Lakita Garth -- 1995 Miss Black California
On July 16, 1998, Lakita shared many of her ideas with a United States Congressional Subcommittee where she was invited to speak about the high cost of pre-marital sex and teen pregnancy.
To book Lakita for speaking engagements, please call J.T. Finn at 310-378-0067.
Following is the speech Lakita gave to Congress in 1998:
"I am a '20-something' year old black female, a former 2nd-runner up to Miss Black America, an entertainer, president of a corporation, and a virgin. I've had the unique opportunity to be invited by School Districts, Abstinence groups, and even state organizations such as the Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Family Planning in California, to share the message of abstinence.
I've spoken to nearly a million teenagers of different racial and socio-economic backgrounds in assemblies across America over the past 9 years. My greatest motivation in doing so is to empower them with some of the same tools I was fortunate enough to grow up with, which I feel are lacking in our culture today. The first thing I communicate to teens and adults alike is the fact that abstinence is not just shaking ones finger at a generation and telling them to 'just say no' to sex. Abstinence is a lifestyle. It is mastering the art of:
These three components are not just the foundation of an abstinent lifestyle that will enable young people to postpone sexual evolvement, but the necessary traits every individual must have in order to achieve anything in life. I believe, I'm sure as any rational individual, that a permissive undisciplined lifestyle has never, and never will, produce sustained success or excellence. Many may ask what qualifies me to make such a bold statement. My great-aunt often said, "the proof is in the pudding."
I grew up near a project community in Southern California in which Money Magazine said in the late 80's was one of the worst places in America to raise children. After serving in Korea and Viet Nam my father died of cancer a few years after his retirement. Therefore my mother, a primary school teacher, was left to raise my four older brothers and myself.
An abstinence message wasn't very popular in our community and she was thought to be quite old-fashioned for insisting that her children practice self-control, selfdiscipline, and the delay of self-gratification- in all areas. We indeed were the laughing stock of the community, but the proof is in the pudding and here's a taste of its results. Of all those who grew up with my brothers in that community, we were the only complete family to make it out.
Moreover, my mother raised a doctor, lawyer, engineer, a career naval serviceman, and I finished college in less than four years. Abstinence is not a 'just say no' program that exclusively applies to sex but a lifestyle that spills over into every aspect of a young person's life.
The future of this nation rests in the hands of the generation that will follow you. It cannot be gambled away by choosing to ignore the casualties left over nearly 30 years by the Sexual Revolution. I am neither a registered democrat nor a registered republican and all of us must cease to reduce an issue as important as this one down to left, right, liberal, conservative, but instead focus on what's right and wrong.
To more vividly share what I have witnessed over these past few years, I'd like to put it in the context of the 10 most commonly shared opinions about teens and sexuality:
1. It can't happen to me.
2. We just need to teach them safe sex.
3. They're gonna do it anyway.
4. Sex is a natural bodily function that can't be controlled.
5. It's too late to teach them ABSTINENCE.
6. Well, I think as long as you love the person, it's perfectly okay.
7. Kids will never buy into an abstinence message.
8. Hey, if it feels good, do it.
9. You should be able to do whatever you want as long as you don't hurt anybody.
10. What people do behind closed doors is nobody elses business.
1. IT CAN'T HAPPEN TO ME- is perhaps the prevailing attitude of most every teenager in America regardless of what era they grew up in. It is from this attitude that I have found that all the other presuppositions stem. However, it is important to take a brief look at how prevalent the negative consequences of promiscuity among teens has increased over the past few decades.
2. WE JUST NEED TO TEACH THEM HOW TO BE SAFE- I rarely hear this from teens anymore and I'm hearing it less and less from adults. Is the lack of information and the unavailability of contraception the reason for the present state of illegitimacy and rising STD rates among teens'? Not in my experience. Among my visits to homes for unwed mothers and 'pregnant schools' such as Simpson Alternative School in Chicago, Ill, I found some very consistent traits. None of the girls said their pregnancies were due to ignorance of contraception methods. As a matter of fact, only 14% of teens don't use birth control because they lack knowledge of or access to birth control." ( "American Teens Speak: Sex, Myths, TV and Birth Control," The Planned Parenthood Poll, Louis Harris and Associates, Inc. 1986, p.6,28)
Moreover, many admitted that they had intentionally gotten pregnant and when I asked how many of them were using "protection" (condoms, the pill, etc.) when they conceived -- on average, 3 to 4 out of 10 raised their hands. By the way, what were those contraception failure rates again?
