away of his mother-in-law, his youngest child going off to college, and having to cope with an “empty nest”), I found his commitment to moving forward with the message of family-centered community building for the youth of America both courageous and inspirational. I also thought that there was more reason to convey the message of hope for the future of the young people of the nation than simply that America was best positioned to deliver it. I thought that this was a message we ought to deliver, both to our own nation and throughout the world. The essence of America is its standing as the beacon across history and in the contemporary world for democracy and freedom of opportunity. America gives hope to all people. By living in and supporting the institutions of American civil society, parents and children will be afforded a just and free present and an opportunity to pursue an even better future.

    I believe we have an obligation to deliver to others this vision of our nation. Voltaire said that “every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do,” and in this sense I realized then that conveying and supporting this view of America was part of the moral duty of its people. It is a moral requisite for all citizens enjoying the fruits of American liberty to explain, embrace, and pass onto future generations an understanding of how the American system of “liberty and justice for all” promotes and protects the health and positive development of each individual. Ours is a nation of civil institutions and of governmental structures and functions that support every individual's liberty. It is not only a matter of civic responsibility to support such a nation; it is what one ought to do. While in such a society one is free to ignore this obligation, it is nevertheless the case that, normatively, civic duty and moral action are merged.

    I recognized as well that a key reason existed for why America was best suited to carry the message of liberty forward at a time of a war on liberty and why it was the moral obligation of America to do this. As I explain later, this link between what America is doing—leading the war against the terrorist onslaught against democracy and liberty—and what America ought to do derives from a historically singular integration of human evolutionary change and the changes that comprise across people's lives exemplary, healthy, or optimal development—thriving, if you will. This link between the is and the ought of human behavior involves a recognition that for human life to exist optimally—for individuals to thrive—people and their social worlds must be in a relationship wherein each support the other. I saw the situation in this way:

    • Exemplary positive youth development—thriving—involves a young person who—within the context of his or her individual set of physical and psychological characteristics and abilities—takes actions that serve his or her own well-being and, at the same time, the well-being of parent, peers, community, and society. A thriving young person is on a life path that eventuates in his or her becoming an ideal adult member of a civil society.
    • Thriving is enabled by a civil society that supports the rights of the individual to develop his or her abilities as best he or she can and in ways valued by the thriving person.
    • A civil society supporting individual freedom and justice can only exist when the people in that society act to support, protect, and extend the societal institutions affording such liberty for all of its citizens. And
    • When individuals do so because of their belief that such actions constitute the “right thing to do”—that these action define the morally correct path—there is, then, a mutual, or reciprocal, relationship between individual thriving and civil society, which may be represented as “thriving individual ← → civil society.”
    • This relationship involves the development in a person's life of a sense of self (a self-definition or an “identity”) wherein civic engagement and moral thought and action are synthesized.
    • This integrated civic and moral identity has its roots in humans' evolutionary heritage and in the translation of this history into human development across the life span.
    • In human life, integrated moral and civic may emerge prototypically in adolescence, when the person's self-definition is undergoing significant and singular changes.
    • The thriving individual ← → civil society relationship is actualized in youth by the attainment of several key characteristics of positive development (competence, character, confidence, social connections, and compassion) that coalesce to create a young person who is developing successfully toward an “ideal” adulthood, one marked by contributions to self, others, and the institutions of civil society.
    • To ensure that our liberty is sustained, we need to translate knowledge about the thriving individual ← → civil society relationship into (1) programs that are effective in engaging youth productively and positively with their communities (through promoting what I term the “Big Three” features of effective youth programs: positive adult ← → youth relationships; skill building; and the opportunity for youth participation and leadership); and (2) policies that assure that all individuals will have the opportunity to be civically engaged and to thrive. I suggest that the concept of “family-centered community building for youth” provides a frame for such policy development.

    My ability to persuade myself about these ideas, of course, did not mean that I could persuade others. Given the significance that I believe these ideas hold for the maintenance and perpetuation of our nation's values and institutions, both because of—at this writing—the continuing danger of substantial terrorist assaults on America and other democracies around the globe, and because the bases of the American idea of liberty have important implications for both science and applications to American domestic and foreign policies and social policies, I felt an obligation to try to persuade others. As a consequence, I wrote this book.

