Gov. Hunt: FPG Has Been a Major Force for the Good of Children for 5 Decades

Date Published: 05/25/2016

Watch former NC Governor Jim Hunt’s Keynote Address for the FPG 50th Anniversary Dinner and his acceptance of The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute Lifetime Achievement Award from FPG director Sam Odom at the UNC Alumni Center. The event kicked off FPG's major planning conference over the following two days. The full text of the Governor's prepared remarks is below.

remarks as prepared (not a transcript)

Congratulations on 50 successful and fruitful years of research on children’s issues. More than 300 young researchers have carried out their work at FPG over that period. Every one of them focused on some aspect of child development that needs attention in our state. Almost every one of them has carried the results of their research into practice in our communities. FPG has been a major force for the good of children for 5 decades--a remarkable achievement unmatched anywhere else in our nation.

FPG has been blessed from the beginning with inspirational leaders and Directors with whom I have worked. Men and women like Hal Robinson, the first Director, whose wife Nancy is here tonight, the late Jim Gallagher, the longest term Director, who was my advisor and accomplice on many ventures in education, including the first competency testing program and the establishment of the School of Science and Mathematics. Jim’s wife Rani is here tonight as well.

Also, Sharon Ramey, now at the Virginia Tech Center in Roanoke with husband Craig Ramey, former Research Director at FPG and initiator of the early intervention studies that still rock the world.

My friend Don Bailey, with whom I worked closely during my administrations and still depend on at RTI.

The energetic Dick Clifford, who helped us create and manage the NC Division of Child Development and guide the launch of Smart Start.

And now, Director Sam Odom, the first William Friday Professor of Child Development at UNC who has become one of the most productive researchers in Autism in the nation, and a leader in the nation on autism research.                                   

What FPG has meant to the children of NC, particularly poor children and their families:

It’s allowed the state to have and be able to use the latest research that is respected across the world in its decision making.

FPG's Abecedarian Study has tracked children for 40 years, and is one of the most quoted research projects nationwide about the value of high quality programs for little children.

[FPG] advised Governor's office about best practices, programs and policies, based on current research. [FPG] participated in the creation of performance standards for Smart Start for accountability purposes.

[FPG] conducted valid research to determine if Smart Start and NC Pre-K were working, which allowed them to be expanded in all NC counties. I remember especially our advice from Donna Bryant and Kelly Maxwell on how to improve Smart Start, based on their research.                      

And we can’t rest now. We need to work harder on issues confronting young people in our state—those still living in poverty and especially in our rural areas, those having great potential but not yet being able to achieve, those who need early education, a healthy start and child care.

And we must continue to help young families find work and lift up their children and enrich their own lives. FPG can help get that done. And, we must do that in a state that has doubled in size since the 1960s when FPG first began its work. And where there are now more than twice as many children who are more diverse than we ever imagined and with more potential than we have ever realized.

We all need to ask ourselves these questions:

How do we reach more children living in poverty and whose needs for early education and health care are great?

How do we help the young people in immigrant families gain an education that will help include them in communities and the workforce?

How do we help young families raise their children in the best ways to help assure their education and to help them become good citizens?

What policy barriers exist in local and state government that need to be removed or changed to support children? What new evidenced-based policies are needed to enhance the growth and lives of all children?

All of these questions need attention. I hope FPG and its marvelous researchers will continue to help us solve these kinds of major issues.                             

And, there are many challenges ahead. Perhaps there will be challenges we do not now fully appreciate. Maybe it was Yogi Berra who said, “The future is ahead of us.”

We need to be thinking about that. I hope the FPG50 Conference at the Friday Center tomorrow moves us sharply in that direction. I hope FPG will lead the nation in defining the futures of children and the research and training strategies that will be required.

This is a tall order, but it was a tall order in 1966 to establish a research Center here that would address the special needs of children and lead the way along the many successful paths that have been taken.

The issues confronting children and opportunities for research will not only be greater but they may be different. FPG researchers need to identify these new issues, strategies for understanding them, and help provide guidance for us to deal with them.                               

How we identify and solve these issues and take advantage of opportunities ahead is the real challenge for FPG in the future. Help us look ahead and head off difficulties. Help us understand how to strengthen our children and achieve their dreams. We know that all these things cannot be done without support and resources. We will do everything possible to find the resources you need to continue to do that.

In the early months of the Institute's life, Jim Gallagher and Don Stedman decided to visit Dr. Frank Porter Graham at his home in Chapel Hill to brief him on the plans for construction and operations of FPG.

Dr. Graham himself was aging and weakening so it was a great concession for him to welcome them to his home.

After a 20 minute presentation with slides and facts and figures and great ideas and strong rhetoric. . . Jim asked if there were any questions that Dr. Graham might have.

Dr. Frank was quiet for a few seconds then asked just one thing: “Do you have continuing state funding?”

Final thought: It is North Carolina’s great and good fortune that FPG has been such a source of support for the quality of life of its children--those with special needs, those with great potential, and those who are different and in need of help to be included.

I appreciate the award and recognition you have given me tonight. But I accept it mostly in recognition of the great work you have done and that has been done here. And, particularly the advocacy and the energy and the spirit and determination you have shown over the years.                               

Like our great state, like this great University (the oldest public University in the nation), and like the durable and persistent warrior Dr. Frank himself, I hope and trust that FPG, the Child Development Institute, will grow and thrive and continue to be, as it has been in the past, a major factor in strengthening the lives of our state’s children and their families.     

#FPG50