The need to protect parental rights in the United States has awakened "mama bears" as the "most powerful political force in this country," Florida Gov. and 2024 GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis said while speaking Friday at the national summit of the Moms for Liberty group in Philadelphia.
"Events like they had in New York City where they're chanting, some drag queens, 'We are coming for your kids,' let me tell you something, you start messing with our kids, we've got problems," DeSantis told the audience, drawing cheers.
He added that he sees the issue not only through the lens of a governor or a presidential candidate but also through the eyes of a father of three children.
"My wife and I really believe that parents in this country should be able to send their kids to school, should let them watch cartoons, or just be kids without having some agenda shoved down their throat," he said.
The Moms for Liberty summit has met with protests in Philadelphia, as critics say the group calls for banning books and pushes for discussions of LGBTQ rights and racial inequality to be kept out of the classroom, reported Philadelphia ABC affiliate WPVI.
The group has grown rapidly after its start in 2021 with three Florida mothers who opposed COVID-19 mandates to now claiming 285 chapters across 45 states and attracting not only DeSantis, but at least three other presidential candidates — former President Donald Trump, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — to speak at its summit.
However, notes WPVI, the Southern Poverty Law Center earlier this month designated Moms for Liberty an anti-governmental extremist group.
But such pushback, DeSantis told them, is a "sign that we are winning," adding that "2024 is the time to put up or shut up."
"No more excuses about why we can't win against the left," he said. "No more excuses about why you didn't do what you said you would do. The time to act is now and I believe if we do it right, 2024 is going to be the year when the parents across this country finally fight back. "
DeSantis added that he knows it can be done because in Florida, "we have shown what winning looks like. We have beaten the left on issue after issue after issue and we were able to deliver the greatest Republican electoral triumph in our state in November of 2022. This can happen nationally."
That will show, DeSantis said, that the "entire United States stands for the rights of parents and for the well-being of our children."
He pointed to Florida's "parents' Bill of Rights," saying it came about because "we understand that the purpose of our school systems is to support the communities, to support students and parents," not to "supersede the rights of parents, [who] have a fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children."
This means being involved in what is being taught, as well as making sure that parents can send their children to the schools of their choice, he added, pointing to legislation that has been passed and to the state's enrollment of 363,000 students in charter schools.
"We have enacted curriculum transparency in the state of Florida," DeSantis said. "The only reason you would not want the parents involved and that you'd want to shut them off from knowing the curriculum is because you're worried that the parents represent an impediment to you using the schools to advance your agenda."
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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