Upon witnessing this, I thought it would be interesting to ask them a similar question to that which Eunice Kennedy Shriver asked when she visited a group of teen mothers: "What do you want to know more about?"
Surprisingly every group of teen mothers I spoke with responded the same way they responded to her. The majority asked questions such as, "how do I live an abstinent lifestyle?" Furthermore, I have no recollection of any pregnant girls ever asking me about better contraception devices. Are these isolated cases? Afraid not. Here are but a few more instances that reveal what teens are interested in being taught about sex:
A picture says a thousand words, and especially moving pictures. ABC's Primetime, with Diane Sawyer, had a revealing segment on school based clinics in the city of Baltimore entitled 'The End of Innocence.' In general, the adults in the segment were strongly in favor of giving Norplant implants to teenage girls at in their school and readily dismissed abstinence as a waist of time. However, when they interviewed the girls who had received a Norplant implant it was a different story. Their words affirm that contraception and "condoms are essentially sex accommodation rather than sex education." "Summary position statement on the condom for disease prevention," Taxpayer Action Committee.
Voice Over -- "We learned in the course of this report something that made us sad, every one of these sexually active girls confided to us, they wish they had said no."
Sawyer-- "If you had to do it all over again, let's say starting right now you'd never been with a boy at all, how long would you wait?" 1st Girl-- "'Til I got married."
2nd Girl -"Yeah."
3rd Girl - "Uh Hmm."
My generation knows more about sex than any other in American history. Yet, .if the mere acquisition of knowledge insured the reduction of illegitimate births and STD's, then we wouldn't be having this discussion. On the contrary, every negative consequence of adolescent sexual involvement has increased in spite of the efforts to give them more education. One of my closest friends' little sister got an A in her sex education class but got pregnant in her Junior year of high school.
Although a lengthy discussion would ensue if we expounded on the evidence that points to the fact that increased comprehensive sex education increases sexual activity among adolescence (Louis Harris and Assoc., The Planned Parenthood Poll, 1986, p.53, Table 5-4). I hear many adults say that we just need to equip them with protection. But learning more about safer sex techniques and contraception is not on the top of their list. After giving an hour presentation in Lafayette, La., a 15 year-old gift asked me the million-dollar question that I'm so often asked. "I want to stop having sex with my boyfriend and instead practice abstinence. Do you know where I can get more information."
3. THEY'RE GONNA DO IT ANYWAY- Is what an assistant vice principle told me before I spoke in her school. In fact this is perhaps the most quoted response I hear adults say when commenting on teen sexuality. I often wonder why that is. We don't seem to have that same attitude towards teens when it comes to other risky behaviors. We communicate that drugs, alcohol, and violence are not acceptable and even make the effort to inform them that these behaviors are not only socially unacceptable but illegal as well. Why haven't we done this in regard to sex? We haven't clearly communicated that teen sexual involvement is an unacceptable behavior because we've sent a mixed message. Granted everyone isn't going to abstain, and provision must be made for those who have deviated from the standard. However, we have made the exception the rule and now the standard, sexual abstinence, has become the exception. We must be just as consist in the messages we communicate to teens in regards to sex as we've been with drugs and violence.
I often point out the schizophrenia in our logic when I'm with the teens and amazingly enough they see it more clearly than most adults I encounter: Drugs are illegal, but since we know you're going to do it anyway, we're going to instruct you on how many ccs's you can safely inject yourself with without overdosing.