    However, the birth of the idea for writing Liberty arose earlier than October 2001. Over the years, several other of my books—written in 1976, 1984, 1986, 1992, 1995, and 2002—“prepared” me for the ideas I present here regarding the systematic relationship between individuals and their social worlds that define the course of both human evolution and human development across the life span. In addition, conversations with my colleagues and students during these years—about evolution and human development, about moral development and spirituality, about positive youth development and thriving, and about civic engagement, citizenship, and civil society—helped me articulate and sharpen the ideas I present in this volume.

    In particular, I want to thank my colleagues in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University. Their comments and encouragement were invaluable. I am especially grateful to my department chairs during the time I was writing this book—Professors Ann Easterbrooks, David Elkind, and Fred Rothbaum. Their collegiality and support are deeply appreciated. Two other colleagues, Professors George Scarlett and Don Wertlieb, were particularly generous in conveying their wisdom to me. Their reading and commenting on full drafts of the manuscript were especially kind and incredibly helpful.

    My colleagues in the Tufts University College of Citizenship and Public Service provided stimulating comments about the ideas presented in this book. Professor Anthony Schlaff was especially helpful. He provided several thoughtful and detailed commentaries about my work.

    My students in the Applied Developmental Science Institute (ADSI) were enormously helpful and were tireless in providing insightful critiques, innovative ideas for improvement, and unwavering support. I thank Amy Alberts, Pamela Anderson, Elyse Archila, Aida Balsano, Rumeli Banik, Elise Christiansen, Elizabeth Dowling, Lisa Fishlin, Steinunn Gestdottir, Sarah Hertzog, Helena Jelicic, Angelica Lundquist, Lang Ma, Sophie Naudeau, Isla Simpson, Christina Theokas, and Brian Wright. It is a privilege to work with such enormously talented young people. I am especially grateful to four of the people who were my graduate students during my writing of this book—Elizabeth Dowling, Pamela Anderson, Sarah Hertzog, and Daniel Warren. Providing me with insightful feedback, recommendations for improvement, and unflagging enthusiasm, they were more colleagues than students throughout this project.

    I also greatly appreciate the stimulation by, and my discussions with, the superb undergraduate students who were members of the spring 2003 undergraduate seminar I taught in applied developmental science. Many of the ideas in this book were first presented to the students, and their feedback was invaluable in advancing my thinking and improving the presentation of my views. I thank the students in the class—Sarah Bovaird, Allison Cohen, Deborah Durant, Jessica Gioia, Merissa Goldberg, Laura Irizarry, Laurie Konigsberg, Roxanne Kritzer, Hilary Van Dusen, Lauren Weintraub, Erica Weitz, and Marva Williams—and the three students who were teaching assistants—Sarah Foss, Sarah Hertzog, and Taryn Morrissey—for their truly significant contributions to the present work.

    I am also greatly indebted to all of my colleagues in ADSI for their stimulation, critiques, and support. In particular, I want to thank Deborah Bobek, the Managing Director of ADSI, for the soundness of her advice, her engaging intellectual style, and her insight into and creativity about the thriving process and its importance for liberty. I am enormously appreciative of all the support given to me by Nancy Pare, my assistant. I am deeply grateful for her sense of perspective, her good humor, and all the myriad ways she supported my work and kept me on task. Leslie Daly, the Project Director of the Institute's 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, and Maria Mallon, the Project Assistant for the Study, were constant sources of enthusiastic support. I am grateful for their talented and tireless contributions to the 4-H Study a project that affords my students and me the opportunity to observe thriving youth across the nation.

    I am also enormously grateful to Professor Joan Bergstrom, Chair-Ex Officio of the Institute's International Leadership Committee (ILC), and Tufts University President-Emeritus, Dr. John DiBiaggio, Chair of the ILC, for all their encouragement of this project and for the import ideas about its scholarly direction that they provided. Susan Ernst, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University, has also been an unwavering supporter of my scholarship and, as well, an enormously important substantive colleague in regard to my treatment of the biological dimensions of positive youth development.

