What Modern American Families Want to Hear in Thursday’s Presidential Debate


By Ariel Smith, Senior Director of the NPU Center for Policy and Action


Thursday evening’s debate will undoubtedly continue to fuel the uncertainty and anxiety felt by families across the country. As we tune in (or turn away as many voters seem to be doing) American families are still hopeful that we will hear real details from the candidates for President about their plans on the key issues that impact the daily lives of our children and families across the country. It seems like every year we are calling on those running for the highest office in the land to get past soundbites and provide some real solutions for families struggling during what feels like some of the most difficult economic conditions we have ever faced – but instead we know we fill be forced to endure the rehashing of felony trials and payoff scandals and hope we get a minute or two focused on the real issues. We need these two candidates to be Presidential, and to share their vision for our collective future.

Above all, families want relief from the constant worry about making their paychecks last until the next one because of crushing inflation and assurance that we are ready to meet the challenge of preparing our kids for the future when it feels they are on a path to becoming the least prepared generation in history. This, paired with the ongoing threat of extreme weather events due to climate change, gun violence and mass shootings, two raging wars, record immigration due to global instability and the rise of new technology that will undoubtedly change the world as we know it is a lot to carry as we raise our kids today. Our nation needs strong, stable leadership and a disdain for the political corruption and turmoil that have distracted us from building the America our kids deserve and threatens our democracy.

The National Parents Union has the privilege of being the voice of modern American families across the nation, engaging with them, listening to their concerns, and advocating for the desperately needed changes they want to see us moving on collectively. As we all settle in to watch what we know will be a riveting night of political theater, it’s worth reminding Presidential candidates how it feels to be a family in America right now: 

1. Economic Uncertainty

Despite record low unemployment rates and big gains in the stock market, families are grappling with persistent rising costs of basic necessities, skyrocketing housing prices, and interest rates that seem out of control. The roller coaster ride of utilities rates on electric and gas, the staggering cost of childcare that can be as much as the rent, and the bill at the grocery store that keeps getting bigger while the bags get lighter is keeping families constantly on edge and feeling as if they are on the verge of collapse. Every family in our country deserves a shot at the American dream- which means being able to save for college and retirement, paying for sports and tutoring and gaining our children the stability and structure we know they need to thrive.

We need to hear from both candidates how they plan to provide relief to struggling families- What are their strategies for supporting families that control inflation, making housing affordable, and ensuring that interest rates, utility rates and childcare costs do not continue to climb?

2. How to Prepare Young People for the Future

The future of our country hinges on the opportunities available to our young people. Families want to know how the candidates plan to improve educational and career opportunities for our kids. This includes investing in education, career pathways, and college affordability that align with the needs of the modern workforce. How will they ensure that all students, regardless of their background, have access to quality education and the resources necessary to succeed?

 3. Environment and Climate Change

Every parent across this country worries about the increased dangers of extreme weather due to climate change. From flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes and fast moving wildfires to schools now facing closure because of extreme temperatures or poor indoor air quality – families see the threat of climate change as posing a severe threat to the well-being of future generations and to the immediate safety of our families today. Families are eager to hear how each candidate plans to address severe weather threats and climate change. What are their commitments to reducing carbon emissions, transitioning to renewable energy, and protecting vulnerable communities from environmental hazards? How will they foster a sustainable environment that safeguards our natural resources and ensures a livable planet for our children and grandchildren?

4. Gun Violence 

Gun violence is the number one cause of death for kids and adolescents in the United States. Just this week, the US Surgeon General declared gun violence in our country an epidemic. The reality is, families are living in fear of being gunned down at the grocery store, at a parade, at school or at church. Candidates need to articulate a plan to prevent mass shootings and violence.

5. Global Instability 

As wars rage in the Middle East and Eastern Europe and more families are immigrating to the United States for relief from political unrest, families need a stable, consistent leader who is respected in the international community and ready to negotiate peace and promote global prosperity.

6. The Evolving Role of Technology and Its Impacts

Evolving technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), has the potential to be a powerful tool for equity, productivity, and opportunity. However, without clear guidelines, it could also have detrimental impacts, similar or worse than the effects of social media on our children. Families want to understand how the candidates plan to harness the benefits of AI while mitigating its risks. What regulations and protections will they implement to ensure that technology continues to serve the public good while protecting our children from the significant negative consequences of unregulated social media? How will they address the ethical considerations and potential job displacements that come with AI and automation? How will they encourage America’s public education system to embrace innovation and join the rest of us in the 21st century?

As families tune in to the debate this Thursday, they are not merely passive spectators; they are engaged citizens with a vested interest in the future of our nation. They seek leaders who understand their struggles, share their values, and are committed to creating a better world for their children. Joe Biden and Donald Trump have an opportunity to address these critical issues head-on and present their visions for a prosperous, equitable, and sustainable future. It’s time for substantive dialogue and genuine solutions that resonate with the hopes and dreams of modern American families.

American families deserve stability and certainty that our kids’ future will be bright. ◼️