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In Remembrance of Jule Sugarman, Founder of Head Start

November 16, 2010
Floor Statement

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) entered the following statement into the Congressional Record in remembrance of Jule Sugarman, the founder of the Head Start program. Congresswoman Waters was an assistant teacher and volunteer coordinator with Head Start in Los Angeles:

"MADAM Speaker, I rise to honor the life and work of Jule Sugarman, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 83. I extend my thoughts and prayers to his wife, his children, and his family and friends during this very difficult time.

Some of my colleagues and those listening in the gallery or on television may not recognize the name Jule Sugarman, but they have no doubt heard of or been impacted by the Head Start Program, which he founded and helped design and implement as part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1927, Mr. Sugarman came to Washington to attend American University, and later served in the Army for two years.

He amassed a record of achievement and dedication to public service, the American people, and to children and families specifically: serving as New York City's human resources administrator; Washington state's Department of Social and Health Services; executive director of the Special Olympics International; and deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Jimmy Carter, just to name a few of his accomplishments.

But I would like to thank Mr. Sugarman explicitly and affectionately for his work on getting the Head Start program up and running. I can unequivocally say that Head Start changed my life and turned it in a new direction.

I vividly remember working as a service representative for the Pacific Telephone Company in Los Angeles in the mid 1960's, and getting excited over a newspaper advertisement I saw for the new Head Start program. They were seeking staff for this initiative, which would be run by Sargent Shriver out of the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Being a mother of young children, and seeking a career path where I could help people and make a difference – despite not having official teaching credentials – I eagerly applied to be an assistant teacher.

To my surprise and delight, I was hired as a Head Start assistant teacher. In Los Angeles County the Head Start Program worked closely with community nonprofit groups like the International Federation for Settlements and Neighborhood Centers, so I worked with great people who were truly committed to putting children on a solid path to an education, combating poverty, and making our communities a safer, better place to live.

Head Start encouraged me to finish my education; taught me the importance and value of community organizing; made me acutely aware of the many issues facing our young children; and inspired me to get involved in politics to make a difference in the lives of others, particularly the least of these.

Now I am well aware that in 45 years many things have changed – some good, some bad – for our nation's children and schools. But I am convinced that Head Start's original mission to "promote school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enroll children and families," is as relevant as ever. I look forward to supporting it in each and every way that I can.

Thank you, Mr. Sugarman. Thank you for your wisdom, your foresight, your progressive philosophy, and your dedication to putting all children on an equal playing field.

I, and millions of other Americans, continue to be inspired by your compassion, your humanity, and your life's work, all of which made our country greater.

Thank you, I yield back the balance of my time."