Alcohol consumption is illegal for minors, but since we know you're going to do it anyway, were going to teach you how to accurately calculate the amount of alcohol you can ingest (per body weight) and yet still be below the legal blood alcohol limit. Smoking is bad for you and it is illegal for someone to sell cigarettes to minors, but since we know you're going to do it anyway, we're going to provide filters for you at the school based clinic. In addition, we'll even help schedule appointments for you to purchase your cigarettes without your parents consent to protect your privacy. Carrying handguns is illegal for minors, but since we know you're going to do it anyway, we're going to provide a bulletproof vest distribution program. Moreover, we'll show you how to become expert marksmen so when you do your drive-byes you will be responsible enough not to shoot innocent babies and elderly people.
Sex with a minor is illegal and can have negative consequences, but since we know you're going to do it anyway, we're going to have condom distribution programs, demonstrations on how to put them on correctly. In some cases we'll provide you with Depo-Provera shots or Norplant implants without informing your parents to protect your privacy.
Can we honestly say that we have provided a clear and consistent message about the unacceptability of teen sexual involvement? Likewise, can we say we've informed the public that sex with a minor is against the law? Although the age of consent is not consistently 18 years of age across the country, I find very few teens that even know that sex with a minor is a crime. All of the above mentioned activities are illegal -- or illegal for minors to engage in -- because we all know and have seen how such activity has devastated teens and society as a whole. Why is it that we continue to turn our heads and ignore the obvious? I assert that sex education over the past few decades has been a form of entrapment by which we have accommodated, instructed, aided, and abetted teens in committing the crime of statutory rape. How true is this? In the State of California, over half of the births to teen girls are fathered by men over the age of 22! (CA., Office of Family Planning) The vast majority of these crimes go unprosecuted and it's a safe bet that most of them didn't even know that they had committed a crime.
I often share with them, "Impressionable minds live up to the expectations that are placed upon them. The sad thing is that society has so lowered the standard and level of expectation that this generation has had to crawl through a sewer just to get to the other side." Is it any wonder why our nation is producing the kind of youth that we are? The overwhelming majority of students I share this opinion with tend to agree. This attitude of 'they're gonna do it anyway,' tends to foster a sense of betrayal. After speaking to a group of college athletes, a football player from Utah State reiterated a common response I hear among teens across America, "Maybe if people expected more out of us they would get more."
4. SEX IS A NATURAL BODILY FUNCTION THAT CAN'T BE CONTROLLED- Is what a fellow guest on a talk show told me and amazingly enough has been the prevailing attitude when it comes to teaching anything about sex. It can best be summarized by a quote from Dr. Ruth. 'Asking young people to control their libido is asking them too much. Their libido is too strong.' If sex is an uncontrollable bodily function such as breathing, sleeping, eating, or even going to the restroom then it would be safe to assume somehow that if one were prevented from exercising these functions, detrimental side effects would occur, or even death. However, after engaging in some research, I've not yet found a documented case or an obituary that read, "Johnny... 17 years old.., cause of death.., virginity."
I always get a response of laughter when I share this widely held opinion of teens. DuSable High School in Chicago, Ill was no exception.
Principle Mingo told me that his high school was the first Chicago City School to have a school based clinic implemented, it was known as the worst school in America in the early 90's, and is currently one of the 3 poorest high schools in the country. After receiving a standing ovation from the student body after a 75 minute abstinence presentation a young boy from DuSable High School responded to this attitude best with the affirmation of his peers standing by. He said, ' if they can potty train us growing up and expect to use self- control when we're older why can't they have the same expectation when it comes to sex. What do they think we are, animals?" "It is extremely irresponsible and discriminatory to imply to our young people that they can control their passions in the area of violence, drugs, and other abuses but cannot control their sexual urges." (Pat v. Ware, Shepard Smith, "AIDS and HIV Infection in the African American Community," House of Representatives, Sept. 16, 1994, p.4.Subcommittee of Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations, US). We've resigned ourselves into believing that since teens don't have the capacity to use self-control, then birth control will change everything. However, if this were true, wouldn't we have seen a dramatic decrease in the consequences of adolescent sexual activity? It seems as though "condoms encourage and reinforce the same behavior under different risk conditions rather than encourage change of behavior toward abstinence and faithful monogamy." ("Summary position statement on the condom for disease prevention," Taxpayer Action Committee).