    The two Managing Editors of the Editorial Office within the Institute with whom I worked over the course of writing this book—Jennifer Davison and Karyn Lu—and the Editorial Assistant—Katherine Connery—were invaluable colleagues. Their tireless enthusiasm and their professionalism and precision made this project into a product. They are all incredibly able, affable, and dedicated, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such superb editors on this book. Eleanora E. T. Cacciola was an undergraduate research assistant in the Editorial Office, and she contributed in several ways to the production of the manuscript. I am grateful for her commitment and the excellence of her efforts.

    My editor at Sage Publications, James Brace-Thompson, has been both an unfailingly supportive advocate for this book and, as well, an insightful colleague. His thorough reading of the manuscript resulted in dozens of important and often provocative comments that sharpened my thinking and improved the quality of my presentation. I am enormously grateful for his support, encouragement, guidance, and friendship. I am also very grateful to Pam Suwinsky for her suburb copy editing of the manuscript. Her excellent work improved the book enormously.

    Numerous colleagues outside of Tufts made significant contributions to this work. I am grateful to the reviewers of the manuscript—Professors Celia B. Fisher, Gary Greenberg, Lawrence Schiamberg, and Carl S. Taylor. Their wisdom and erudition were invaluable assets to me throughout my writing, and their advice improved every facet of the book. My colleague, Professor Jacqueline V. Lerner, provided thoughtful and insightful commentary about every draft of the manuscript and, in another one of her roles, as my spouse, she provided unfailing support and encouragement.

    Several other sets of colleagues provided incomparable intellectual stimulation and models of how scholarship may be translated into effective actions that serve young people. My colleagues in the field of positive youth development with whom I am collaborating in the study of youth thriving—Dr. Peter Benson, Professor William Damon, Dr. Elizabeth Dowling, Professor James Furrow, Rev. Cynthia King Guffey Bob King, Dottie King, Professor Pamela Ebstyne King, Dr. Peter Scales, and Professor Linda Wagener—have shaped my thinking and been unwavering in their encouragement of my efforts. In addition, Professor Margaret Beale Spencer has been indefatigable in her provision of scholarly insight and collegial support.

    My colleagues at the National 4-H Council—Donald Floyd, President, Kashyap Choksi, Vice President, Strategic Intitiatives, and Susan Halbert, Senior Vice President—have been enormously supportive of this project and have provided critically important knowledge about how effective and exemplary youth development programs have fundamental significance for improving the lives of youth. Robert Granger, President, and Karen Hein, Immediate Past President, of the William T. Grant Foundation embraced the ideas presented in this book early in their development and, as such, gave me enormous encouragement to develop the work further. They also taught me a great deal about integrating policies and programs in the service of promoting positive youth development. My colleagues at the International Youth Foundation—Rick Little, Founder and Immediate Past CEO, and William Reese, Chief Operating Officer of the Foundation—have served as exemplars of scholar-practitioners, and have provided me with numerous models of how systems change promoting positive youth development may be achieved. Two other scholar-practitioners, Wendy Wheeler, President of the Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development, and Hartley Hobson, Vice President of the Innovation Center, were enormously helpful in teaching me more about the diverse ways community programs can promote positive youth development. Their commitment to youth participation and civic engagement is an exemplar for all community-based organizations. Dorothy Stoneman, President of YouthBuild USA, has served as a role model of vision, commitment, and creativity in the development of effective youth programs. Her incomparable commitment to improving the lives of all young people through empowering them as leaders, and her own inspirational leadership, are invaluable assets for America's youth.

    I am also very grateful to Arthur J. Schwartz, Vice President for Research and Programs in Human Sciences, at the John Templeton Foundation, for his mentorship and collegiality regarding the links between spiritual development among youth and their positive development. The stimulating discussions I had with him regarding spiritual and religious development, and the importance of Benjamin Franklin's conceptions of virtue, where essential sources of the ideas I present in this book.

