The Corner

The Kind of Best Friend You’d Love a Kid to Have

So last night I went to the Best Friends Foundation’s 20th-anniversary celebration. Since I had missed young Colin Powell and Bill Bennett singing “How Sweet It Is” in shades and leather bomber jackets in years past, I was glad to get the flashback during a brief video presentation during dinner. Having been a faithful Solid Gold viewer, I got a kick out of seeing that Marilyn McCoo has not aged a day since Ronald Reagan was president. She’s still in her prime singing “One Less Bell to Answer.”

It was a fun D.C. party unlike any others. Secretary of Ed Margaret Spellings was there. Mike Pence, Jack Kemp, and, of course, Bill Bennett, were all spotted on the dance floor. Best Friends friends Alma Powell, Senator Mel Martinez, and Herb London of the Hudson Institute hung on until the very end last night, through the tireless Chuck Brown.

The highlight though was meeting some of the young men and women Best Friends has invested in. Some of the youngsters sang with McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. (something tells me the 5th Dimension is a 5th Dimension to them, though. 8 tracks?? Can we get that in mp3?), and it is always amazing to see what you can get young boys to do if you just ask and make it fun.

I’m a big fan of programs that treat children like people, not animals. Programs that operate under the assumption that if you love them enough to challenge them, they often won’t disappoint you. That even if they do, you’ve planted seeds and given them a compass that will flourish, or at least help, when they need it most. Yes, some teenagers will have sex. They’re human like everyone else — only with overactive hormones. But there is great promise for kids who are given other options. Sex tends to be near everywhere — amplified and romanticized, free of consequences — in our culture and adults frequently don’t help matters. Present young people with other possibilities — other than instant gratification — make them fun and inviting and constructive and you’ll be surprised what you get out of creative, energetic youngsters. Elayne Bennett’s Best Friends does that and deserves encouragement and attention for it. Before long maybe even The Today Show won’t think young people with a little self-respect aren’t aliens.

(I wrote a little about Best Friends here. Mona Charen has here. Carol Platt Liebau does in her book, Prude.)

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