Recently I had a conversation with Hertry, an employee of the Office of Family Planning, who said, "you know we've taught all the plumbing and we've shown them (youth) all the contraceptives. Yet, the statistics are still climbing. It just doesn't work. If you don't get to the emotional and psychological reasons as to why they are getting involved then nothing is going to work." Henry has voiced the same thing hat I've encountered across America, and that's the "emotional and psychological need to love and be loved... Often, the physical enjoyment of sex is not an important motivation, particularly among young adolescence." (Journal of Adolescent Health Care, July 1985, p.267-268.)
5. IT'S TOO LATE TO TEACH THEM ABSTINENCE- is what I heard a Baltimore, Mar. high school principle say on ABC's Primetime with Diane Sawyer. She like many others has come to equate sexual experience with being sexually active. I've often debated officials, who've said, "look, over 50% of high school students are sexually active by the time they graduate (Youth Worker Update, CDC and Prevention, March 1994, p.4.), why are you wasting your time?" This commonly used percentage is misleading. Although over half of teens may have had sex but that does not mean that they currently are sexually active. Many of these young people express how they have had sex a few or several times and then stopped because the experience was not as they say, "all that."
Let's take a deeper look at this line of reasoning. In the sixties many young people engaged in drug experimentation -- you may even know of a few. But did anyone say that it was too late to discourage this addictive and dangerous behavior? No, as a matter of fact most of them not only stopped but became productive members of society--and even politicians. Is it either fair or accurate to say that these individuals are still active drag users because they have used drags in the past? No. Then it is never too late to encourage teens to stop engaging in risky behaviors. Regardless of what many adults say, teens like Zettion believe otherwise. I spoke to her student body when she was a high school junior in Rocky Mount, NC. She was a young black female who had previous sexual experience and had never considered stopping until we met.
"My whole family has been on government assistance and nobody has ever gone to college. But when I heard you it made me rethink some things. Nobody ever told me that I could stop, they always said it was too late for me because I had already had sex.' A year later I returned and found Zettion had joined the Worth Waiting For Program and completely changed. She saw the importance of a lifestyle of selfcontrol, self-discipline, and the delay of self-gratification and joined the ROTC; she stopped having sex and said she was going to wait until she was married. Now after being accepted to college, she has become the first member of her family to do so. Although statistics show that daughters of adolescent morns are 83 % more likely themselves to become mothers before age 18 (Rebecca A. Maynard, Kids Having Kids. Robin Hood Foundation), Zettion broke this cycle, not because she was accommodated with birth control but was empowered with self-control. If you were to ask Zettion she would tell you that deciding to abstain from sex 'was one of the best decisions' she has ever made.
6. WELL, I THINK AS LONG AS YOU LOVE THE PERSON, IT'S PERFECTLY OKAY. That's what Damien Harris told me the father of her son, Gregory, said to her before she got pregnant. Damien was also the statistic that children of adolescent mothers also become adolescent mothers. Three days after Damien was born her mother walked out of the hospital and was never seen again. Although her parents were never married, she was raised with her paternal grandmother in Los Angeles,CA. She was a gifted artist on her way to college until she got pregnant and ended up on government assistance. Soon after her son was born she moved in with me and an abstinent lifestyle was one of the many things I began to encourage her to practice. We lived together for several years during which she got off government assistance, got a full ride scholarship to Long Beach State, moved into her own apartment and got married. While living together she shared many things with me in hopes that no other girl would follow the path she took as a teenager. She has said many times that she knew about and used contraception but still she contracted STD's and got pregnant. She believes that many are quick to push safe sex on inner-city girls but never truly addressed the heart issues of why they are having sex.