    In teaching the Family-Centered Community Building course with Mr. Gore, and in collaborating with him and Mrs. Gore in the Family Re-Union Conference series, I have had the unique and humbling experience to work with and learn from two truly historically great American citizens. I have grown intellectually and personally from my continuing educational experiences with Tipper and Al Gore, and I thank them for being such thoughtful and generous instructors. I also owe an enormous debt to the other colleagues involved in the Family-Centered Community Building Course and in Family Re-Union—Lisa Berg, Audrey Choi, Neal Halfon, Nancy Hoit, Debbie Miller, Shelia Peters, Andy Shookoff, Ralph Smith, Lisa Spinali, Peggy Ulrich-Nims, and Rebecca Webb. Their collegiality, collaboration, and mentorship were invaluable in shaping many of the ideas I have presented in this book.

    Numerous individuals and foundations supported my work and the work of the Applied Developmental Science Institute during the time I wrote this book. I want to thank the National 4-H Council, the William T. Grant Foundation, the Jacobs Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the Wohlgemuth Foundation, the 484 Phi Alpha Foundation, the Innovation Center for Community and Youth Development, the Philip Morris Youth Smoking Prevention Program, Search Institute, the International Youth Foundation, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, Sage Publications, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Prentice-Hall, ABC-Clio Publishers, Greenword Press, Drs. Joan and Gary Bergstrom, Paul and Joyce Barsam, Dr. Joan Kirschenbaum Cohn, Ms. Elaine Kasparian and Dr. Robert Watson, Dr. John Lapidus and Mrs. Randi Lapidus, Jon Leven, and Dr. Dotte Weber for their generous support.

    Finally, I am especially grateful to Ralph Smith for writing such a generous foreword to the book. Ralph Smith is a visionary and effective advocate for, and leader of, societal actions in support of fairness and social justice for American youth, and I am honored to have this esteemed colleague and valued friend contribute so importantly to this book.

    Although my personal experiences surrounding September 11, 2001, were the immediate impetus to my writing this book, its timing in no way reflects the wishes or will of any person involved in these experiences. As already emphasized, and as will be clear at several points in the book, I have been impressed by the vision and ideas of former Vice President Gore regarding family-centered community building. I hope I give adequate voice to the compelling and important perspective he has advanced. On the other hand, it is important to stress that except where I specifically and directly cite Mr. Gore or, in fact, any person, I take responsibility for all the ideas presented in this book. Nothing I write should be construed in any way as an endorsement by any person of any issue of science I present or of any point of policy I suggest. Indeed, I anticipate that even my most supportive colleague or devoted student will find something in this book with which to disagree. Other people will find even more ideas to which they object or believe are downright wrong.

    Last, and as is almost obligatory to say, the deficits of the arguments I forward are not of the making of any of the colleagues, students, and friends I have acknowledged. However, in almost all cases the assets in this book may be attributable to their influence. Indeed, arguably the most important asset of this book, its existence, is certainly attributable to another person. Accordingly, this book is dedicated to Al Gore for giving me the inspiration and the courage to continue to try to make a difference for the youth of America and the world.

    R. M. L.
    August 2003

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    Name Index

    About the Author

    Richard M. Lerner is the Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and the Director of the Applied Developmental Science Institute in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University. A developmental psychologist, Lerner received a Ph.D. in 1971 from the City University of New York. He has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychological Society. Prior to joining Tufts University, he was on the faculty and held administrative posts at Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Boston College, where he was the Anita L. Brennan Professor of Education and the Director of the Center for Child, Family, and Community Partnerships. During the 1994–95 academic year, Lerner held the Tyner Eminent Scholar Chair in the Human Sciences at Florida State University. Lerner is the author or editor of 55 books and more than 360 scholarly articles and chapters. He edited Volume 1, on “Theoretical Models of Human Development,” for the fifth edition of the Handbook of Child Psychology. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Research on Adolescence and of Applied Developmental Science. He is known for his theory of, and research about, relations between life-span human development and contextual or ecological change. He has done foundational studies of adolescents' relations with their peer, family, school, and community contexts, and is a leader in the study of public policies and community-based programs aimed at the promotion of positive youth development.


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