As we approach this Fourth of July holiday, I have been reflecting on our nation’s founding principles, namely the ideal that each person has the “unalienable right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The sad reality is that for children in abusive or neglectful situations, the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness may seem unimaginable and unattainable. I think of children who are not having their most basic needs met in their homes, children who are living with domestic violence, chronic abuse or addiction and children who may have escaped these situations and are now trying to heal from their trauma. How difficult it must be for many of them to even begin to imagine what a future with these three principles would look like in their own lives. The importance of advocacy and support for children and families who come from disadvantaged circumstances or populations cannot be underestimated.

We must ask ourselves: how do we build strong children, strong families and strong communities? I think we start by working to ensure that each person in our society not only has the opportunities to attain life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but also that they feel worthy of attaining these principles. We begin to build a stronger nation by showing up for the people in our small corners of the world and by advocating for them to have better lives and brighter futures. We affirm they are loved and that their lives matter. We will never build a strong society if we do not first build up its most vulnerable and disadvantages members.

“We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” -Malala Yousafzai

Emily Gaudreau is the Administrative Assistant for CASA of Yellowstone County.