Now she is an advocate of abstinence until marriage and regrets not having waited until she got married. Even though the greatest determinant of women leaving the welfare system is marriage, not training programs (Daniel T. Lichter, Felicia B. LeClere, and Diane K, McLaughlin, "Local Marriage Markets and the Marital Behavior of Black and White Women," American Journal of Sociology 96 (1991): 843-8670, still marriage is rarely encouraged in sex ed classes (especially in the inner cities). Fortunately, Damien, like Zettion, has surpassed the low expectations placed upon black females and broken the statistics. I got to participate in her wedding last year and as I saw her son Gregory walk down the isle as the ring bearer I had never remembered seeing him happier. He told me, "Aunt Kita, mommy and I are getting married today!" Now Gregory has something most little boys in the African-American community will never have, a father who lives at home.
7. KIDS WILL NEVER BUY INTO AN ABSTINENCE MESSAGE- was what I was initially told buy a public relations firm in Los Angeles that was contracted by the state of California to promote The Partnership for Responsible Parenting. But they soon began to change their minds when I toured the state with the Office of Family Planning speaking to hundreds of high school students. Eric Curren, Senior Account Executive, for the public relations firm, said he 'had a blast and being back in the office hasn't been the same.' He's received responses from all over the state and the responses were over whelming. 'The claim that students are unwilling to listen to an abstinence message is untrue.., they eagerly participated.. They thought it was cool." He said teen 'surveys showed that students were not only receptive to the abstinence message, but that they were thankful for it: 'I'm glad somebody said what I already thought." "You don't have to do it to be cool." Eric and others on the tour said the message of self-control, self-discipline, and the delay of self-gratification was 'empowering.'
Dadasi Elliott, project coordinator for the community challenge Grant, in Long Beach health department, heard this same message on an abstinent lifestyle at Reid Alternative High School. He said, "I'd like to have these assemblies in all Junior and Senior High Schools in the city of Long Beach every semester."
I have witnessed a major shift in the attitudes of young people in regards to sex over these past few years: - A recent USA Today survey stated "72% of young people agree with the chastity message." (Jeanne Write, "A Push for Chastity," USA Today, March 22, 1994, p.4-9) "Virginity is making a comeback, along with sexual abstinence. The idea that virginity is in some sense hip is spreading through popular culture." (Judith Newman, "Proud to be a Virgin," New York Times, June 19,1994, Section 9)
Even in some unlikely places, were most would write teens of as a lost cause, an abstinence message has had positive responses like at Cook Co. Juvenile Detention Center in Chicago, Ill. This facility is the largest juvenile detention center in the world where, they house everything from truancy to triple-murder. Because of the response they have gotten from their population, they request my presence every time I come to Chicago. "You should know that we have continued to hear from the kids that they were impacted by your presentation (Associate Judges for Circuit Court 19th Judicial Circuit, M. Mullen and D. Hall.). '
8. HEY, IF IT FEELS GOOD, DO IT- was the mantra of the 60's. Just as it is known that marijuana in the 60's is not like marijuana in the 90's, so sex in the 60's is not like sex in the 90's. What was sown to the wind is now reaping the whirlwind. In the 60's sex was questioned by a generation of boomers as an issue of morality. The culture formerly had standards and this generation, knowing what the standards were, challenged them by engaging in what the dictionary calls immorality -- defying a known moral law. These same individuals grew up and became parents to children who are now amoral -- without knowledge of any moral code -- in regards to their sexual behavior. Thus, I am a product of an amoral generation known as X and my counterpart known as the Milliniels. In 1966, the then Executive Director of SIECUS asked, "What is sex for? It's for fun ... We need new values to establish when and how we should have sexual experiences." (Dr. Mary Calderone former medical director of Planned Parenthood and Executive director of SEICUS. Look Magazine. Mar 8, 1966, "Sex Education Comes of Age.")
Well, we got what we asked for, and that's why you're reading this paper. Some, however, are still fighting for a free sex crusade that has proven not to be free at all because everybody is paying - financially, socially, emotionally, physically, and some even with their own lives. Every Revolution has its casualties, and although their have been person victories, can we honestly say that we have won the war? Before answering yes, please remember that it is mine and the subsequent generation that has suffered the greatest amount of casualties. For my peers and I, sex isn't merely a moral question but a question of 'is it worth the hassle?' and today, unlike that carefree frolic in the grass at Woodstock days, it's a matter of life and death. As one high school boy put it, "sex doesn't feel good when you're dead."
