Kathryn Lopez

So what to do? The whole point of the summit was to put a national spotlight on innovative approaches to keep faith-based education alive and strong. The Catholic archdiocese of Memphis reopened schools that had closed with the help of $15 million in private-donor money. Ten years after seeking to reclaim a stake in the communities they had abandoned for financial reasons, 1,400 children are attending the "Jubilee" schools, with most of the students at or below the poverty line. The University of Notre Dame is an example of an institution of higher education looking to the elementary and secondary schools and providing a service with their resources: a teacher-and-principal training program, the Alliance for Catholic Education. One author went through possibilities for religious charter schools: You can't explicitly endorse a religion there, but you can accommodate religion with government funds. That may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's another creative approach to solving a real problem.

Bush shows the power of the president to lead. Not just as commander in chief. Not just signing bills into law. Sure, he's got concrete policy proposals, his Pell Grants for Kids being the most notable. He's pushing to help end the "crisis," but what he did by holding and speaking at this summit, and speaking about school choice and faith-based education being at the heart of our modern-day "civil rights" movement, was powerful. Most close to home, the summit set the stage as Congress prepares for a debate over the future of Opportunity Scholarships in the District of Columbia. But it also provided Americans with a reminder that the party of Lincoln still believes in freeing victims.

At the same time as the summit was going, Republican presumptive presidential nominee John McCain was on an "It's Time for Action Tour," visiting "forgotten places" in America. Actually, on the exact day Bush spoke to the summit, McCain toured Xavier, the only predominately black Roman Catholic university in the country, in Louisiana. This could be the start of something. Throughout the week, starting out in Selma and talking about poverty in America, there was something missing: He could have been more proactive and picked up the mantle of a modern-day civil rights leader. Obama is not talking about real solutions that could lift poverty-stricken Americans out of a cycle of dependency. Faith-based -- often Catholic -- schools offer hope to many inner-city children in America. These schools change lives. These schools could distinguish an otherwise Wonder Bread politician (albeit an American hero) from a conventional liberal propping up a preacher of hate and spouting that same old backward song of dependent despair. Sen. McCain, lead by following the civil rights leader of your party.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.