Will we continue to subscribe to an "if it feels good, do it" mantra? This mantra inherent in its own words implies that one not need to have any self-control, no disciplining of oneself, and live to gratify your passions. This is totally in opposition to the necessary attributes that young people need to possess to successfully navigate through life. Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, documents a Stanford experiment in the late 60's called the marshmallow test. In summary, 4 and 5-year-old children were measured on their ability to abstain from eating candy in order that they could receiver greater rewards in the future. Over a decade later these same children were followed up to document their progress.
They found that those who had a high EQ, emotional quotient, (ability to abstain) scored an average of 200 points higher on their SAT exams and had lower involvement in risky behaviors (drugs, violence, etc). The amazing thing that was pointed out about this EQ is that your not born with a set one but can change it at any time (Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, Bantam NY, NY, 1995. p80-82, 193).
Rod Flynn, president of Flynn Productions and a close friend, was one of the most creative individuals I have ever met. He not only subscribed to this 60's mantra but lived it as well, until he contracted AIDS. During our last conversation he said he was sorry for mocking me for my work with young people. He confided in me that he could only recall having unprotected sex one time, yet, if he had had the chance to do it all over again, he would have waited until he got married. He also asked me to share his story, graphic details and all, to every young person I possibly could. Lynn Chamberlain, also a friend from Los Angeles, echoes the same sentiments. She says that even if she hadn't contracted AIDS having sex before marriage wasn't worth the emotional and psychological trauma she has suffered.
Times have changed and I think we've seen the effects of a culture that has aggressively hailed the anthem of 'if it feels good do it." Change, however, is in the wind and if we listen closely to the chorus of voices growing louder among the youth, and not dimmer with age, it is obvious that a generation "after Woodstock, a new youth rebellion is afoot. The anthem of this new generation: True Love Waits." (Cheryl Wetstein, "With Groups' Help, Teens Take Pride in Virginity," The Washington Times. July 26, 1994, p. A-I)
9. YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANT AS LONG AS YOU DON'T HURT ANYBODY- a Chief District Court Judge for the 5th Judicial District of North Carolina who served on the National Council for juvenile and family court judges doesn't think so. Judge Gilbert H. Burnett told me during a lunch meeting that during his 23 years judging criminals and juveniles he believes that the biggest cause of crime, public health costs, and welfare is adolescent pregnancy. He believes that if teen pregnancies could be cut in half that we would see a decline in crime, public health costs, and welfare within 12 years. Every year: One million teenage girls get pregnant. Out of that million: 1/3 have induced abortions, 14% miscarry, 52% give birth. Out of that 52% (that give birth), 80% are in poverty and end up on public assistance.
The daughters of adolescent mothers are more likely to become adolescent moms themselves, and the sons are more likely to wind up in prison. If a teenage girl gives birth to a male child, the chances are three times as great that he will end up in prison when he is older. Whereas, if the circumstances were identical, but she waited until she was 22 of 23, there is 1/3 less chance he would end up in prison. (Rebecca A. Maynard, Kids Having Kids. Robin Hood Foundation)
An estimated $1 billion is spent annually in the construction and maintenance of criminal facilities. In which close to 70% that are incarcerated come from single parent homes. (Rebecca A. Maynard, Kids Having Kids. Robin Hood Foundation)
Judge Burnette believes that when it comes to crime, people may be looking at the wrong factors such as race and economics. The statistics are beginning to show this, "the poverty rate and racial composition of a community are not good indicators of poverty and poverty but the number of single-parent homes in a neighborhood. (Douglas Smith and G. Roger Jarjours, 'Social Structure and Criminal Victimization," Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 25, Feb. 1986, p. 27-52.)."
10. WHAT PEOPLE DO BEHIND CLOSED DOORS IS NOBODY ELSES BUSINESS- If this is true then why do these same people come from behind closed doors and expect the rest of society to pay for their 'behind closed door activity." Certainly, we all concede that you can't legislate morality, however, you can legislate moral laws. For every law inherently sets a standard and an expectation of behavior. Recently, Judge Burnette had a conversation with a local pediatrician who told him that 80% of the babies born in his hospital, who are on life support, were born to teenage mothers.
Some of the costs can run as much as $600,000 per infant, which of course is passed on to others who are to stay out of their "business." "We must discourage sexual activity among youth ... The younger teens start having sex, the more partners they will have which automatically means they become more at risk for contracting STD's ("Unmarried teenagers have more partners," CDC, 1991)."
We cannot quickly forget Cushon Williams, who last October 1997, was arrested for attempted murder. This young man, in his 20's, admitted to sleeping with over 28 women in the New York area while knowing that he was infected with the AIDS virus. After tracking down these women, they found that at least 10 were HIV positive, and one was pregnant. But it didn't stop there. Public Health officials had to track down the estimated over 70 men who had had sexual contact with Mr. Williams! In addition, he later confessed to have slept with countless other women in the NYC area while knowing he was infected.
Instances such as this are not as rare and relegated to the urban centers of America as it may seem. Recently, Martha, who works for the Office of Family Planning in the state of California, told me that an affluent high school in one of the wealthiest communities in our nation had a similar incident. After a 19 year-old died from complications of AIDS, it was found out than he had come into contact with, directly and indirectly, with over 60 fellow students while in high school. Many are infected and still others are unaware that they may be HIV positive.
When students are informed that when engaging in sexual activity they are potentially coming into contact with numerous other individuals, they quickly put things in perspective. "Is what people do behind closed doors nobody else's business.'?" Never have I seen a raised hand. One girl responds, "you're joking... aren't you?"
After engaging hundreds of thousands of teens across America, I've yet to receive a negative response from a student (the person whom this message directly affects). Abstinence can and should be taught not only as the cornerstone of sex education but as a lifestyle to be mastered. What plausible argument could anyone give for rejecting the priority of teaching self-control, self-discipline, and the delay of self-gratification? Is it possible that we have neglected these necessary life skills?
When I ask teens if perhaps this is true, the overwhelming majority seems to think so. "Oh, abstinence is always mentioned in class but the rest of the period is used to show us how to put condoms on and stuff."..."They say abstinence is the best thing but they don't act like it when they teach it."... "It's not that we don't want to abstain its just that no one is showing us how to do it."... "If they say abstinence is the best thing then why is the majority of class time used to teach us how to have sex without getting caught?" These are but a few comments I hear on a regular basis from the many teens I encounter.
Discouraging sexual activity among teens -- not accommodating it as we have -- should be the priority. Permissiveness and an undisciplined lifestyle has never, and never will, produce sustained excellence or success. Much to my surprise I even found an unlikely advocate of teen abstinence, none other than talk show host, Jerry Springer, who earlier this summer was thunderously applauded by his audience. He has stated several times, 'teenagers have no business having sex at all!' Even Jerry Springer stumbled upon this revelation. When will we? [When will America's leaders catch on?]
In conclusion I leave you with this: AFTER BEING ASKED, "ARE YOU REALLY A VIRGIN?" -- THE THREE MOST ASKED QUESTIONS I'M ASKED BY TEENS AS AN ABSTIENCE SPEAKER ARE: 1. WHY HAVEN'T I HEARD THIS BEFORE? 2. WHEN ARE YOU COMING BACK? 3. SO HOW CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION ON AN ABSTINENT LIFESTYLE?
Members of Congress, I only have the answer to the third question. I need you to help me answer this generation on the first two.
'We must remember that intelligence is not enough, intelligence plus character is the true goal of education.' Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."
[On July 16, 1998, Miss Lakita Garth gave this speech to The U.S. House Committee's Small Business Subcommittee on Empowerment, chaired by Rep. Mark Souder. The hearings focused on the social and economic consequences of teenage pregnancy.]
To book Lakita for speaking engagements, please call J.T. Finn at 310-378-0067.
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